Tag Archives: 9/11

“Still holding on to that torch for life”

A song for New York, from Lucy Kaplansky:

It’s been eleven years, and songs like this — and the memories of that day — still bring tears to my eyes. I don’t think I’ll ever be over it.

My daughter is eleven now. She was just four months old on 9/11 and has no memory of that day, only the stories her parents have told her — it’s history for her, just another thing that happened in the world before she became aware of the world. Maybe that’s the way it should be. I wouldn’t wish this quiet grief to haunt her for the rest of her days. Let her acknowledge that day and move on with her life, in sunlight and in joy.

They’re teaching her in middle school to accept — “not just tolerate” — all cultures. I temper it a bit, telling her that all people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. Where cultures have wrong ideas — honor killings, female genital mutilation, the belief in the supremacy of one religion or another — people must speak out against them.

But perhaps the middle school teachers are right to emphasize respect and acceptance first: if respect is the foundation, perhaps it will help kids grow up to remember that whoever they disagree with is a human being too. In the end, after all the many important issues to disagree about, there’s nothing more important than that.

More thoughts on 9/11 here.

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Builders, not destroyers

As we commemorate 9/11, Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic offers an affirmation of principles:

that we wish to be known, to ourselves and to the world, by the liberty that we offer, axiomatically, as a matter of right, to the individuals and the groups with whom we live;

that the ordinary lives of ordinary people on an ordinary day of work and play can truthfully exemplify that liberty, and fully represent what we stand for;

that we will defend ourselves, resolutely and even ferociously, because self-defense is also an ethical responsibility, and that our debates about the proper use of our power in our own defense should not be construed as an infirmity in our will;

that the multiplicity of cultures and traditions that we contain peaceably in our society is one of our highest accomplishments, because we are not afraid of difference, and because we do not confuse openness with emptiness, or unity with conformity;

that a country as vast and as various as ours may still be experienced as a community;

that none of our worldviews, with God or without God, should ever become the worldview of the state, and that no sanctity ever attaches to violence; […]

And he ends with the following:

It has been a wounding decade. Our country is frayed, uncertain, inflamed. There is hardship and dread in the land. In significant ways we are a people in need of renovation. But what rouses the mourner from his sorrow is his sense of possibility, his confidence in the intactness of the spirit, his recognition that there is work to be done. What we loved and what we valued has survived the disaster, but it needs to be secured and bettered, and in that secure and better condition transmitted to our children. Our dream of greatness must be accompanied by an understanding of what is required for the maintenance of greatness. The obscenities of September 11, 2001 exposed the difference between builders and destroyers. We are builders. Let us agree, on this anniversary, that it is an honor to be an American and it is an honor to be free.

It’s a beautiful, inspiring piece. Read it in its entirety here.

(via The Dish. The photo of the Freedom Tower under construction, taken on August 11, 2011, comes via EarthCam’s live cameras.)

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Ten years on

We heard the first boom and didn’t think much of it — perhaps a van or garbage truck or some other anonymous vehicle backfiring outside our Brooklyn apartment. Maybe it rattled our windows, shut against the heat. Maybe the sound was masked by the hum of our old AC. If the second boom was audible, we paid no attention to it. My wife was at home on maternity leave, I was taking some time off, and we were preoccupied with something more immediately important: giving our little six-month-old daughter breakfast and getting her ready for the day. With nothing but a clear blue September sky outside, it was shaping up to be a beautiful one.

A little while later, as I was lifting our girl out of her bath, my wife’s sister called, frantic, asking if we were all right. Of course we were all right, my wife said; why wouldn’t we be?

Do you even know what’s going on? asked her sister. When it was clear we didn’t, she said: turn on the radio.

And then Bob Edwards on NPR was telling us that the World Trade Center was gone. Continue reading

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Now we’ll have to dance for one more of us

I’m healthy, as far as I know. And I fully intend to live as long a life as I possibly can, with my wife at my side, savoring years of love and laughter, watching our daughter grow and embrace her own life and take on the world. But today, when the president arrives at Ground Zero to honor the 9/11 dead, I’m reminded that very few of us truly know how much time we have, before our days are quickly cut short by accident or evil act, or shadowed by long illness.

We go through life with the unspoken operational assumption that it will go on — for this is, after all, why we make plans, write down appointments in calendars, book flights and shows in advance, research middle schools and high schools and colleges, dream of what we’d like to be when we grow up. We stake claims on the future, believing we’ll be there to see it. But we don’t really know. All the more reason, then, to live now, to love now, awake and full of compassion and wonder.

And when death comes for me, I hope that I can meet it with as much courage, grace, and wisdom as Derek Miller did:

Continue reading

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A little revenge

What a day.

So much has happened since Osama bin Laden and his minions wreaked death and devastation on my city. And America has certainly done some shameful things in response, things I wish we could take back; 9/11 changed us and changed the world, in many ways not for the better. Bin Laden’s death doesn’t mean the “War on Terror” is over; I doubt that it will ever be over, unless you can kill a concept, or an idea. And his death won’t bring back everyone we’ve lost: the people in the burning towers, the firefighters racing up the stairs, the soldiers and innocents lost overseas, the hole in the city’s skyline and in the soul of the nation.

Still: bin Laden was a mass murderer, and his name was high on the extremely short list of people on whom I might have wished death (contrary to the sentiments of my previous post, I know). The fact that he met his death at the hands of those he grievously injured does mean something. I won’t say I find closure in this; I’m not sure what I find in this, unless it’s a little bit of peace. At the very least, it means the verses in Springsteen’s song feel a little less like wishful thinking, and a little more like an affirmation, like something achieved.

House is on fire, viper’s in the grass
A little revenge and this too shall pass

It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright.

At least for today.

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The infinite city, cont’d: never the whole story

Two videos about New York that nearly gave me whiplash, viewing one right after the other: almost like seeing the city’s conscious and unconscious. City of reinvention and progress, city of ruins and decay; the glittering surface and the unseen depths; what New York strives to be, and what it abandons and forsakes: both are valid. Both are true.

No story is ever the whole story. Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC is doing wonders, but singing the praises of the city’s public transportation doesn’t take into account the Transit Authority’s budget woes — which have led to cuts in both subway and bus service, and the shutting down of entire bus routes which families and senior citizens depended on, particularly outside Manhattan. Nor am I likely to forget that the improvements touted by the first video (and they are very real improvements) were spearheaded by a mayor who callously thwarted the democratic process, overriding a public referendum on term limits in order to get himself reelected to a third term. Shall we really embrace progressive urban planning at the expense of our democracy?

No story is ever the whole story. Underneath the city’s grand aspirations, and underneath even our everyday pleasures and concerns, lies the substructure of what’s forgotten: what Miru Kim calls the “deleted memories of a city,” its unconscious, comprised of spaces that were once perhaps intended “for the prosperity of the city” but are now “a sanctuary for outcasts, who are completely forgotten in the average urban dweller’s everyday life.” But neither is that the whole story; the dreaming and striving communities at the city’s bustling surface, in the full daylight of its consciousness, are real as well. Continue reading

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“We don’t differentiate between them and us. It’s just us.”

What he said.

That’s it, right there. That’s America. Or at least it’s the undying dream of what America can be: what Bruce Springsteen has called “the country we carry in our hearts.” And it’s worth striving for.

And that’s one of the big reasons why I voted for this man: for his incredible gift of reminding us of our best selves.

(h/t Daily Kos)

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