9/11, Twelve Years Later

120px-Wtc-2004-memorial[1]I was grateful today that it wasn’t one of those blue-sky September days, but muggy and cloudy.  Every September when the sky is that clear, unclouded blue I remember how lovely it was on 9/11 in 2001, and how that day fell apart into terror and dread.

It’s amazing to me how New York City has come back and how people have carried on with their lives.  New Yorkers (and New Jerseyites, for many of them were killed that day) are tough. 

The reading of the names still makes me cry, and the footage of the attacks is still horrifying.  But every day people commute to the city to work, and millions of others live there.  The Freedom Tower looms over lower Manhattan.  Downtown businesses came back.  Children have been born who will have no personal memory of what happened.  Tourists come and go in their hordes.  At least now they have a memorial to look at instead of a gaping hole.

“Never forget” is the motto you see at many fire stations and police stations, throughout the tri-state area, where first responders poured into the city to help the New York City forces.  But I wonder, will the day come when the pain is not remembered?  At least, will the day come when a blue September sky doesn’t make us uneasy?





Out of a Clear Blue Sky

ImageThis time of year many of us around New York are haunted by the weather.  Not that it’s grey and spooky, or dreary with rain–just the opposite.  The skies are usually clear and blue, with a little drift of white clouds.  The trees have not yet begun to turn.  There’s a quality the light has that is almost golden, especially early in the morning.  The sunsets often are spectacular, purple and pink and orange, and the sky then darkens to dark blue velvet.

The days are very much like they were on September 11, 2001.  Each year on these lovely September days, I remember a day very much like this, bright and crisp.  I remember driving to work with my CD player going, so I didn’t hear the news on the radio.  I walked into the office where I worked in New Jersey, and noticed it was nearly empty.  Everyone was in the cafeteria, watching TV and buzzing, trying to figure out what had happened to the first tower of the World Trade Center.  Then the plane hit the second tower as we watched on TV.  And clear blue skies would never be the same again.

So I still love these beautiful days in September.  But in some ways I’m glad now that we are past the equinox and slipping into fall.  October does not bring back the sad visions of those days when we lost thousands of people, and our innocence.

September 11: Remember to Love

On Friday I went to Trinity Church, on Broadway close to Wall Street, to hear a choral performance.  Trinity had choirs singing all day on September 9, either at Trinity Church or at St. Paul’s Chapel, which was a place of refuge and rest for first responders.  The church called the event “Remember to Love:  A Choral Blessing,” and invited choirs from Boston, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania to perform, as well as their own choirs and others from New York City.  http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/  (There are special services today, Sept. 11, as well).

The Copley Singers from Boston performed at 3 p.m.  The program included  Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei, spirituals, and a part of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem, among other pieces.  Hearing their harmonies and the clarity of sound in the church filled with tourists, people who worked on Wall Street, and those who came just for the concert united us all in remembrance.

It ended with one I had never heard before, “Song of Athene,” by John Taverner.  I was moved by it.  I’m sharing the lyrics as they were printed in the program.  It sums up what I think we all hope for those who perished.

Song of Athene, by John Taverner

May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.

Give rest, O Lord, to your handmaid, who has fallen asleep.

The Choir of Saints have found the well-spring of life and door of Paradise.

Life:  A shadow and a dream.  Weeping at the grave creates the song:

Alleluia.  Come, enjoy rewards and crowns I have prepared for you.

September 11: Ten Years After

2004 Memorial in Lights
I was driving to work in New Jersey when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  I didn’t even have the radio on.  When I walked in the office building where I worked, the floor was nearly deserted.  “What’s going on?” I asked someone passing by.  “Come to the cafeteria, the TV’s on,” she said.  “A plane just hit the twin towers.”  I thought she meant a small private plane.

The cafeteria was full of people.  I squeezed to a view of the TV screen just as the second passenger jet smashed into the second tower.    Everyone screamed.  The rest of the day dissolved into chaos, bridges and tunnels closed, phone lines tied up.  Email was the only way to get word to anyone else.

My experience was inconsequential compared to those who lost family, friends and co-workers in that cataclysm.  I went to a couple of wakes for family members of friends, and heard the stories–one family held a wake with an empty casket, and then weeks later a body part was identified, a friend in D.C. just happened to go to work on a later bus and got to the Pentagon safely after the plane had crashed there.

What amazes me ten years later is how the fear has diminished, and how New York has moved on.  I remember being on a Circle Line cruise in New York harbor that October and being boarded by a Coast Guard patrol.  I remember the smoke and the smell of the WTC site, and how long it went on.  I remember wincing every time I heard or saw a jet overhead.  Candlelight vigils, memorial services, the miniature twin towers built at the riverside park in Irvington, and the pervasive fear.  But people soldiered on somehow.  They went back to work downtown.  They rebuilt their lives.  Things would never be the same.  But somehow a “new normal” evolved and went forward.

I never went to the World Trade Center site unless an out-of-town visitor forced me to go.  That gaping hole gave me bad dreams.  Even when I worked on Wall Street for four years, I avoided the place.  Now the memorial is getting ready to open.  Ten years later, the city is roaring with life, hectic, impatient, always pushing forward.    The memorial will help us to never forget, even if we act like we have.

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