11 September 2006

i haven't forgotten

i had intended on writing a 'in memory' piece for one of those killed on september 11th. anthony told me about it a few days ago, a project to blog about those that died that day in the attacks - to bring light to their lives and take away the emphasis on their murderers, but i can't seem to get the site to work - it is probably overloaded with visitors. so, instead, i'll just write what comes to mind...

2001. we woke up that morning to the phone ringing, over and over and over. we got up and came downstairs to listen to the messages. on the machine, one of will's good friends was crying, saying that something horrible was happening - that the united states was being attacked. airplanes had hit one the world trade center towers. my heart sank.

we turned on the television and saw the buildings smoking. we watched them fall. i couldn't take it. i was overcome with grief and the shock was lingering just beneath. i went out on our back porch and stared at the sky. a million thoughts were racing through my mind.

please don't let there be anyone in there. did everyone get out? the world trade centers - an attack on symbols. why there? the pentagon. the people. the people are jumping from windows. i have failed...

my drive in activism has always been a good part worry that something like this was bound to happen, given my country's foreign policy decisions and practices. when bush said they hated our freedom in the days following, i knew better.

and in my heart, i knew what the official response would be. i was terrified of what the present and future would hold.

i tried to call my girlfriend, hallie in nyc. no answer.

as the day progressed, i found myself crying uncontrollably - and i had to work that night. i sat there all day, in front of the television. i saw images from all over the world, others in mourning with us. i watched the towers fall over and over again. will finally came in and turned it off. he knew what it was doing to me - and that i couldn't stop watching.

that evening, on my way to work - it was quiet. no one honking, no one yelling. at work, i could overhear conversations. for the first time i could remember, people weren't talking about sports or their favorite clothes or their favorite television shows, or even how fucked up they wanted to get. they were talking about the world. what the attacks had meant. i had a glimmer of hope that my country would rise and that the right thing would happen. i couldn't have been more wrong.

2002. i was asked to contribute to a book of essays written in reflection of 9/11 called 'leavened 9/11. it is comprised of essays written by those who live in and around the 39th street district - a community response. you can read my essay here. all of the essays are excellent. you can access the rest by clicking on 'the book' link.

2003. will and i were in nyc on september 10th. it felt as if those in lower manhattan were holding their breath. no one said anything, and they didn't have to. we went down to ground zero. i was overcome, once again. one lone firefighter stood in front of the station, staring down into the abyss. i imagine that he lost many friends that day. we made our way around. all of the city sounds disappeared. i watched the bulldozers scoop and move. behind me, a man was playing a flute. amazing grace. i realized that i hadn't heard anything at all for several minutes and now this music was slowly filling my head. we moved on.

later that day, we toured the lower east side tenement house museum - a museum rich with immigrant history. near the end of the tour, we were standing in one of the tenement apartments that they had managed to trace a family to. a woman and her daughters had lived there, so long ago. she made dresses and her daughters helped her. they were able to support themselves. her husband had had a job further up the island and one day he never came home. he just disappeared. there was a dangerous area that the men would need to cross through, and apparently, many men never made it through and were never heard from again.

they knew who this family was by a strange twist of fate. earlier that year, a man had come in with pictures and said that his great great great great (i can't remember how far removed now) aunt had lived there. he had documentation. we saw pictures of her and her daughters. to put a face to a historical life story like that, is always such an amazing thing. she was the one of the few that the museum people had ever been able to positively identify... one that history will not forget now. one of the millions of immigrants that helped shape this country into what it is today.

then our guide showed us a photograph of the nephew that had brought his aunt's memory back to life. we also saw a photograph of his beautiful family - his wife and two daughters. on september 11th of 2001, this nephew, like his uncle so many years before him also left for work and didn't return home. he worked in the world trade center towers.

in 2002 there was a memorial service for him at the tenement house museum. his wife was there. she said that if her aunt could raise her girls against the odds, after losing her beloved husband, so could she. and she would.

this is my 'in memory.' i don't remember his name. but i think about him and his family often to this day, especially today. i imagine that they will always be with me.

i find myself writing this through tears. and now, today, as septmeber 11th has been reduced down to made-for-t.v.- docudramas, and now finding most of the world that was mourning with us now against us, i will cry and remember. i will cry for everyone that lost a loved one on september 11th 2001. i will cry for all of those that have lost a loved one in the process of warful mis-guided revenge on afghanistan and in the mis-guided war on iraq based on lies. because sometimes, you just need to cry - because there is no such thing as closure.


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