Ten years ago, I woke up to my roommates screaming. At first I was annoyed, I mean, it’s like 8:30am, TONE IT DOWN ALREADY. Then I saw. And we were all quiet.
My father was flying out of Boston that day, but I didn’t know where. The phone lines were down, so I couldn’t call my mom. It was like the apocalypse, I thought. No service. No contact. Only this breathless uncertainty – the kind of terror that has its own atmosphere.
We watched the news all day long, and, by this time one decade ago, I was at work. I waited tables at an Italian restaurant on the East side of Syracuse, NY, and the few customers I served that night were celebrating birthdays. I gave them all free cheesecake. What a crappy birthday, I’d say to each, I’m sorry. When I wasn’t tableside, I sat at the bar and watched CNN.
By nightfall, exhausted, my friends and I decided to distract ourselves by going to our favorite bar. The news was on there, too, so it wasn’t much of a distraction. The air hung thick with smoke and resignation. None of us knew quite what to do, so when we got home we started to pull Tarot cards. I pulled The Tower.
The next day I rented a car with no tape deck and drove to Massachusetts to be with my family. I didn’t tell them I was coming, just sort of showed up. I drove through the Berkshires in silence, thinking about that night in late 1999 when I sat on the steps of Kaia’s brownstone in Jersey City, out of my mind after a night at the clubs. She had a view of lower Manhattan from her stoop, and the twins seemed to sparkle and wave. Columns of light and life.
The meaning of The Tower is catastrophic change – the undoing of all things. It is a card of violence, but also a card of immense hope. For from destruction comes creation, and only from the ashes can the phoenix rise. I know this now, deeply, and I hope that we as individuals (and our country as a whole) can use this time to live in a way that builds better Life. Because Life, I mean, it can be pretty awesome.