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.