Giving Back

I know that September 11 belongs to the entire country, that everyone in some way has a connection to the events: a brother, an aunt, a friend who was there, who saw it, who died in it. But I still somehow feel very personal about it -- possessive, in fact. I was there. I lived through it. It is my tragedy. Memorials and remembrances outside of New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania make me angry -- unreasonably so. And Lord help Toby Keith if I ever meet him. I'll put a boot in his "Angry American" ass.

But it's not just me. The closer I get to the epicenter, the more I find that people understand what I'm feeling. It's a sentiment I assume everyone here can also comprehend, having lived through Columbine. We appreciate the outpouring of sympathy and support, but at the end of the day, nobody else can understand what it was like, what it meant.

As such, I have purposely blocked out and refused to deal with 9/11. I don't commemorate the day. My friends don't ask me about it, and I only give curt, rehearsed answers to strangers who ask about my experience. When I came home to Colorado just a week after the cataclysm, I visited Glenwood Springs, thinking I could escape the horror. But every bar I went to had the endless CNN loop playing, and I had to ask the bartenders to turn it off. They respectfully did so, and that's when I started my no-TV policy.

I didn't -- and still don't -- need pictures to remind me of what was already stored permanently in my mind.

I don't need to be reminded of my friend and me staring down Sixth Avenue -- the Avenue of the Americas -- on our morning walk to work and seeing the first tower smoldering just minutes after impact. I don't need to be reminded of the smell, of the debris. I don't need to be reminded of the Salvation Army using my street as a staging ground for relief or the tanks rolling past my apartment. I don't need to be reminded that I was supposed to be at the World Trade Center that morning to do an interview, which thankfully got canceled. Most of all, I don't need to be reminded of the missing-persons posters that were plastered over every blank surface, staring back at all of us.

But last month, I unknowingly broke my vow of silence when I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11. Yes, yes, yes: In retrospect, I should have guessed that there would be footage of 9/11, but somehow I didn't think that through in advance. So as the movie opened, I sat sobbing. The images were too unbearable. I almost walked out, but I didn't. I made it through, and I was okay.

So this year, I might, just might, do something to celebrate that breakthrough. No, my 9/11 won't be spent in front of the television reliving every gory detail. I'll be at Fashion Forward, a party and fashion show being thrown at Rise Nightclub to benefit the Gathering Place, the city's only homeless shelter serving women and children. The Gathering Place didn't plan the event to honor or detract from the third anniversary of my -- our -- tragedy, but it's serving as one nonetheless.

"All of our supporters felt like it's okay," says Gathering Place spokeswoman Terrell Curtis, "and by doing it on that day, we can demonstrate that one of the things that is so significant about this country is that we respond by giving and we support the community."

Hear, hear, sister.

No cheesy remembrance or forced speeches by politicians vowing to never forget the day could be as cathartic as watching models in sexy outfits by SOL, Eve and Bolderdash sashay down the runway while giving back to our community, the people that have helped me -- helped all of us -- get through something so unfathomable.

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Amy Haimerl

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