…I came up out of the subway at the World Trade Center not long before 8 o’clock — one hour short of a year after I came up out of the PATH train here.
In front of me were family members waiting to get into the memorial service, some carrying, many wearing the pictures of their loved ones, gone.
A parade of pain.
…The doors of St. Peter’s Catholic Church were open and people were wandering in. I did, too, and found a line had formed for communion. I debated and then decided there was no reason to debate. I got in line. “Body of Christ.” I took communion and its comfort.
…An army of volunteers from some Bible church on Staten Island was on the streets handing out small Bibles: the Gospel According to John and St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. “God still cares,” it said inside the cover. There were “prayer stations” set up here and there and there were certifiable religious nuts muttering and yelling and carrying crosses.
…The other times I’ve returned to lower Manhattan, I was put off by the tourists taking pictures of what was not there. Today was different. Today, I could begrudge no one here, no matter what they were wearing or doing.
Thousands upon thousands of people jammed the streets and sidewalks. They should have closed the streets down here to let the people own the city today, but they didn’t; Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t understand such gestures. So we were crowded and herded along. But even so, all were solemn, all respectful.
The streets are a sanctuary today.
…I came to the spot where I stood when I came out of the World Trade Center a year ago, the spot where I saw the second jet hit the second tower, and where I saw more that I still cannot talk about.
The wind shifted and a few bars of bagpipe music came our way. But mostly, we couldn’t hear anything, other than rumbling trucks. Still, by the thousands, we stood and stared, stared at nothing.
…I had brought my radio so I could listen to the ceremony. George Pataki read the Gettysburg Address, then Mayor Guliani started reading the names, YoYo Ma playing the cello behind him.
It was hard to listen to the names. It was hard to listen to each name, and then hard to listen to so many of them. The list would not end.
Each name was over in less than a second. But the sum of the names lasted hours.
A list of pain.
On the PATH train in this morning, I was standing, looking at the New York Times, not willing to dive into it yet, just turning the pages. And then I came upon what almost seemed to be an afterthought by the paper but was, of course, what today was all about: the names. But the Times ran the names with pictures, tiny little pictures of the victims filling pages, huge pages. I could not bear the sight.
A view of pain.
…I retraced my steps that day, along Broadway and Nassau and then to Liberty Street, where I was standing when the south tower fell. To this day, I cannot figure out exactly where I went once destruction and darkness fell. I looked in the window of the office building that gave me haven, grateful. And then I kept walking.
Trinity Church had guards searching bags and police carrying guns you just don’t see on the streets of America, and certainly not in front of a church. Yes, it has come to this.
I walked down to Wall Street. The traders were sitting outside on the steps of Federal Hall, waiting for the exchange to open. Photographers were shooting them. You’ll see them in tomorrow’s papers.
I skirted the southern edge of the site, onto West Street, by the World Financial Center and the piece of a bridge that still goes there, from nowhere, and the just-rebuilt Winter Garden, clean and sparkling.
Here and only here, we could hear the ceremony. Across the wide street, on the platform, I could see the people reading the names and a young woman playing her violin.
The names continued.
My God, they are only up to F.
I stood and listened.
I heard the bell ring when the first tower fell. A year ago right now, I lived.
I heard the name of my neighbor, who died.
…I also listened to Howard Stern on my radio. He rebroadcast his show as it occurred a year ago. I had not heard radio or seen TV for most that day; I didn’t know what the world knew and thought just then.
The show was absolutely amazing. It brought me back the immediacy and terror and fear and anger and uncertainty. As always, Howard said what we think.
…I walked around behind the World Financial Center to the ferries to New Jersey. Every ferry was in the water, facing Manhattan, still.
At the moment that the second tower fell, every boat blew its horn in a huge and mournful chorus, their requim on the water.
Everyone brought their tribute to the World Trade Center today, even the boats.
…The wind was amazing, blowing up dust from all around, beating the flags hung everywhere. And it brought clouds in over the World Trade Center. On this beautiful, sunny day — a day very much like that a year ago — there was only one dark cloud in the sky and as I rode the ferry across the river, I saw that cloud float over the World Trade Center at the very moment that the second tower fell and the horns blew today. It gave them shade.
…And now I am back in Jersey City, writing this. Today, this town is dedicating a fountain in Journal Square, which my office window faces, to the memory of its dead from September 11. This morning, on the way to New York, I walked around the fountain and read and counted the names engraved there: Thirty-seven people died, thirty-seven just from this town. Even here, the list is long, the pain endless
…I’m going to go home now and wait for my children to come back from school. A year ago, they had to wait for me. Today, I will wait for them and play with them and cherish them today especially.
And tonight, I will go to yet another church and read my meditation.
And tomorrow, I will awake to face September 12th… again.
: Read James Lileks today (not that you don’t every day, eh?). He writes a letter to himself a year ago, taking the wisdom he has now and sharing it with the him of then.
It’s just like a weblog, really: You start reading today, knowing what the author knows, and as you read down, going back in time, you know progressively more than the author; you are the wiser one.
Read Ken Layne‘s only post today: the true voice of California.
: Glenn Reynolds does today what a fine news organization should always do, no matter what’s happening: He keeps reporting the news. And I’m grateful for it.
: Nick Denton reminds the President of what he promised a year ago.
: I just turned on the TV. Tom Brokaw talked to a mother of six wonderful children and it was too much for him and Anna Quindlan. He didn’t show off his moment of choking up; he hid it. But he has a true heart.
: A fine idea from Solly Ezekial: Designate September 11th a day to appreciate police and firefighters.
: Amazon created a lovely home page today.