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-=[ Remembrance ]=-
I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.
-- John F. Kennedy
I refuse to watch the obscenity that has become the remembrance of 9/11. to me, it’s porno for the masses. I find it repugnant.
Most of us experienced the events that transpired at the World Trade Center vicariously through television.
I didn’t... I was there.
I lived in the vicinity of what is now called “ground zero” since 1969. When the towers collapsed, my building shook. I watched from the roof of my17-story building in horror as people jumped from the Towers.
I heard my neighbor’s horror-filled scream as she stood next to me and watched people who chose to plunge rather than burn. I saw, with my own eyes, that horror, something my mind refused to accept at first. I thought -- I wanted so much to believe -- those little dots was debris, but they were humans.
I walked in silence with the throng of humanity that marched through the streets of lower Manhattan, a mass shrouded in white ashes. The day was a beautifully clear day, the sun shining, as thousands walked in silence, ashen heads bowed.
I saw a woman wander aimlessly, in shock, bleeding from a wound on her head. I saw another limping, and as I heard her whimpering to herself, my heart broke -- again. I saw bits of human beings mixed in with all those billions of bits of papers and files...
I lived in the shadows of the towers all those years. I used to party there every Friday when I was a young man working at the nearby Woolworth Building, almost across the street from the “World Trade,” as I used to call it. When I was 14-15, I took a summer job as a messenger at a printing company where my uncle worked, and I would deliver blueprints to the architects at the World Trade site. At the time I had developed an interest in architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright, and I thought it was pretty cool to see the architectural monstrosity rise (let’s not allow too nostalgic indulgence warp the truth: The Towers were pretty much bland-looking).
I even had sex in the shadows of the WTC -- a youthful impulse early one hot summer morning in the throes of a passionate summer love. Once looking up on my walk to work, I saw a man climbing up the outside one of the Towers – “Spider Man!” blared the headline the next day. In the 70s, a famous tightrope walker walked across a cable stretched between the Twin Towers. There was a lot personal history there in those towers. At least for me, anyway. I also had many friends who worked there, at one time or another. I remember that no matter how drunk I got, all I had to do to make it home was look up to the night sky and point myself in the direction of the Towers.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had just started working at my current job and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I worked from 12-8. Annoyed that I had no milk for my coffee, I went out in my pajamas to the corner store and when I looked up I saw the back end of a plane sticking out of one of the Towers. I thought it was fucked up, but this is New York, things happen all the time, weird shit always happened at the Towers.
On the way back home, I felt the second plane hit. I felt it. That’s when I knew something was wrong. I won’t retell that tale, we all know it... we saw it replayed on the TV countless times (was it really necessary?)
I took the elevator to my 17th floor apartment and watched... I watched from the roof, where some of my neighbors had congregated.
I saw thousands of people walking silently, heads bowed, covered in white ash. It was strange to see so many people in one place and feel that silence. I saw people helping one another, stores giving away free water, others helping the wounded. A priest and I helped some who were walking around in shock. That day, I witnessed the nobility of my fellow New Yorkers. I experienced the true potential of the human spirit that day, even in the midst of all that carnage and ugliness.
It was what I saw immediately after that scared me. And as it turns out, I had every right to be scared.
That day, I saw the religious whackos in full force before the dust had settled (literally), handing out pamphlets proclaiming the end times. I saw people buy right into that. It was a scary time, and people were confused, easily swayed.
I saw hatred.
The next day, there was a call for volunteers to escort Muslim women and children because they were being attacked. I saw a lot of anger and fear and I feared that there were forces that would use that tragedy to exploit, to manipulate. I witnessed a bellicose and washed up mayor resuscitate his political career while literally standing on the charred bodies of the dead. He has since made millions from the events of 9/11.
I saw an incompetent president take us to a meaningless war and the shredding of the Constitution -- all in the name of all those dear dead people, in the name of my fellow New Yorkers, all who stood bravely and came together when it was most needed. I saw our leaders take that nobility and turn it into something ugly, something for hatred and greed.
I smelled, everyday, that strange smell emanating from the charred pile that was once the Towers. It was hard ftp describe -- like rotted meet mixed with something else, something unidentifiable. I coughed what we began to call the “downtown cough.” My lungs have never been the same since that day... Through various degrees of separation, everyone one in New York was connected somehow to a death in those towers and I heard the many stories, I experienced the sadness...
We must never forget those who died that day, those nine years ago. We must never forget human spirit that arose that day -- that one sliver of light in that day -- where we all came together as one. But we must also never forget that some used that to lead us into darkness.
If we forget that, then all those people will have died for nothing...