September 11th was a horrifying event. Can we all agree on that, at least?
Watching the twin towers fall from a distance - or on television - was almost like a ballet. Until you looked (or imagined) closer and then it was no longer ballet but manifest destiny turned to dread. If you let yourself see and think quick enough, you'll see the faces in the windows of the falling tower - caught in a final second praying for that second to stay frozen, frozen in terror, anything but answering gravity's summons.
But the vast and legless trunks of stone fell, their bones melted by the burning jet-fuel incubated in the towers' stairwell arteries, in a curtsey that hurled dust in block-sized plumes stretching far and away and wide, wide, in a burnt brickish shroud over Lower Manhattan.
I suppose in the lone and level sandy parts of the world some may have felt cold elation at this scene of life made into lifeless things; and maybe they would have mocked and cried something like look on my works ye Mighty and despair!
The faces in the windows became dust and wreckage before our eyes but what haunts my own memory, as vivid today as in 2001, are the living faces of the emergency workers - firemen, paramedics, policemen, five-borough slabs of human clay in their thousands, moving silently through the dustclouds, uniforms like beacons to others but whose owners were shell-shocked witless, bewildered, earnest eyes alert with incomprehension, as if beaten by an unseen intruder, uncomprehendingly suffering the long, drawn out "rescue" aftermath as a broken reality, punished unjustly for someone else's crime.
And then, in the days that followed, a scene revealed and pictures of devastation were seen around the world. But running parallel was this noiseless outpouring of ghosts: the faces at the windows, somehow framed for me again but frozen this time, too late, as photographs glued to thousands of homemade "missing person" posters; pinned in collages onto walls and advertising boards on the city blocks surrounding what was soon to be known as Ground Zero.
As the years go by, bit by bit, item by item, person by person, all those things we anchor to as precious and meaningful go away. It seems like they're taken from us but no, they just go away. There's no sinister agency in Time.
As I look at a photo of myself at age 8, leaning against the outer barrier of the South Tower observatory floor, the second twin-tower's spire in the near background, and I remember when we sold Good Humor ice cream and sunglasses in the plaza far below (until moved on, by the steak and sideburns cops of the 1980s) and I fished quarters out of the cool water of the fountain...
The things of life just go away, as the years pass. The things in that photo and the things in the plaza, people included, have gone away too. The poetry of those busy involved people mesmerized by movement, kinetic energy pure as purpose. I hold it my memory, for however long that lasts, but it is poetry that's only lyrical to me; or at best to us, our own versions, our own precious cargo of ephemera. We human beings, stubbornly making meaning in the universe, on our falling rock in the infinite void. Frozen faces, all, for as long as that lasts.
583 words/YMS-evernote/autotranscribed (otter.ai)