Reblog of my post from a year ago. Feels as right today as it did then.
All day yesterday working on my schedule, whenever I noticed the date, my concentration ground to a halt.
I kept thinking back to that Tuesday, 12 years ago, being stranded in San Francisco on business with the country’s air space shut down. Sitting in bars, watching the news with strangers and having the reality of what happened burned into memory by the incessant replaying of the events on network news.
Talking on the cell to friends in New York, every one of them, shell-shocked. Many of them seeing the plane hit the second tower. Watching the buildings crumble and a very different world appear as the dust settled.
I came back on the first flight out, the Saturday night redeye, circling into JFK over the smoking debris. I remember walking to the intersection of West Broadway and Canal, staring at the barricades on the South side of Canal Street. The surrealistic image of a Schwarzenegger movie billboard that was coming out with him fighting terrorists somewhere. In smug contrast with the real grim reality on the streets.
I’m not going to recap. We all have our memories and have dealt with them. Many moved out of town. Many took years to come to grips. Everyone moved on.
This was a pre iPhone camera world. A pre Facebook and Twitter reality where real-time sharing and connections were absent. Rather than post, you walked around seeing scores of make shift memorials with flowers and pictures of people. Telephone numbers scrawled on papers to call if you saw or heard of someone.
In retrospect, it feels like a black and white photograph of a different time. Frozen yet wrapped in very real memories. My memories as I was there.
People need memorials of horrible events to place them. I light a candle for the passing of my father and grandfather and it helps ground my thoughts. The fiasco of building the new Freedom Tower and the passage of time has squandered the memory of this event somewhat. Even today, more than a decade later, the memorial is not really complete, surrounded by a fence and a construction site.
The reality of 9/11 was that we felt attacked where we lived. As you went further from the physical event, even uptown, it became less real, less yours and less somehow immediate.
In the years following, when I worked in LA, I tried mostly in vain at my companies to make the day mean something. Invariably it always fizzled. It meant as little to many on the west coast as to many people I work with today in their 20’s. They aren’t insensitive, but, to them, it’s a historical event, not an experience that shaped any part of who they are. That distance is the difference.
I’m not a romantic about this. And I didn’t lose any friends or family. And while sensitive and a downtowner, I don’t gush over this often or have loose emotional ends.
But it’s important, because if I don’t make it so, it will indeed go away. If the only reminder is of the skyline view in pre-9/11 movies or photos with the towers in them, this is indeed a waste.
When I posted something about this on Facebook yesterday, a friend responded that the 9/11 light sculpture that they erect every year is her favorite.
The light sculpture is indeed amazing but it’s more art than memorial to most unless we personalize it.
The connection between the fact that crazies who truly hated us navigated hijacked planes using Broadway as their map to the towers, is somehow below the surface. The family from New Jersey who I met in Union Square that brought their then young children into town to experience the community side of this nightmare, is absent somehow in those beams of light till I talk about them.
This post is my nudge to myself to spend a few moments thinking about it. Connecting the dots so that they stay real.
I’m all about moving on. I’m a hardass generally. For this particular memory, making my own little memorial of it on my blog seems like the right thing to do.