I can’t see New York

I tend to want to stay away from the subject of September 11th.  Maybe it’s because I have a hard time processing such traumatic events, or that I feel I have no place in ostentatious mourning over something that did not affect me personally, or that all the Facebook posts and chain e-mails are cheesy and fake.

I remember when it happened; it was my second day of high school and I was sitting in the chorus room in the basement of our school and suddenly everyone was crowded around the not-a-flat-screen-TV.  It didn’t seem real–I wasn’t exactly sure what I was watching.  Then we saw one tower fall, and then another.  Then they didn’t let us leave campus for lunch (we live in a small town so high-school students can leave for lunch), and they let us go home.  People were crying in the hallways as they passed by; stores completely shut down.  There were candlelight vigils all over the country.  My grandfather huffed and puffed over this, grumbling, “When Pearl Harbor happened they were lined up around the block to sign up for the military.  Now all they do is wave candles.”

And I didn’t shed a tear through the entire thing.  In fact, I remember, a year later, when my high school wanted us to wear red, white, or blue to commemorate those who had lost their lives, my friend and I purposely wore dark colors in protest.  When my English teacher made us all get up in front of the class and one-by-one say something about September 11th, I don’t exactly remember what I said, but it was something along the lines of, “I don’t think people should be fake in their display of emotion for today.”

I had a little bit of growing up to do.


A few years later, I bought Tori Amos’ CD, Scarlet’s Walk, about a young woman who travels the country, as Simon and Garfunkel would say, “to look for America,” and on her journey she witnesses the planes crash from the vantage point of a commuter plane.  Maybe the main character could have been flying on one of those other planes–the song covers the emotions of the woman witnessing the event and it also encompasses the woman on one of those other planes who is about to die.  And suddenly in those lyrics I understood the depth and the sadness and the pain of the loss of life.  Suddenly, I saw the daughter who called her mother before her death, the husband who called his wife, the person who had no one.  It was real and it was horrific and it was terrifying.  Because you become that person, you see it through their eyes and you imagine, “Oh my god, I am about to die.  This is the end of my life.”  You will never see another sunset, you will never feel the touch of another human being.  You will never hear music.  You see it through their eyes and you think, “Oh god, it’s not fair.”

She sings:

I can’t see New York
as I’m circling Down
through white cloud
falling out
I know his
lips are warm
but I can’t
seem to find
my way out

The woman will never make it to New York.

Maybe sometimes mourning comes to us at different stages, maybe for us to connect we really have to see it from that other person’s point of view.  I don’t know; I am sorry for the behavior of my past.  It took me awhile to really grow up.

But the entire thing makes me so sad; a pitiful man surrounded by his pornography collection, filled to the brim with ideals about restrictions on human behavior, decided the fate of so many people.  Why someone(s) believed they had the right to carry out such a selfish action.

One of my favorite sayings is from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, ” I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.”

I wonder why instead of planting seeds some men burn down forests.

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