What I remember were the grasshoppers

Perhaps the Most Ornate Grasshopper Anywhere by Alan Levine (2013), CC By 2.0, via Flickr, https://flic.kr/p/g1TJ1h

September 11, 2001. I had just turned 20 years old. As a junior at Columbia University in New York City, I was studying in a “semester abroad” field science program at the Biosphere 2 Center in Oracle, AZ. In this case, “abroad” was still within the continental US, but it felt like I had landed on Mars.

It looked like Mars, too.

Sonoran Desert Sunset by Jasper Nance (2009) CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr. https://flic.kr/p/6WMJ9H

I had arrived at the site about a week before, with my hiking boots and brand new backpack full of preconceptions. I woke up early, my body still adjusted to Central Time from my home in Kansas City. Everything about this semester had so far been disorienting, exciting and overwhelming. That morning, I was thrilling over the idea that we had our own compost pile where I could deposit fruit and veggie scraps from our kitchen.

Outside our dorm, the desert was waking up. I brought out what we had for compost to the designated spot, when I noticed the largest, brightest, most jewel-like grasshoppers I had ever seen in my life. Red and green and yellow, they hopped and glowed and mated in the organic litter, like a benevolent alien arthropod welcoming committee. I was completely enchanted. I can’t tell you how long I sat there entranced by the grasshoppers in the compost.

When I finally pulled myself away, I ran back to the dorms and threw open the door of our house. “Guys,” I chattered excitedly, “You won’t believe the crazy bugs I just saw…”

My voice trailed off as I noticed that all of my roommates and the RA were gathered around the TV set to news coverage. The RA wordlessly indicated the TV screen, which my confused brain resolved into images New York City and the first tower billowing smoke. I remember screaming and racing for the phone, because my sister had just started her first week of college in New York City. I tried to call her dorm number, but all the circuits were tied up. I imagine most of the world watching television at that minute were trying to place calls to Manhattan.

I don’t really remember the rest of the day. I know we spent a lot of it glued to the TV, unable to move. It felt completely unreal: The news coverage, being so far away in the middle of nowhere, the sense of shock and denial.

The only thing that I remember clearly were the grasshoppers.


4 thoughts on “What I remember were the grasshoppers

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I very much enjoyed it. All of us share collective memories of that terrible, searing, tragic day. We, too, gathered around a TV at work watching in horror as the towers came crashing down. I’ve been told (and gently teased) for being ‘sentimental’ and crying too easily and I now resent the compulsion I had at the time to hold it in and not make a spectacle of myself. In any case, the overwhelming emotions of that day were let loose before too long even though I felt compelled that day, with so many co-workers around me, to hold my tears in check. I don’t know why it bothers me but it just does. I had (have!) as much right as anyone to express my grief, pain and sadness that day.

    Anyway, I especially loved the phrasing you used at the start of your piece: with my hiking boots and brand new backpack full of preconceptions. Nice.

    We will always remember…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am honored that my blog post resonated with you. Memories and emotions are tied up in a powerful, complicated package. I guess one of the strange side effects of this one is that I’m sometimes a little sad when I see beautiful grasshoppers. I also once started tearing up in the frozen food aisle when Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” (which he wrote in response to the 9/11 attacks) came on over the grocery store muzak system.


  3. I love that you WOULD associate an invertebrate with 9/11 šŸ™‚ It didn’t occur to me until I read your post that you might have been living in NYC at the time.

    On Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 3:44 PM, “Protopian Pickle Jar” wrote:

    > Protopian Pickle Jar posted: ” September 11, 2001. I had just turned 20 > years old. As a junior at Columbia University in New York City, I was > studying in a “semester abroad” field science program the Biosphere 2 > Center in Oracle, AZ. Though in this case, “abroad” was still within the” >

    Liked by 1 person

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