Mark Hollis, “The Colour of Spring,” Mark Hollis, 1998/2011.
Often we receive grace without knowing it, and often we do not know it because when grace comes, we are already joyful or resilient or serene, or in another good state that grace brings.
Andre Dubus, “Grace,” Meditations from a Movable Chair.
William Basinski, “dlp 3,” The Disintegration Loops, 2003.
Every year I set out to write something about my experience of watching the Twin Towers fall on 9.11.01, and every year I find that whatever I’ve written is inadequate. I have thought in years past that it was a matter of skill: were I a better writer, I’d come closer to the mark. I’ve come to understand, however, that the issue is not so much one of skill as it is a matter of memory. Each year it is harder to recall the immediate effect of hearing the planes’ impact explosions,1 the fact of confronting an unbelievable chain of events, the awful placidity of my office’s view uptown.
As it was for many of us who were in Lower Manhattan on that day, the experience was traumatic. I know 9/11 was traumatic for many people who were not here that day as well, but I find it difficult to disallow the distinction between those of us who watched it firsthand and those of us who watched the ghastly footage looped on television. We remain different, thousands and thousands of us, because we were there, an area which extends roughly 2.5 miles north to 14th Street and the width of Manhattan. The people I’ve spoken to who were at or near the Pentagon have reported a similar distinction.
I cannot address the victims of the attack or their surviving loved ones. I cannot imagine the isolation and violation they have felt, to say nothing of the shock and despair, the irretrievable loss.
The people I know or have met who escaped the Towers before they collapsed are, to a person, hounded by a sense of uniqueness, separated from the rest of us by the stairwells, fire exits, and street-level escape routes through which they singly yet en masse brought themselves safely into the 21st Century.
I can recall the absences of persons unknown to me except for our daily, simultaneous commute downtown from Queens. They were suddenly gone, and noticeably so because we were all getting on with our lives by accounting for everything and everyone that was suddenly missing. It was, and remains, an impossible calculation.
There is, as far as I can tell, no aspect of our culture that has been untouched by 9/11. I cannot help but think that the widespread, accelerated retreat into thoughtless comfort and convenience2 is a direct result of the attacks and, in the long run, perhaps more important than the immediate problems we have faced and will continue to face. Those of us who have suffered directly as a result of the attack will eventually all be gone and our suffering with us. The economic fallout, the wars, and the constant, nagging state of alert, on the other hand, will continue for years to come. It occurs to me on this anniversary that these latter phenomena, as opposed to simple assault, death and ruin, are what the attackers had in mind.
Did I hear both planes hit their respective targets? I think I did but the timeline has loosened in the last 11 years and I am no longer sure. Further, does it matter?↩
The sense of entitlement to home ownership is one example of this rush to comfort; the popularity of retread art and entertainment, not to be confused with Clinton- or Reagan/Bush-era nostalgia, is another.↩
Clogs, “Three Two,” Veil Waltz, 2010.
Uncharacteristically, I wrote the following as a Facebook comment on a post by someone I do not know. It seemed to bear repeating, if only for my own edification, so I’ve decided to post it here as well:
Ms. K—————, et al. above: I’m rarely moved to remark in spaces such as this but your comments brought the following to mind: It is ignorant and no doubt beneath your usual intelligence and sensitivity to apply any economic condition to a President’s inauguration.
The trickle-down failure was devised by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; Enron and the first Dotcom bubble were fostered under Clinton; the real estate bubble, Halliburton, the banking collapse, and Madoff’s heyday flourished during George W. Bush’s terms. President Obama is the first to assume the office in a state of near-total economic collapse on all fronts since FDR.
Should a more qualified candidate appear, I have little doubt my vote would go to him or her but in the meantime appeals to xenophobia, distrust of womanhood, and catering to ideas of self-centeredness instead of community leave me unimpressed.
I think our vote should be determined not by what we perceive as our similarity to a candidate but rather by whether or not the candidate’s plans will benefit more or fewer people. In the current campaign, the answer is clear enough to me: Obama has a broader, more inclusive, more informed, more decisive, more engaged team and strategy than his opponent. So I will vote for him even though he also represents interests and policies I might not favor.
Additionally, it might be worth having a look here to see what has, as a matter of record, been accomplished in the course of President Obama’s first term.