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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

Epiphanies do not come cheaply…

Main Entry: epiph·a·ny
Pronunciation: i-'pi-f&-nE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -nies
Etymology: Middle English epiphanie, from Middle French, from Late Latin epiphania, from Late Greek, plural, probably alteration of Greek epiphaneia appearance, manifestation, from epiphainein to manifest, from epi- + phainein to show -- more at FANCY

Date: 14th century
1 capitalized : January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ
2 : an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being
3 a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery b : a revealing scene or moment

I went to Mr. Jeeves this morning and asked him for the definition of epiphany. I wanted to make sure that I had it right. You see, I have realized these last two weeks I have been waiting for an epiphany, of the kind defined in 3, as in: an intuitive grasp of reality or an illuminating discovery.

In the week preceding and in the week following the anniversary of 9/11, I now realize that I thought it would all come together in some way, that I would have a visceral understanding of the meaning of this event, that what has befuddled me for a year would become clear. I would have an epiphany.

But I haven’t. It’s not that I haven’t been open for the bright light to come along, to have that Saul on the road to Tarsus sort of moment. But it hasn’t come.

I have not had a moment that has made the events of the last year come together in some clarity that allows me to both understand and comprehend the events, all the things I have experienced and witnessed and lived through and continue to live through.

When I woke this morning the first thing that hit my computer screen when I powered up was notice that President Bush is putting us on notice that he wants the permission to do what once seemed unthinkable: have another war with Iraq, with or without our allies and with or without the permission of the U.N.

Our world has become surreal in the last year.

I have taken to walking down to Ground Zero late at night, after the crowds are gone and after, thankfully, the vendors have left with their t-shirts and books, videos and odd mementos [the oddest that I have heard about but have not seen is a model of the Trade Center Towers with a plane on a wire that can go bouncing into them].

In the quiet, the surrounding dark, the brilliant lights burning on the hole and the damaged surrounding buildings standing ghostlike, in those moments I know in my gut what has happened and that the world is forever different. It is very real down there, in the night.

And it is real in everything that surrounds me. The battered sphere from the Trade Center Plaza stands in Battery Park with an eternal flame now burning. It is real in the frightening drumbeats of war that fill the papers and real in the better understanding all of us have of terror in Israel and Palestine. It is real in the arrests of the Lackawanna Six, up near Buffalo. It is real in long and tedious delays at the airports and the additional anxiety in flying. It is real in the general dis-ease of the city and it is real in the ways we still can be gentle with one another, helpful in ways we might not have been before. It is real in city officials suggesting contents for a back pack to keep ready when we have to evacuate again. It is real in that back pack sits beneath my desk, waiting.

It is real and it is surreal, all at the same time. All last week I now realized that I was waiting for that moment when I would go: Ah-ha! Now I ‘get’ it. But that moment hasn’t come and may never come. I will go through my life, like all the other citizens of this city, going on with my life and constantly absorbing and adjusting to the subtle and not so subtle ways that we as a city, as a nation and as a world, are different.