September 11th, in others' words

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Everything else I have wanted to say about September 11th has been said before by others, and more eloquently.

The New York Times put together an incredible interactive project ... this is just one of my favorite subsections, where readers can submit their "where you were" stories and emotions.
Getting Here From There
Share Your Thoughts: That Day - reader comments; each person has an incredible story
What We Kept - "souvenirs" from that horrific day
Growing Up In A Hurry - what I fear for the generation of children who grew up in a post-September 11th world
Share Your Thoughts: Remembering Sept. 11th - reader comments; what was lost and gained ... I found so much truth in these comments
Share Your Thoughts: A 9/11 State of Mind - I've found that these reader comments generate so much more than the NYT articles themselves ... it draws up inklings of the humanity New Yorkers showed in the weeks after the attacks, a humanity which I feel has gone back into hiding.

Some of the comments from the New York Times project I felt very close to:
What is amazing is that in that moment, there was a moment before — that we saw that plane, that second plane — and there was a moment after, and it’s like two different worlds, those two moments. I mean, literally, I can feel like I can remember the exact second when the whole world changed and my life changed forever. Because one minute, it was a building on fire and the next minute, none of us were safe. That’s what it felt like. There was no sense of where to go, what to do, how to protect ourselves, what was going to happen next.
Sometimes, it is impossible. In a city like New York, where the broken skyline attests to the staggering losses of that day, there are a decade’s worth of reminders. Even the park where he used to play catch with his father has been renamed in honor of another 9/11 victim. “Would this have been easier for me had his death not been so public?” Austin asked, then answered, as if observing himself through a window: “Most people lose a parent, and it’s private. Everybody knows it happened and people talk about it all the time. It’s so much more difficult because it was so public.”
- from Growing Up In A Hurry
Mounted on the horrors of 9/11, the war in Iraq multiplied them; dead innocent Iraqis succeeded dead innocent Americans at a ratio thought to be more than 30 to one. Yet the only unambiguously useful responses to the day — as we know now, after 10 years, tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars — were made in those early minutes, in deeds not visible to the outside world.
So many things were expected to be different that have not been. Time passes, and passes some more. Exigencies of living hammer away impatiently. People — most of them, at least — began to become themselves. [*Maxine: But what of those who were in their formative years, and lost the chance to become who they would have been?] New York, which by its nature accommodates so much, was willing to absorb 9/11 and keep moving.
Already we have fifth graders not yet born on that day. The people known as “Wall Street,” celebrated as martyrs and heroes in the days after the attacks, have been vilified for boundless greed. We are back as a nation of ideological divides and uncivilized political intransigence. Bridges fall, roads crack.
Something was lost that day and it was a lot more than the almost 3000 lives.
A lecture Joan Didion gave that takes an intellectual look at what happened on September 11th and the days afterwards. I would like to read the Susan Sontag piece she mentions.

And, last but not least, a poem that was read at Saturday's dedication ceremony for the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania:

"Souvenir of the Ancient World"
Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Clara strolled in the garden with the children.
The sky was green over the grass,
the water was golden under the bridges,
other elements were blue and rose and orange,
a policeman smiled, bicycles passed,
a girl stepped onto the lawn to catch a bird,
the whole world—Germany, China—
All was quiet around Clara.
The children looked at the sky: it was not forbidden.
Mouth, nose, eyes were open. There was no danger.
What Clara feared were the flu, the heat, the insects.
Clara feared missing the eleven o'clock trolley,
waiting for letters slow to arrive,
not always being able to wear a new dress. But
she strolled in the garden, in the morning!
They had gardens, they had mornings in those days!

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