Visiting family in the O.C.

Okay, not quite. Hermosa Beach, at Karen's new apartment, for the weekend. Joannie gets in tomorrow morning from New Zealand, so it'll be a Wei family reunion in L.A.
I didn't watch much TV on the 11th, but flying always reminds me of 9-11. The loss of a more carefree way of life always strikes me when getting off of airplanes. In the past, a whole crowd of people would be waiting just beyond the door as you walked off the gangway, all smiling strangers looking past you, expectantly, and then the one familiar face looking at you. After sitting on an airplane for hours with strangers like an orphan, that moment when you see your friend or family member is the transition from being lost to being found, claimed and pulled back into the world.
Now, no one is allowed to the gate without a boarding pass, cars are shooed away by police, so such reunions happen by baggage claims or on curbs. I have to remove my shoes and walk through metal detectors in my socks. Sometimes I have to take off my belt as I'm wanded front and back, up and down. It's not that the inconvenience bothers me. Most of the security personnel at Seatac are almost sheepish, embarrassed that they have to subject us to these stringent procedures and thus surpassingly polite. Rather it's the reminder of the event that shifted us all into this mode of heightened suspicion that always depresses me.
After reading this article about a photo of one of the people who jumped out of the burning Towers, I couldn't stop imagining myself having to jump out of a burning building, the flames and smoke and scorching air behind me, and a fall of several hundred feet before me, the sidewalk far below. The article notes that jumpers fell through the air about 10 seconds, and I can't help thinking that when I did my Nevis bungy jump in New Zealand, I free fell about 9 seconds.
Of course, the bungy jump was 9 seconds of exhilaration. Now, thinking about those who leapt from the Towers, I feel guilty for having enjoyed myself then.
The Falling Man has become the iconic image of the horror of 9-11, just like the photo of the young girl burned by napalm in Vietnam became the visual embodiment of all that was wrong about the Vietnam War.
More than ever, time spent with family and friends is precious. Seeing Alan and Sharon and Ryan and James and Jeff in NYC last weekend, and getting to spend time with Joannie and Karen and Mike this weekend, even if just to sit around hanging out, doing nothing...these all feel like stolen moments.
I'm reminded of those times when one wake up in the middle of the night to sneak a midnight snack from the fridge, and running into another light sleeper, and sharing a hot cocoa and conversation at the dinner table in a bathrobe and slippers, the only ones awake. Bonus memories.
Karen has passed out, listening to tunes on my iPod. Hopefully she's listening to a happy song.