On Crying

Many people on the Inter-tubes have been remembering where they were on September 11, 2001. Max and I had just moved into our first new house, in New Hampshire. I was on my way to work, listening to the news on the radio when the second plane hit. I got to work, checked my mail, there was a site-wide email message telling me that coverage was on in the big conference room downstairs, so I went down. I saw the people jumping out of the buildings rather than wait for the fire to kill them. After awhile, I went back upstairs to work. A few minutes later, our VP came on over the loudspeaker and told us they were closing the building. There were rumors about a target in Boston, and Nashua was close enough that they figured we shouldn’t be in the tallest building in Nashua.

We didn’t have TV service yet. Max and I spent the day unpacking. By that night, we did have service, and we ended up watching some PBS, followed by the Cartoon Network – the only network not showing news.

I never cried that day. But every time I read Jackson the book Fireboat, which is about the John J. Harvey, a New York City fireboat that helped out that day, I cry.

I don’t think I cried at my grandfather’s funeral. I had to sing. Crying would be bad for my voice. As it turned out, the song was played in the wrong key, so I sounded awful anyway. Three weeks later, Jackson was born. We couldn’t go in the NICU to see him. They wouldn’t even bring him to the window. I broke down in the women’s bathroom. I realized that I wasn’t crying as much about Jackson, as I was about being in a hospital again, which brought back the stress of my grandfather dying, and that thought brought back the fact that my grandfather was dead. Someone needed to use the bathroom, so I ended up just pacing the entire floor in tears.

I cried a little at my mom’s funeral. I sang the whole Mass, but I couldn’t help crying during my sister’s eulogy. Later that day, with the family at the house, my father opened up the kitchen cupboards and told my sister and me to take the coffee cups we wanted, because he was going to give them away. I can only imagine what my cousin Kristen thought of this as Ann and I calmly selected the mugs that meant the most to us, or just that we wanted the most. That summer, I worked more hours than I have ever worked before. It was awful. Now that I’ve edited the California Labor Law Digest, I know that it was also probably illegal. Sometime in the middle of the night in October, I started crying and couldn’t stop. It was about 3 in the morning. I remember being angry at Mark and AQ for making me work all summer long so I couldn’t even properly process my mother’s death.

But then, there was the time a friend of mine accidentally locked her kids in the car. The kids were never in any danger. We were at a park, it wasn’t hot, and the fire department came within 15 minutes. I almost lost it.

I don’t cry the way normal people cry. In situations where normal people would break down in tears, I’m either trying my best not to crack jokes (because in addition to being inappropriate, I’m just not that funny) or being as efficient as possible, doing as much as possible. In situations where normal people would take a breath and say, “Wow, that really sucks,” I apparently feel the need to express sadness for every person who has ever been wronged in that way.

All of this occurred to me today, as I was thinking about September 11, 2001. I thought I’d share.

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