Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Ghost of the First 9-11 Christmas

On Christmas eve of 2001, a well-dressed middle-aged African-American woman named Elizabeth Johnston desperately searched through the various fliers and photographs that had been pinned to a make-shift bulletin board in front of a church near the site of the 9-11 disaster. She was looking for some kind of evidence, any kind of proof that perhaps someone she knew who had been in the World Trade Center on the day it was destroyed might still be alive. She was looking for me.

But I wasn't there. I was up in East Harlem -- Spanish Harlem -- watching a Posada pass by. There was the young girl playing Mary and there was the young boy playing Joseph. I smiled to see that instead of being dressed in rags they both wore blue and gold satin robes and Mary wore spangles in her hair. And, as the poor desperate couple was turned away from inn after inn, I knew just how they felt. I felt the same way too. No one wants to let me in either.

My name is Carmen Rodriguez.

On September 11, 2001, I was working on the 30th floor of the WTC. Elizabeth Johnston was supposed to have been working at the desk next to me but her teenage daughter had needed a ride to school that day and so she was late. Too late. Thank God.

The plane hit our tower but we were all told to stay where we were. "It would take more than even a jumbo jet to bring this tower down," they told us. "Even King Kong hanging from the penthouse wouldn't make a dent. This place is made out of steel, as solid as Fort Knox." So I didn't leave. I just sat there at my desk, sharpening pencils and checking my makeup and waiting for rescue. Waiting for a room at the inn.

Less than an hour later, our building collapsed within seconds. I was in it.

Now I am waiting. Waiting for revenge.

They say that when you go to Heaven, all your bad thoughts go away and you don't care about things like revenge. Maybe this is why I am still a ghost. I still want revenge. "Elizabeth! Can you see me!" No. Her daughter has already graduated from high school and then graduated from college. Elizabeth is so proud of her! Me too. But like Joseph and Mary, I just keep searching for someone -- anyone -- who will listen to my story and give me a room at the inn.

I don't know who caused the disaster of 9-11. I know that no one has investigated my death. Not really. I am allowed to know that. The dead are allowed to be told when their killers are brought to justice. No one has told me anything so far.

No one told me anything when they bombed Afghanistan so I guess those poor people -- the second poorest nation on earth -- weren't responsible. "Let's bomb them back to the Stone Age," I heard the cry. Too late. The Russians and Taliban had already taken care of that.

No one told me anything when they bombed Iraq. So I guess the million Iraqis who died because of Shock and Awe weren't to blame either.

I live in the underworld now, waiting for something. Waiting for justice? Who knows. It is not for me to know. It is only for me to sit and wait. And I've been waiting for six long years now, walking the streets every Christmas, following the footsteps of young Mary and young Joseph. "Please! Let me in!"

Maybe this Christmas....