I wasn’t going to write anything today about September 11, 2001. I haven’t done so for the last few years, and before that I never said much about it anyway.
But just so you know: I watched the towers burn and then fall that day. I helped my work colleagues evacuate 30 Rockefeller Center that morning, when we still weren’t sure how many hijacked planes were still flying or what landmarks they might still target. I breathed the acrid, yellow air that hung over Manhattan for days. I brought flowers and candles to my local fire station in Hell’s Kitchen, and I wrote sad and grateful messages in a big book they kept there on the sidewalk.
From a high floor at 30 Rock, I heard bagpipes day after day after day after day. The funerals at St. Patrick’s cathedral—so, so many goddamn funerals— could only be seen from the north side of the building, but it seemed no matter where you were, you could always hear those bagpipes. I still recall those days vividly whenever I hear bagpipes.
I find this subject very, very difficult to write about, talk about or think about, and I’m pretty sure I know why. It’s that I am still processing the events of that day, and the wars, opportunistic power grabs and unconscionable greed unleashed over the last fifteen years. It was and still is traumatic.
But it’s a different kind of trauma than any I’ve every experienced, before or since. All of the others were strictly personal. September 11, 2001, and my government’s actions since that day, have profoundly affected not just me, but my city, my country and much of the world. And I have come to realize that the way I am dealing with the grief, the rage, the insights and revelations that come later whether you want them to or not, is much the same: I make art. I make a life. I write.
It is not lost on me that when I write about abortion rights and feminism and rape and abuse, I am also saying something about my own life. And when I write about politics, war, religious conservatives and conservative Democrats, I am also saying something about September 11, 2001.
If I have learned anything on my journey that I can share with you, it’s this: find joy in your day. Today and every day. Bring joy to others where you can. Otherwise, the terrorists really do win.
Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.
Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so.
–Robert Green Ingersoll
Beautiful post, Iris.
I knew one of the victims slightly. He was a business consultant who had worked with my company a few years earlier. He was aboard the plane that hit the south tower.
I can’t watch those iconic videos without thinking about him, and what must have been going through his mind in those moments. Multiply that by a few thousand and we get a small idea of what “terror” meant that day.
What makes it all so much worse is the horrific way this country has responded to the attacks. It could have been different, if only we’d had more thoughtful leadership.
Kristjan Wager says
Yes. Beautiful post!
chigau (違う) says
Iris, would you fancy a bit of rum and/or a *hug*?
DonDueed: I am sorry. It seems 9-11 touches almost everyone on the planet, with very few degrees of separation.
Kristjan Wager: Thank you.
chigau: maybe (does rum mix okay with tequila?) and yes. <3
Cracked has an article you might want to read.
@ ^ tbtabby : So does Jim Wright of the Stonekettle Station blog too here :
Well worth reading in my view.
FWIW, here are my thoughts posted on facebook on the anniversary of 9-11 which I hope its okay to share here as well -my apologies and feel free to delete & let me know if not.
Fifteen years ago, about this time (Aussie time late night last few hours before midnight), I took a break from my uni assignment to watch an episode of Star Trek. (Voyager – or was it DS9?) But instead there was something else on telly; a disaster movie with people trapped in the upper floors of a burning skyscraper. Except as we know, it wasn’t a bad movie. A handful of hate-filled fanatics had just changed the world and murdered about three thousand human lives. They had just lost and we had all just lost so much. The world had become a worse and grimmer and sadder place. I stayed up the rest of that night pretty much. Watching in shock and numbness, unable to turn off.
Now its fifteen years later. Those vile criminals have shaped so much of today’s world – but they haven’t really won. Their side has caused unfathomable pain and human suffering and misery but it is not winning and cannot win. Their side for all its hate and killings is losing. Taking a lot with them. A lot of good. A lot of lives. But losing. Bin Laden is dead. Al Quaida is overshadowed by Da’esh. Da’esh’s ugly, brutal, brief “caliphate” is in the throes of bloodstained collapse. Lashing out furiously globe-wide with random acts of violence but dying nonetheless and revealing itself in its horrible inevitable demise to be impotent at achieving its false, bigoted, idea of utopia where only they get their way and humanity loses. Their intolerant “dream” is a fading, aching putrid scar on the modern world.
Scars heal. Damage can be repaired. Lives, of course, are forever gone. Missed and cherished and not forgotten. Respected. Grieved. Acknowledged. They cannot be replaced but they can be commemorated and we can still learn and make ourselves better from them in their memory. We can choose wisely and not fall into their trap of hatred over all else. Destruction and murder is, well, no it probably isn’t *easy*. But its done.
Doing good, choosing the intelligent path that leads out of the cycles of violence and hatred; that takes us more back to, dare I say, Star Trek – not 1984; not the metaphorical worst of the Dark Ages? That too isn’t necessarily easy but we can do it. Yes we can. If we choose and work to make it so.
A handful of extremist hijackers and murderers shifted the world fifteen years ago. Their lives were vastly outnumbered by the lives of good individuals, lives they claimed. But lives that outnumber theirs in wanting to simply live their lives in peace and do the right thing for and by others. I think those evil few are still as equally outnumbered. By thousands to maybe tens.
The conflict is ongoing but we don’t have to fall into their traps and their hates and their evil. Let’s choose wisely. Think and be kind.
tbtabby: Thanks for that. Unlike me, the author is someone who apparently does not find it difficult to write about 9-11, and does so thoughtfully.
StevoR: I saw a screenshot of Jim’s post after FB took it down: Streisand effect FTW. And I don’t mind you sharing your post here, in fact I very much appreciate it. However, I must note that your hope for humanity is showing. Good luck with that.
johnson catman says
Thank you for continuing to promote Jim Wright and Stonekettle Station. I clicked through a link you made a year or so ago to one of his blog posts, and I have been reading him regularly ever since. His writing is to the point and powerful. And he is on a roll lately with some really awesome posts. He brings sanity to crazy arguments. He brings persuasion to divided issues. Most importantly, he is so right so much of the time. His blog posts should be required reading for every US citizen.
Raucous Indignation says
I was on my usual rounds at Beth Israel Med Center on 9/11. We watched the towers collapse too. We cleared the hospital of inpatients and went into disaster mode. But there was no flood of casualties. There’s not much to do for someone if a skyscraper gets dropped on them. I sat in my office with friends and colleagues that night, not being able to get out of town and with no patients to care for. I never felt so useless as a physician. The City was closed to traffic below 14th Street. Except for emergency vehicles. The sirens went day and night. Like there was any need for sirens; the City was deserted. And then the missing person flyers went up in the ambulance bays and on trees. And then the parks. The City was papered with them, you must remember. Each one as heart-breaking and hopeless as the next. For you see, no casualties were delivered to our doors, nor to those of St Vincent’s on the West Side. There were no injured amnesiacs on our wards rescued from the rubble. None waiting to be found by their families. Just smoke and death and grief and the wailing of the sirens for days on end.
@7. irisvanderpluym & #8. johnson catman : Thanks to both of you.
chigau (違う) says
I made the necessary purchases and this being my day-off,
I conducted the basic experiment.
Probably, adding fruity ingredients in a blender and, perhaps,
drinking a six-pack first, would help.
But I think NO works best.