8 years

Eight years ago, I lived on the Lower East Side, near the East Broadway stop on the F train, where I could see the twin towers from my rooftop. On Sept 11, I was woken by a call from my dad asking if I had the TV on, soon followed by calls from friends to check that I was watching. I now think, in retrospect, that there was a sickening undercurrent of giddiness to those first few conversations, during the time between 8:46 and 9:59, from the first plane until a tower actually fell. It was shocking, horrifying even, but it wasn’t fully emotionally serious until a building collapsed.

What I had thought was concern seems like it might have just been rubbernecking, a fascination with someone else’s tragedy. From the start there was no doubt intellectually that it was awful, but I don’t know that emotionally I could distinguish it from the spectacular feeling of a Michael Bay explosion. Our entertainment choices clearly show we love grand destruction, and this is no new thing – all wars, battles of knights and gladiators, all tales of god’s apocalyptic cleansings, are fantasies of this unbridled power. Even Kant wonders if perpetual peace might be boring. A plane crash or a house on fire, a three-car pile-up on the side of the road, these things are terrible but not usually draining or depressing; they tend to widen the eyes and get people talking rather than cause silence and dismay.

But when the first tower fell, reality set in, in a way which could never turn back. That building was part of my home, my skyline. It was a place I’d been that no longer existed – I watched the transition of the tower, from solid reality to dust and ashes, and as it crumpled into mere waste, the truth of the plane became much more clear as well. This wasn’t a show, that cabin had been full of helpless screaming naked apes with families and ideas and plans for the future, human beings hoping desperately that they might live, unprepared for death when all they’d expected was some mediocre food and maybe a movie before landing…

I know that people who really were there or lost close relatives sometimes feel that having all of NY mourn is disingenuous. And I know that New Yorkers often feel that the having the entire country waving flags in memory is inauthentic. No one quite knows what another feels about these kinds of events, in the end. I think of the day first of all as a personal tragedy for those directly affected, and count myself a few tiers removed, even though somehow the loss of architecture, the haze of smoke that settled into our island, really did affect me (and everyone in NY for a few weeks) quite directly. But eight years later, the wound is much more healed than I imagine it is for some.

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One Response to “8 years”

  1. Guenevere Says:

    I saw a comment you left in 2005 in regards to the Hallelujah lyrics. Can you email me

    nymosa@aol.com

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