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