and once again, forced to reflect on that day

This is my first 9-11 away from New York, which brings an odd sense of relief and loss. I won’t sit here and write that it was an ennobling experience for me.  Nor is it one that is lessened by the passage of time.  It was awful, and time won’t change that.  I can still see the first tower fall while I was watching it, standing in the penthouse of my office tower in midtown.  I can still remember the phone calls that almost had the sense of goodbyes that I made to family and friends – the promises that I would seek out and take care of my little brother and the awful, grinding, as yet unchanged sense that everything was now changed for the worse.  I can still remember looking up at the fighter jets roaring over Manhattan, and the dust choking our lungs as we walked through streets empty of cars.  The American story, as it was up to that point, had turned a page.  Year after year, I’ve felt the same.

Being gone I still feel a pang, and maybe it’s even a little bit worse this year.  I still remember the sense of violated privilege – we’re Americans, you assholes!  How can you do this to USWe are New York.  Suddenly I’m not part of that we anymore.  It’s almost bizarre to think of the way I thought that somehow – even after my years of living in Russia amidst the cowardly terrorist attacks there – that America was above it all, and that New York should have been even further above it all.  Well, wrong.  We weren’t special, and I wasn’t special.  Our country and city – like countless others – was nothing more than a victim.

So I don’t know how I feel. It’s been eight years, a long time in a lifespan.  In the grand scheme of things, I’ll cynically say it’s not a statistically big deal.  Natural disasters and wars have killed many, many more people than were killed on 9/11.  But it’s still there in my memory, harsher and more real than Katrina or tsunamis or the Iraq war.  I still remember walking near ground zero a few day after 9/11, covering my mouth, picking up trash, crying at “have you seen…” posters.  I still remember the Salvation Army and the outpouring of help from every corner of the city.  It’s not the kind of thing you’d set aside very easily, or quickly.  It hurts me that it turned into such a sideshow under the ‘leadership’ of a cynical and devious child of privilege in the years afterward.  It still hurts me that we don’t have a decent memorial to that day, too, despite politicians’ mewlings about making a proper tribute.  Do it now.

Leave it at this:  it was awful, nothing will ever make it less awful. I’m still sad about it and no doubt you are too.  I don’t think I’ll spend a day for the rest of my life in early September without thinking of a clear, beautiful morning that started with such promise, and ended in such horror for so many. It’s still fitting to weep.

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne, Meditation XVII

11 Replies to “and once again, forced to reflect on that day”

  1. “FORCED”?????? I wouldn't have used that term. As a fellow New Yorker, doesn't matter where we now live. 'Never Forget' is the mantra. Anyone, regardless of their own horrific experience (Viet Nam War, Iraq war, etc.) remembers their specific life experience.

    1. @alicia: I guess I say “forced” simply because I'd rather not have to think about it at all, and I'd rather it had never happened at all. Someone forced a memory on all of us.

  2. I also agree that “forced” would not be my choice of words. After having experienced 9/11 from what I consider too close for comfort I will never forget my experience. The smell, the sound of sirens, watching firefighters run by to get there, and even watching people cheer as the towers fell is something that will be in my memory forever. Even to this day, I jump when I hear what I consider to be too many police, fire engine or ambulance sirens.

  3. Yes, I work about 2 miles from the towers and we have people on video cheering. We actually have friends in the FBI and turned the video over to them so they could investigate. It was crazy. Not the norm of course but it really wasn't until that point in my life that I realized that there are so many out there that hate America – and some of them are in our country!

  4. Lynn – Whether you love or hate a government, philosophy, or way of life, you cannot cheer when disaster or tragedy strikes your fellow human. These are people who are going about their lives, and are not a proxy for whatever you might not like about the society in which we all live. The victims of 9/11, and their families and friends, are deserving of only our help, support, and sympathy.

    I lost two colleagues who were on the flights out of Logan that struck the towers.

    1. Excuse me, Lynn, I certainly didn't mean you, but those you caught on video.

  5. I was just writing to say that you misunderstood me….but then you cleared it up. 🙂

    Believe me, it was horrifying…especially when we see who was cheering (I will not comment on exactly who was cheering because I am sure it would get me in trouble and I don't want to stereotype). I am still haunted to this day and I jump when I hear too many sirens. Especially when we had out of town visitors that previous weekend and we went into the city and drove past the towers and I told them that we could go there another time since they weren't going anywhere. I also said that if I worked there I would have to have a parachute in my office in case something ever was to happen. I will never ever say anything like that again.

    I work in a family business and we do most of the garage door installations for the NYFD. We knew many firefighters that died and our town lost 16 and one of the was my parents neighbor.

  6. @alicia: I guess I say “forced” simply because I'd rather not have to think about it at all, and I'd rather it had never happened at all. Someone forced a memory on all of us.

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