September 11, 2001
Fourteen years ago today, the World Trade Centers fell. Smoke rose into the sky and reached the depths of America’s hearts; details remain vivid after all these years. Almost everyone remembers witnessing the very thing they feared most. We remember what it was like to love someone and to lose them. We remember what it was like to suddenly live in fear for not ourselves—the tragedy of 9/11 is too vast for self-pertaining worries—but for the world.
Where were you? ask our neighbors. Where were you that day? And when people answer, they remember. They were grabbing a cup of coffee. Reading a local newspaper. Sitting in the family den and flipping through channels. Learning multiplication tables. That day, people were on their own schedules, living within the orb of daily, sometimes lowly, life. The cup of coffee and the remote control emphasize the normalcy people expected of the eleventh's early hours, simultaneously revealing the paralytic shock that we hold within us to this day. It is this shock that remains suspended in a fog of carefully-chosen words and sad truths we want to deny.
Throughout all this fog, it is important to ask for reflection. But it's also important to ask for a moment of silence, to leave a blank space for those we have lost and for those who have lost, to give them an option to fill that space in or leave that space empty. There were numerous silent moments today—in schools across the country, on national television—and the only thing that we can all think about is the love and the courage flowing within this quiet yet charged air. It is important, however, to notice that when we sit and we think and we love wordlessly, these silences become powerful.
9/11/2001. What did you feel? Hate, anguish, confusion, fear, they’ll say.
But I ask you, like I have heard everyone else ask each other today: Are you okay?
A simple question, but an important one. An inquiry with meaning that stretches far beyond its words. And in this question's simplicity, in our empathy and our love and our compassion, somehow it is possible to see the hope at the end of this tunnel.
As the hours pass and the clock strikes twelve, when it is no longer September 11th but September 12th, we are reminded of time. Time works in ways that are all too powerful to describe; how do we become both closer and farther away from the very days we wish to avoid? And how is it that, through all this tragedy and fear, it is possible for us to move past the horrible days and flip towards better ones?
The world keeps spinning. And it keeps spinning even when, fourteen years ago, it seemed to stop.
Are you okay?
I think we will be.
“The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center and now it’s gone. They attacked it. This symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce-- and it is gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that.
You can’t beat that.”