Every year around this time, I glance from my Brooklyn rooftop at night to see the blue spears of light emanating from lower Manhattan. Today, on the 18th anniversary of 9-11, I locate the journal entry I wrote the day after the attacks. This bit of prose was later published in a collaborative book project benefitting the 9-11 Fund.
September 12, 2001, Noon
Brooklyn Heights on the Esplanade
On the approach, I prepare myself for the moment where the reconstructed media images will yield to the real ones. A deep breath…but oh, my preparation is futile and I stop in my tracks.
The mood is somber. I join hundreds who have come for the view across this old river to a spectacle that is unfathomable, the destruction that has left lower Manhattan in rubble. This day, like yesterday, is spectacularly sunny and clear with hints of autumn in the air.
It’s there, everything that has where it’s been for 30 years, all the hard edges rising in vertical lines skyward – gray, black-brown lines, then and now, granite, concrete, glass, steel. It’s all there save for a pair of architectural wonders. Symbols. Probes. Invincible. Gone.
In their place a bilious cloud that at first I can’t see and then only see. From behind the mass of man-made matter it plumes, rising steadily upward after all these hours – yellow, brown, purple – billowing upward into a cloudless lonely sea of blue.
From here I can’t see the ground over there, but I feel it. That point of truth and acute strength, effort, pain, numbness and grasping. Zero. Yesterday nobody needed my blood.
The planet has its eyes fixed on this place. Hearts bleed, eyes weep, tongues are tied in disbelief. Life is in limbo and will be so until that plume of smoke, that monster cloud of chaos and malaise, has vanished. What will be left? What brave new world?
Murderers and innocents. Joined in death. Joined in the after-death.
Ashes rising up together, ever upward into the impeccable yonder.
There comes a notion in my hour of shock and anger: the image of thousands of souls bound for height, pulling along in their wake, a few souls bound for hell. Who is screaming now?
Here on earth, the sun moves across our silent grief.