Shine a little light

11 09 2017

Last year, I didn’t go out to look at the lights.

They’re visible from the grounds of my building, two thin, blurred beams towering up through the night, disappearing into the beyond. All I have to do is walk down a few flights of stairs, across the lobby, out the door, angle a look left and up, and there they are.

I haven’t seen them every year since I’ve been in New York; in fact, I don’t know if I saw them before I moved to my current apartment. Maybe? I don’t know.

Anyway, I wasn’t here when it happened, didn’t know anyone (at the time) directly affected; those who I know who were here will talk about it, if prompted, but none of them will volunteer the memory. It’s personal.

It sometimes seems fake for me to claim those two lights as mine, to think that there’s anything to my witness of this annual rite. But I felt bad, last year, for not going out. Here or not, mine or not, it seemed disrespectful not to remember, especially since that remembrance costs me so little.

So, tonight, I took the short walk down and out, looked left and up, and there they were, grayer here and brighter there as they passed through the clouds and up into the beyond, farther than those of us on the ground can see.

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Quite something to behold

11 09 2011

What does this all mean?

I don’t know. [. . .] What does it mean you can buy t-shirts and baseball caps and coffee and pizza and sushi and hot dogs and pretzels and *gasp* halal food around and next to and overlooking the place where almost 3000 people died?

A place in the middle of the largest city of the country, a city which never stops, never sleeps, where people may pause and mourn and reflect—and live.

I have been so tremendously angry at those current- and former- and half-politicians and pundits and alleged civil rights organizations who and which spew fear and loathing, trying to make us afraid and mean and small.

So let me, uncharacteristically, respond to anger with affection, even love:

This is my city; this is New York City.

It is big and  it is tough, but it isn’t mean, and it shouldn’t be small.

Let us be large, let us be mixed-up and loud and jostling and gesturing and Jewish and Muslim and Christian and Hindu and Sikh and Voudou and pagan and heretic and agnostic and atheist and conservative and liberal and radical and apathetic and hustling and napping and dancing and falling down and flirting and singing and praying and chanting and arguing and mourning and laughing and embracing and letting go and everything everything everything that we have always been and always became and always will be.

Let us be all of that and everything more. Let us be New York City.

_____

(Partial repost from August 3, 2010; would love to know who took this photo)





Letting the days go by

10 09 2011

I wasn’t there.

But I still have a story, so here it is:

I was in Montreal, and many mornings I rode my bike up Mont Royal before showering at the nearby medical building and heading to my office on Peel Street. The Biomedical Ethics Unit was still in the old red mansion on the west side of the street, and my office was on the ground floor, separated from the main office on the third floor. I had just walked in, maybe turned the computer on, when the phone rang.

I heard my mom, not recognizing me, asking to speak to me. She and my dad were scheduled to leave for their first-ever trip to Europe (I had long pestered them to go), so I wondered if something had happened with their plans.

The trip was cancelled, she said. All the trips are cancelled. What? I said, why? Are you rescheduling?

I don’t remember exactly what she said next, but something about planes, multiple planes crashing in New York, in DC, no one knows what’s going on, we might be at war, haven’t you heard?

Haven’t you heard?

I do remember standing in my office, one hand on my forehead, not comprehending what was being told to me. Not comprehending at all.

Then D., my fellow post-doc, filled my door-frame. Did you hear, he might have said. Something about planes, multiple planes, crashing in the US, A. has the t.v. on up in the office.

At some point I got off the phone and headed up. There it was. I don’t know how long I stayed, watching, before heading over to the Shatner (the student union) for coffee. The t.v. was on there. Students were crying. People were crying. I don’t know if they were Canadian or American. I don’t remember if I cried.

At some point I heard the borders were closed. Closed! I was locked out! I knew, not forever, but I started to know I was on the outside.

Later I was at lunch with the director of my unit (a dual citizen), a colleague, and that colleague’s girlfriend. The girlfriend got into it, I don’t remember over exactly what, but probably over the question of war. I do remember that I took an immediate stance against any immediate action. Let’s wait, let’s not make things worse. Something like that, probably something like that.

Oh, and probably something about how this probably connected to something the US had done. Yes, this was terrorism, and no, the people killed didn’t deserve it, but given how the US acts in the world, it shouldn’t be a surprise when the world reacts. Something like that, probably something like that, is probably what set off the girlfriend. Or something the girlfriend said set this off in me. I don’t remember the specifics, “who started it”, just that we got into it.

Later, not much time later, the director said to me, quietly, that perhaps it was too soon. And I thought, even if I didn’t say it (tho’ I might have said it), that we have to speak now, before everything hardens, and further thought isn’t possible.

Later, maybe later that day, maybe the next day, I rode back up Mont Royal, stood at the terrace near the top and looked toward what I guessed was New York. Could I see the smoke? Could it reach Montreal? Were we all now breathing in the dead?

Melodramatic, I knew, even as I thought it. Besides, everyone would breathe the dead, they would soar around the world and we’d all breathe in everyone’s dead, the way we always had, the way we never thought we had.

A week later I was at the border, a black strip of fabric hanging from my rearview mirror, on my way to see M. & E. in Vermont. I thought it might take hours; it took minutes. No problems, no problems at all.

M. was still working, so E. and I tooled around, running errands, before picking her up (or maybe we ran the errands after we picked her up; I don’t remember). We had to stop at a store E. hated, thought was terrible. “I wish a plane had crashed into that store,” he muttered, and then we both sputtered with laughter. We were terrible, laughing at a terrible joke about a terrible event.

Later, over a year later, hundreds of thousands of us marched down St. Catherine and Rene Levesque; millions around the world marched against the march to war. For naught. I watched the CBC in disbelief as the President led the Congress, and the nation, into war in Iraq. I couldn’t believe it: it was all so transparently false, so obviously wrong, they couldn’t actually pull this off, could they? Yes. And no.

There’s more, of course; ten years, after all. And while I’m in New York now, having not been then, my memories are of the outsider, still.

Which is why I told my story today; let tomorrow be the day for the stories of those who were there.