Rick Karr and September 11th

April 27, 2014

I woke up when the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I worked nights then, so it was early in the morning for me. The psychic shhhhhhhhockkkkkk wrenched me out of bed.

I went to Daniel’s because he had CNN. We watched. We watched. People falling. People jumping. People holding hands and jumping. I thought of Anubis, ancient Egyptian god, holding your hand as he leads you through the Underworld after you die. Such a human gesture. “It’s okay. I’m here. You’re not alone.” That’s the message I would want as I stepped out the window.

My sister and I have talked about that, about whether we’d stay in the burning building or jump. She says she would stay because you never know when you might be rescued. I say I would jump because I want to go out under my own power. Maybe that explains why she’s suffocating in a loveless marriage, and why as soon as anything goes wrong my first solution is suicide.

I went to work as normal that day, hoping to make sense of it all. I had left frantic voicemails for my college friend Janet who worked in Manhattan and was settling in to the horrible waiting to find out if she was alive or dead.

I couldn’t stop listening to the news. I soaked it in, sucked it in, voracious appetite, just take it all in and somehow somehow make sense of this day.

And suddenly there’s a voice I haven’t heard in nearly 20 years. Coming from my radio is Rick Karr’s voice.

I’m catapulted to my sophomore year in high school. I am playing Maria in The Sound of Music. My parents’ dream role for me: the chaste nun. Rick Karr is playing Captain von Trapp. Rick is about 12 feet tall and 90 pounds so he’s all angles and bones and he has this large head with a shock of brown hair and he’s a punk rock singer and it’s my job to teach him how to sing Edelweiss.

“{glottal} E-{head bang}del-{head bang}weiss{gasp gasp}{glottal}E-{head bang}del-{head bang}weiss!”

“Okay, Rick, that’s a start, now let’s try it softer, gentler, more legato, sung lyrically.”

“Right, I’ve got it. {glottal} E-{head bang}del-{head bang}weiss{gasp gasp}{glottal}E-{head bang}del-{head bang}weiss!”

We are in the rehearsal where we are going to kiss. I am dating Dave Blake at the time, white, middle class Dave Blake who does not believe in ghosts, no sir, 2+2=4 and hair grows back! it’s a rational world Dave Blake. And I can’t kiss Rick because I feel like I’m betraying Dave Blake. So we go away from the cast into a classroom and Rick is so kind and so gentle and so genuinely good. He is endlessly patient with me. It takes me 45 MINUTES to get up the nerve to do the deed and as I go in I think, “Forgive me, Dave!” And I tilt my head back to receive one of the sweetest, purest kisses I will ever experience in my life. Bliss.

And on this most terrible day Rick Karr is a reporter for NPR in New York City and his job is to go from morgue to morgue to morgue, counting broken, splattered, burned corpses so we will have a body count. So we will know our losses.

“Bless my homeland forever.”


[See Ferrying the Dead for another September 11th story]