Monday, September 12, 2011

In Remembrance

I spent the morning today in Central Park thinking about 9/11. This morning's weather reminded me very much of the weather of that day. Vibrant and clear with a crispness in the air signaling the end of summer and the beginning of fall; a perfect September day. Far off in the background I could hear the melancholy tones of bag pipers playing a tribute to those who died. Their somber tones were a sad complement to the feeling of lost that I was experiencing. I felt an overwhelming sense of loss that day. I love my city, New York, very much and felt her pain that day as if I was the one who had suffered a painful and serious injury. Even though I was not close to anybody who died in the attack, I continued to experience a profound sense of loss for weeks, if not months, after the attack. There were constant reminders. Foremost, was the profound change in the city skyline. No longer was downtown dominated by the icon of the Twin Towers. Where once they proudly stood, there was nothing but a gaping hole, the skyline, once a beautiful smile, now permanently marred by the loss of its two front teeth. Then there were the missing person posters with the question "Have you seen this person" written over a photograph of a person missing in the attacks. These posters appeared all over the city, on lampposts, mailboxes and temporary kiosks erected for that purpose. And the photographs on them, typically of a person smiling at the camera often with a child or pet in their arms, gave a very human face to the tragedy we experienced. The victims were not just numbers but were real people that stared out at us from these posters imploring us to find and return them to their families. The hope, but really the despair, expressed in these posters was palpable, and I couldn't but help but think of the families who posted these signs and the all-consuming and always present anguish they were experiencing of not knowing whether a person they loved had perished that day. There were other images that I'll never forget as well. The men and women emerging ghoul like from the mist of the fallen Towers their clothes, hair and faces covered with a fine dusting of soot most with rivulets of blood spreading down their faces like slow trickles of water, not running, but walking heads down in anguished defeat. And then there was the smell. Acrid and vulgar, the smell of loss and destruction. It lingered over the city for many months, an ever present and inescapable reminder of the events of that day.

The city became very quiet the weeks following 9/11. Horns did not honk, once boisterous and loud voices were now replaced with muted and hushed whispers. Bus rides, typically a cacophony of conversations and cell phone calls, became eerily quiet. It was clear; we were a city in morning. Morning the people who worked in the Towers and died in the attack, morning the brave policeman, fireman and other first responders who selflessly sacrificed their lives to help others, morning all those who lost somebody they loved, and morning our lost as a country of our sense of safety and security. Our lives had been forever changed that day.

Our spirit had been tested that day by a horrible evil but through our courage and sheer will our city and country came together as a community and demonstrated to our friends and enemies alike our resolve to emerge from this tragedy better, stronger and wiser. Yet despite this, it is only appropriate that we set aside some time today to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001 and to offer our condolences to all those who suffered a loss on that day.

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