Year Two: Day 255 – A Decade + 1 Year

Today is Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2012, the 255th Day of the Year.

This is the 11th year since the attacks on the 11th day of Sep­tem­ber in 2001.

In Man­hat­tan the day began in a rou­tine way, the way week­days begin here, but for the fact it was a pri­mary elec­tion and that sky was a peace­ful blue. By the end of the morn­ing the day would be remem­bered for attacks and death — The World Trade Tow­ers. The Pen­ta­gon. A field in Pennsylvania.

In the days imme­di­ately fol­low­ing the tragedy, our city was a killing field and a cathe­dral. Things sec­u­lar seemed sacred. We were softer, kinder, and qui­eter. We were a wounded city. Grief was in the air, I could feel it in every exchange I had with another per­son, whether a friend or stranger.

I wrote these words then:

The first time I approached it was just at dusk. The steel skele­ton of what had been the mighty tower hung sus­pended as though it were a piece of scenery for a play. But it was too large for any theater’s stage, and the scope of the tragedy too mas­sive for the con­fine­ment of the playwright’s craft. It was a stark shard, and on that shard, as on the attacks itself, the nation and the world has attached much mean­ing and symbolism.” *

Eleven years later, the huge shard is gone. A grow­ing new tower is vis­i­ble from the end of the ter­race. Some feel the tower avenges some of the deaths by mak­ing a state­ment that we won’t be intim­i­dated. I don’t focus on the new tower. Instead I think of the pools of water, the reflect­ing waters that now stand where the base of the tow­ers once existed. Those waters and the names of each per­son lost that day are what I think of today. Water can be heal­ing and in sacred or reli­gious rit­u­als sig­ni­fies renewal, cleans­ing, rebirth.

Hatred took down the tow­ers. Soft­ness in Man­hat­tan is in short sup­ply again. We’re almost as we were, and that’s not nec­es­sar­ily good. There is war, blood­shed, vio­lence and hatred in every cor­ner of the globe. My speck in the uni­verse – this island of Man­hat­tan — is part of a larger national polit­i­cal drama unfold­ing as we near the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Eleven years after 9–11, the rhetoric is angry, mis­lead­ing, and accusatory. We are shown maps with red and blue states as the news com­men­ta­tors excit­edly chat­ter about the close­ness of the race to the White House. I see divi­sion. I see any­thing but a United States of Amer­ica. I wish it were not the case that tragedy seems to be what binds us and not compromise.

Heal­ing Waters. Waters Heal.

I think of the lives of all who died that day, not just their man­ner of death. I think of the many new can­cers now dis­cov­ered and named because of the poi­son that went into the bod­ies and sys­tems of the first-responders and oth­ers at the site. I think of the gen­tle water and all the words that can’t be said on a memo­r­ial stone of what con­sti­tutes a mass grave. May each name be for a blessed memory.

May we find peace in the world and on our shores. May we retreat from prej­u­dice, intol­er­ance and the arro­gance of assum­ing we are always right, and the other per­son is always wrong.

Tonight I will go the far cor­ner of the ter­race and look to see if the white beams of light are being dis­played this year, as they usu­ally are. The ghost tow­ers I call them each year. But even if they are not, I will see the light of hope that we will move for­ward in a way befit­ting a coun­try founded on lib­erty and free­dom. And dream we can move into a decade of compassion.

* “From the Shards” by Alida Brill in To Mend the World, Mar­jorie Agosin and Bet­ty­Jean Craig, edi­tors, White Pine Press, 2002

©Alida Brill/From This Ter­race 2012


Filed under Community, Compassion, Hope, Life, Memories, Politics, This Moment, Time

6 Responses to Year Two: Day 255 – A Decade + 1 Year

  1. Starkly beau­ti­ful. Thank you Alida.

  2. Bernadette

    Thank you, Alida, for invit­ing us to this heal­ing rit­ual of immer­sion in water and com­mu­nion through memory.

  3. Thank you Alida. This brought tears to my eyes.

  4. In the hus­tle and bus­tle of this impor­tant day, I appre­ci­ate this reflec­tive piece of wis­dom from you tonight.

  5. Gor­geous, Alida. You speak for many peo­ple who remem­ber that day and the spirit of the times. But how changed we find the world today–you’ve caught that as well. Yes, get back to the book–you knew I would say that. Florence

  6. Anne Laese

    Thanks Alida, I hes­i­tate to com­ment only for fear of cor­rect­ness. I must say “thank you” for putting my thoughts into words. Take care Alida I so appre­ci­ate your gift with words.

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