9/11 -- MORE REAL THAN EVER
By Mat Tombers
March 18th, 2002
It came this week, the first anniversary in the long march
of time away
from September 11. It happened Monday; it was the six month
of the event, marked by several things. On the day itself,
there was a
morning ceremony in Battery Park, where a sculpture from the
Tower - or
rather what's left of it - was temporarily erected. Thirty
"The Sphere" was erected with the intention of honoring
a free world
through free trade. Now badly damaged but remarkably recognizable
so very little is], it stands as a defiant gesture of a free
The two sons of one of the dead men read poetry and a bell
rang to honor
the fallen firemen. It was brief and somewhat humbling, watched
television. There was a moment of silence at 8:46, when the
hit the first tower, and again at 9:03, when the second plane
Six months ago, Tripp called me and asked, "Do you know
on?" And at that moment I didn't but when I turned on
the television to
NY1, I saw one Tower burning. No, I didn't know what was going
in some ways I still don't know what's going on.
Sunday night there was a remarkable documentary on CBS. If
you are one
of the three people in the country who don't know what it
was about: it
chronicles one firehouse on the day of the disaster, told
by two French
brothers who were doing a documentary, following a "probie"
from training through deployment.
More people saw it than almost anything else this year. All
day I had
wondered if I was going to watch it. Oh, I knew I would turn
it on but
I wasn't sure I would watch it all the way through. But I
did. I did
not know if I would have the courage to relive that day.
Most New Yorkers I know approached the program warily, as
if they were
approaching a very hot fire and weren't sure how close they
could get or
how long they could stay. The most dramatic moments for me
were in the
audio, in the thud of bodies falling and hitting. It took
me to the
moment when, before I knew what was happening, I heard a soft
thought we'd had a small earthquake. My own reactions that
night reinforced that my mind cannot quite mentally accept
buildings are gone. When I saw pictures of firemen in the
could almost feel the marble under my hand.
Yet, on Monday night, when the second ceremony happened,
and the Towers
of Light appeared, I went to the 24th floor of our building
and saw the
skyscrapers of light pierce the night - I am so close the
seem to merge to one - and from the same platform that I could
tower of light, I could look down and stare into the rubble,
ruin. Yesterday thirteen more bodies were recovered. As they
deeper they seem to find more bodies again, bodies that have
shielded by all those tons of ruins, waiting through the cold
months for discovery.
In some ways the city is coming back to "normal"
and I find my patience
with the crowds of downtown tourists a bit on the short side.
me, I am trying to get to the subway! But yet I also understand
need to come down and pay their respects. I am amazed by the
reverence of the faces of the living as they peer into the
faces of the
missing in the photos still pinned up on the wall near St.
You see, in my heart, I cannot quite grasp that two huge
gone and that nearly three thousand lives have been snuffed
out. I can
not quite fathom that now our soldiers are in Afghanistan
and that there
is more fighting in a land that has known so little peace.
And I cannot
quite fathom that these people lived under a government that
women for not wearing a burka the correct way or chopped off
hands as an
ordinary course of justice.
But then I have not been able to understand the wars in Rwanda.
I am human, however, there was a distance there. But the distance
between me and Rwanda and all the other places that are experiencing
suffering has been shattered because it is all now here, literally
blocks away. It is the way with the rest of the world too.
No, I am
not sure what is going on but I know - and feel - what is
going on more
deeply than I have for years. I ache for the accidentally
killed in Afghanistan. I grieve for the Hindus and the Muslims
India, who feel rage at each other and are translating that
blood. I certainly do not know what's going on in Israel and
but I know the horror of it is all too real for me - and I
want to see
it all end.
I am glad I have moved closer to "Ground Zero"
because it has brought me
closer to the reality of what happened here in New York and
happening in many countries around the world. I am not sure
what's going on but I am sure that it is more real, more concrete,
desperately more present in my life than it has been for decades.