September 1, 2002
This past weekend I was back in Minnesota, again, for an annual
when the boy's school I went to holds its annual alumni dinner.
are no more class reunions - just an annual all class get
provides a reason for my brother -also a graduate of the same
and several friends from my high school years to get together
each other and celebrate our still being here-ness.
On Friday night I had dinner with one of my best friends from
and we talked about being in New York during 9/11 and I recall
realizing, while sipping a very lovely Pinot Grigio and watching
of a rainstorm, that I felt more raw than I had realized.
The next morning I had breakfast at a diner that has graced
neighborhood since before I was born, with a group of my cousins.
asked me all the questions: where was I? What was I doing?
How did I
feel? And, to my dismay, I discovered that I had to excuse
myself for a
moment from the table, as I found that I was about to break
completely, in sobs.
The wound is still open, slightly scabbed over but painful
to the touch.
My cousin's questions rubbed the scab away and for one quick
was not at a breakfast table in Minnesota but on West Broadway
morning of 9/11, watching the Towers burn while a stream of
moved north, all of them either stunned or sobbing.
As I write this the background noise is the television, tuned
Channel One, the local cable news channel which is turning
out a steady
stream of stories these days as we march toward the 9/11 anniversary.
There are meetings all over the Boroughs asking for input
on what to do
with "the hole." And they are letting people know
that those who suffer
mental health problems as a result of 9/11 can apply to the
11th Fund for reimbursement of their medical expenses.
I wonder if there is anyone who has not been mentally affected?
I have been. I spent time on the phone in October with my
based therapist because I knew an unnatural darkness had settled
after the 11th that I had to acknowledge and deal with. And
as I worked
out my sense of darkness, I wondered about all those people
world who do not have the resources to avail themselves of
professionals while their countries are being torn apart by
terrorism. I can only imagine the toll on people in Bethlehem,
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Kabul and Karachi.
Last night my friend Dalton, a native New Yorker, was in town
and after dinner we walked toward "the hole". It
was the first time he
had been there and it had been a time since I had been close.
surprise, as we walked down Washington Street, the usual barricades
gone and it was possible to walk to the very edge of the hole
the emptiness. We hadn't been there long before the workers,
politely, asked us to move. The barricades had been down to
several vans to enter and exit.
We walked on, to another place, where the view was as good
[is there a
good view of the spot of a disaster?]. There were several
people at this second place, all standing there in a solemn
looking into the concrete hole, shielding their eyes against
brilliant light of the spotlights that run, day and night,
every day. A
young man came up to Dalton and asked him to help him hang
flag he had made, an US flag with messages on it from firefighting
up and down the east coast. He came here regularly to display
it was not on display elsewhere. It was his own small, special
to honor the dead.
We are scurrying to make sure memorials are erected in time
anniversary. Photos of the fallen firefighters have been added
Spring Street Museum while over at the Intrepid there was
this morning, unveiling a Memorial to all who died that day,
the Towers moved and re-erected.
Dalton looked down into the hole and I looked up at the buildings
surround the hole. Some of them have re-opened; some of them
they are the remnants of the Blitz. Old buildings boarded
with netting, waiting for someone to decide if they are salvageable
It seemed impossible to me that I was in New York. I mean,
When I turned back to Dalton, he said to me, "It has
confidence." And I could only nod, because it has. And
seeing of this place, this "hole" only reinforces
the sense of shattered
confidence while at the same time forcing a sense of quiet,
upon the person - it has, Dalton said, the strange quiet solemnity
places like Dachau, where terrible things have happened and
continue to reverberate - as this will, long after I am gone,
this column has ceased.
In the quiet and the brightly lighted darkness, surrounded
by the ghost
buildings of disaster and faced with an enormous hole where
two of the world's tallest buildings, I felt, more strongly
than I have
ever felt, the need for a memorial, a place for those of us
lived through all of this, to go in years to come to think
reflect and to pray and to hope.
The destruction of the Towers represents some turning point
history, the road to be followed still to be determined. We
forward but as we go forward we are looking back to this spot,
that we will not be turned to salt, like Lot's wife