Today I’ve been sniffling, both from a first autumn cold and from crying on this decade anniversary, high on everyone’s mind. I knew I’d be reflective, but I didn’t think I’d be quite this emotional. I am.
Ten years ago I was a new New Yorker, having just moved back to the city of my birth a few weeks prior. On September 10 I was in the plaza of the World Trade Center watching the Trisha Brown Dance Company perform. My dream at that time was to dance and I was quickly taking advantage of all the city had to offer.
I looked up at the Twin Towers and thought I should go up to the top. I decided to save it for the next day, however, as I was returning in the morning for an audition in the area.
The next day, of course, was September 11. I never made it downtown.
I’ve never been able to talk about 9/11 well; not articulate my feelings or try to mine it for meaning. The loss and tragedy was total; how do you give such grief a name?
And then it became politicized and my words felt even more stopped up in my mouth. I was horrified to see how the attacks got transformed into further war, how in the name of innocents we went to foreign countries to kill even more.
In the aftermath, in New York, the subways were silent. The teeming metropolis, crowded with its denizens, hardly made a sound. The very air subdued by so many millions each trying to grapple with what we had just witnessed.
You know what else I remember, though? The incredible sense of unity. The way people helped each other. Strangers lending a hand. Neighbors checking in on each other. People looking you in the eye.
In those few weeks afterward, it seemed out of tragedy some miracle had happened: all barriers between people had fallen. All of us were truly the same.
I cannot map the erosion of that goodwill or all that has happened since. But it is this fact I’d like to remember as I struggle with my sadness today: people can and do come together. We show our true strength in moments of crisis. We are most human when we help each other, when we love those around us.
This 1949 excerpt from EB White’s “Here is New York” gave me chills today for its prescience and profundity. In it, he makes of an old tree a symbol of the city:
“life under difficulties, growth against odds, sap-rise in the midst of concrete, and the steady reaching for the sun. Whenever I look at it nowadays, and feel the cold shadow of the planes, I think: ‘This must be saved, this particular thing, this very tree.’ If it were to go, all would go — this city, this mischievous and marvelous monument which not to look upon would be like death.”
To read the full excerpt, go here.
Paris held the world’s second largest commemoration ceremony after NYC today at Trocadero’s Plaza of Human Rights.
Sending much love and light to the world today.