For Richard Szathmary, who lives in Clifton, the most searing memory from that day was not an image, but a sound.
I worked in a five-story building on Park Place, two blocks from the WTC. When the first plane hit, I and an art department guy named Raoul went up to the roof, where we sometimes had lunch. There, we picked up odd pieces of, well, “junk” that hadn’t been there a few days before. And they were, interestingly, warm to the touch. If you remember the old “Tinkertoys” sets, that’s what they reminded me of, but in metal as opposed to the wood of Tinkertoys.
And while we were doing this scavenging, the second plane hit. What I remember most (and almost no one seems to mention) is the noise: a huge, all-encompassing, synapse-shredding “crunch” sound, followed by a sort of resigned sigh as metal and concrete and glass all gave way. Not even the heaviest, most reverb-ridden of heavy metal bands I’ve ever heard can match that sound.
I can still summon up that sound in my head. Not the crash itself, but always the sound of it, separate from everything else. I can sit through the loudest, most special-effects-filled movie out there and still, that sound beats it.
Strangely, too, it bothers me somewhat that people talk about how traumatized they were by the images they saw that day. I wasn’t, even as when, walking uptown, I saw the first building collapse over my shoulder. So I doubt them quite often, think they’re just trying to get attention.
Yet they never seem to remember the sound. I do. And I also recall a Robert Graves story, made into a movie with Alan Bates, called “The Shout,” about a guy who claimed he could commit mayhem just with a shout. You know, I now almost believe the premise of that story.
So there you go: the sound and the “Tinkertoy effect,” for whatever they both mean. Maybe not much, because, after all, save for the loss of my job I really wasn’t affected. Those who suffered the most are either dead or grieving for their dead. I pray for them still, just as I also pray for Fr. Mychal Judge, who’d been assigned to my parish (St. Joseph’s) in East Rutherford as I was growing up and with whom I occasionally I went for coffee when I’d worked in the neighborhood where he resided (the West 30’s). But even when I’m sitting in church at mass, I sometimes still hear that crunching noise. Probably always will, too.