Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1174
At the hospital, Keith signs a series of documents as wounded people are wheeled through the hallways around him. He struggles to write his name and tie the hospital gown, but Lianne is there to help him. He is examined and checked for fatal conditions such as hemorrhage, dehydration, and diminished blood flow to tissues. The doctor removes glass from his face and talks about the survivors they expected to come but never arrived. The medical staff is standing useless, waiting for patients who will never come because they are buried in the rubble.
Justin’s two best friends live in a high-rise ten blocks away from his house. They are a brother and sister, and Lianne meets their mother, Isabel, on the street. Isabel is concerned because she has heard the three children talking, behind closed doors, in a kind of children’s gibberish. She senses their fear as they whisper about “this man,” someone neither the mothers nor the children know how to talk about without fear.
Keith stays with his ex-wife. She allows him to sleep in her bed because it is comfortable having him back in her life. In the days after he walked in the door, people begin to hear about his arrival; they call and ask nervously if it is a bad time to talk. What they really mean is that she must now be busy, can they help in any way, will he be staying for a while, and can they join the couple for dinner—somewhere quiet, so they can hear his story. When she keeps silent about him, Lianne does not see herself as selfish but rather as the guardian of a survivor.
One night late, after she arrives home from work, she asks him why he came here. The sensible answer is that he wanted his son to know he was alive and well, but it is only half the answer. He thinks for “a long moment” and explains that a man in a van picked him up on that day. The man’s radio had been stolen, but he heard the sirens and knew something had happened. He saw the smoke and only one tower, which did not make sense to him. Keith knew his apartment was too close to the towers, but he may not have even been thinking of going there anyway. He gave the man her address.
Keith has outpatient surgery on his ligaments and cartilage. The anesthetist gives him a heavy sedative that is supposed to contain a memory suppressant. It does not work. Whether it is a dream or a waking image, he sees Rumsey in his chair by the window, “in the smoke, things coming down.”
Later he tries to get to his apartment but is stopped by checkpoints and barricades. Military police and convoys of dump trucks and sanitation sweepers are heading into the rubble. He shows his ID to prove his address, and he is shuffled to the next checkpoint, where he sees a chain-link barrier positioned down the middle of Broadway. He tells the officer he has a cat to feed and if it dies his child will be devastated; the officer is sympathetic but sends him to another checkpoint. Fire-rescue cars, ambulances, police cruisers, flatbed trucks, and vehicles with cherry pickers are all moving through the barricades. At the next stop he tells the cop he has to feed his three cats or his children will be devastated and he shows them his splint. He is interrupted by several huge bulldozers and backhoes moving through the barricades. After they pass he tells his story again, showing his wrist splint, and says he only needs fifteen minutes to feed the cats and then he will go back to his uptown hotel. The officer lets him through but tells him if he gets stopped to say the checkpoint at Broadway let him in, not this one.
It is an eerie sight, and he only sees one other civilian, walking in a dust mask. Everything is covered in ash, and garbage bags are stacked high next to cars and buildings. He walks slowly, looking for “something he could not identify.” It is all grey and...
(The entire section contains 1174 words.)
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