This morning

911flagsflowers.jpgThis morning
: It’s the children’s voices that make this so much harder.

At the World Trade Center, the month, the day, and the minute come, and their voices cut through the sounds of the city. They sing our anthem: clear and strong and beautiful; that was hard enough. And then they start reading the names, the names that will continue for hours. It takes so long to read the names. It took so little time to kill the people. And then one of the children reads a name and says that this was her father;s name. And she adds, “I love you, Daddy, we miss you a lot.”

God, I can’t see how these children have the courage to do this.

I’m standing on the street crying as I have not been able to in two years. I’m not alone.

The street is crowded with people who have come to mourn and pay their tributes. They’re crying, too.

It’s the children, their loss, their pain, their strength. It’s the children who make me cry.

: Don’t let anyone tell you that we’re back to normal or anywhere near it.

As I got up out of the subway at Rector street, it looked normal: time to go to work. But come up on the streets, the the Trade Center is encircled with people who have stopped normal to remember when normal died.

They’ve brought flowers: a single rose, gigantic displays.

They’ve brought pictures.

They’ve brought tears.

I was afraid that there would be fewer people here this year. But I’m ashamed of myself for my doubt now. There are more.

: The subway — the 1 — pulls past the closed World Trade Center stop and, as it always does, it slows as if in respect. We are there.

: The sky is exactly the same as it was that day: achingly clear, painfully blue. How could they have turned such a beautiful sky into such a sign of foreboding?

: I am glad I came.

You know, like sitcoms, we all have our high-concept descriptions — the Giants fan, the numbers genius, the funny mom… I’ve been lucky enough to have many such lines glued to me: the TV critic, the skinny guy, the Internet guy…

But now I think the label that sticks with me is September 11th witness.

I don’t want the label, of course. “Survivor” is a word Hollywood turned into a cliche. And who wants to think that such a horrifying event could become so central to your life.

But it has. I can’t get away from that.

Here on this site, some people are scolding me for that, just as they are scolding the media for paying too much attention to September 11th (when, in fact, they are paying too little). I’ve been called the uncle you avoid at the party. Well, fine, avoid me.

September 11th is now part of my life. But it’s part of all our lives and we’re blind and deaf and heartless and fools if we do not admit that. It has not taken over our lives; we are not a nation obsessed. But we are changed and if we do not acknowledge that and learn from that, we make a terrible, wasteful mistake.

That is why today is important: To give witness, to remember, to pay tribute, to learn.

: Sorrow and anger have been at war in me for these two years. Sorrow usually wins. But today I was not sure what my emotion would be as I returned to the site.

Sorrow wins, still. It’s the children.


  • ken

    The first thing I noticed when I walked outside this morning was that the weather is EXACTLY the same.
    I’ve decided to take the day off from blogging, but thanks for the post and the photos.
    Soldier on.

  • Thanks Jeff for saying what almost all of us feel.

  • Beautiful. Yes.

  • Thanks so much, Jeff, for a moving and supportive post! I really think it reflects what a lot of us are feeling. I always remember my father fuming whenever anyone said they were tired of hearing people “whine” about the holocaust or about slavery. I see 9/11 as an erruption of the same evil. So I learned at an early age to disdain that kind of scolding. I’ll stick with the rogue uncle. (ironically, my father is more in line with the 9/11 scolders, but his lesson has been passed on nonetheless).

  • Well said, Jeff.

  • Sharon Langworthy

    I think if I had been there, I too would have’lost it’ upon hearing that child tell her Dad that she missed him. She is indeed courageous.

  • > The subway — the 1 — pulls past the
    > closed World Trade Center stop and,
    > as it always does, it slows as if in respect
    The subways in Berlin used to do the same at the boarded-up stations on the east side of the wall, as if they had hope against hope that a passenger would somehow be waiting at the platform.
    Those stations are open now. It may take years, but hope sometimes wins out.

  • Promethea

    I hope that Americans will continue to pursue the War on Terrorism (Islamofascism) in a serious way and won’t get bored with the subject. This war will go on for many years, if not decades.

  • What I don’t understand is the anger I’m seeing from a lot of Europeans I know online re: America observing this date.

  • Bill Peschel

    There is still nobility in being a witness. Keep on witnessing if only for those of us who can’t.

  • Maureen Lynch

    The mention of the weather brings back the words of one of my colleagues. Our firm has offices in the WFC, & she fled the building after the second plane hit. (Our firm had been in the WTC for the first attack & had been going to go back, but went to WFC instead. She came outside & looked up & saw people waving towels from what had been our offices–above the flames.)
    “I was standing outside in the Winter Garden, & despite everything, as I looked around I kept thinking that it was still one of the loveliest places I knew.”
    Spoken like a true New Yorker–tough & in love with her city–& above all, unbeatable. Some colleagues there couldn’t go back, some couldn’t stay with the firm even (they were offered other cities) because of the memories, but most were anxious to get back. Sort of a “we’ll show them” I think. They work there every day, with the gaping hole out their windows that noone openly mentions but is always there, & I can’t even imagine what memories must be conjured up for them as they walk past the same places they walked that terrible day. Yet they do it, & will do it again & again if they have to. The triumph of the ordinary over incredible evil.

  • Thank you.

  • Perfect. Thank you.

  • button

    For me 9/11 is inextricably connected to the Salman Rushdie fatwa riot which occurred several years before… maybe as a sort of preview. They rioted in the streets of NYC, burned Rushdie in effigy, and demanded that we obey them and carry out their obscene fatwa to murder Rushdie.
    Then they attacked two of our biggest office buildings and killed our neighbors, again demanding that we obey them and their devilish totalitarian schemes.
    We will never obey them. And eventually they will end up where they belong: in the dustbin of history as relics of the 20th Century’s totalitarian heresies, along with the Nazis and the rest of them.
    My neighbor who perished in the attack on the WTC used to help everyone. What have these creeps done to make a positive contribution to this world? How have they left the world better than they found it? What have they done to build, repair, or improve the human condition? Zip.

  • JorgXMcKie

    I’ve lived thru and remember: John Kennedy’s assassination; Bobby Kennedy’s assassination (watched it happen on TV); Martin Luther King’s assassination; Ronald Reagan’s attemtped assassination; Jonh Lennon’s assassination (I didn’t care much for him); the Challenger explosion (watched it happen on TV); the Columbia explosion; and the WTC attack (picked up streaming video just prior to the second crash — watched too much happen). The first all made me at somewhere between sad and desolate. The WTC attack made me incredibly angry, and I try not to overdo the anniversaries. Anger is not good for me or others.
    But . . . to those who think I (we) should get over it, I would respectfully advise you all to shut the hell up unless you want my anger to begin to include you. I wouldn’t like that. You wouldn’t like that. We wouldn’t like that.
    Thank you Jeff and all the others for feeling the emotions I can’t yet allow myself to feel. I, for one, appreciate it.

  • I, too, have been forever changed by the events of 9/11. I am not surprised that you were able to mourn today in ways you had not before. It was predicted that the emotional impact would not fully set in for 18 months in NY, because of the duration of the clean-up and the feeling that this was not over for so many for so long. People don’t begin to heal from emotional trauma until they feel safe. I’m not sure we feel safe in this country even now. Thank you for this look into your day.

  • I’m crying again after reading this just like I cried this morning listening to the children read the names of those who died on this terrible day. Life does go on, but it will never be the same.