September 11, 2003
I've never been mugged. I grew up in a town where the impression of New York City was basically either "That place you go to get mugged." or "That place you go to see a Broadway show, but be careful you don't get mugged!" Still, with the exception of getting my nose broken by some kid in junior high, I've really never been the victim of a violent crime. So what I know of these things is, I'm lucky to say, second hand. But I've seen a pattern.
I've seen people who have suffered from violence. Either victims of random violence, or those who were abused as children, or people who've experienced any of the other horrible things we do to each other as humans. And some of these people who are hurt, they live with it every day and learn from it. They can never forget, of course, but they push through the anger and find solace in rebuilding their lives, in identifying with other people who've been through similar circumstances. By moving on, they reclaim their lives. I think the people of New York are like that.
There's other people, who are consumed by their anger, unable to move forward with their lives, and determined to pick the scab and make sure it never heals. They find honor in making sure the pain never subsides, and in trying to make others hurt like they do. We have some of those, and I understand why they have to hold on to their anger. I just hope they see that it's not the best thing for them, in the long term. I spent a lot of time, too much time, resenting people who were visiting our city, and especially the site of the attacks, these past two years. I've been so protective, I didn't want them to come and get their picture taken like it was Cinderella's Castle or something. I'm trying really hard not to be so angry about that these days. I found that being angry kept me from doing the productive and important things that really mattered, and kept me from living a life that I know I'm lucky to have.
So I don't have anything profound to add in remembrance of today, though I guess everyone's prone to self-important and self-conscious poetry about the attacks two years ago. I just remember. And I think that it's important to remember that I wasn't there, I was just closer than most. I'm sad, of course. But mostly, I'm not angry anymore, to my surprise. At least not today. Maybe it's because I finally went by the site for the first time a few weeks ago, the first time I was able to. And I didn't think at all of 19 men. I thought of almost 3000 men, women, and children. And so, just sadness. There were the tourists there, but maybe some of them needed to see that giant, almost sterile, construction site and to understand. Yes, they don't understand what they're looking at, and most of them probably never even saw the towers when they existed, but I can't judge any more if they're justified in being there. I wanted to be bitter that they didn't understand what it meant for me to smell that smell. But I'm trying to remember that it's not my place to judge how others grieve, that I can't dictate how they feel or that they should feel the way I do.
I hope it comforts some people that others would travel from around the world to pay their respects. I hope we can find solace in connecting with any group that's every lost so many, that's ever borne the brunt of thousands of murders. Maybe even in connecting with anyone who's ever lost someone they love.
I don't begrudge those whose memory has started to fade already. That's the nature of New York, and of America, and of humans in general. We're not built to stay in fear or rage forever. But some people are afraid we'll all forget. They're complaining that we're not being reverent enough. I guess maybe in other parts of the country or other parts of the world, they can worry about that, but we'll never forget here in New York. We can't, and we don't want to.
There are tens of thousands of people who get on subways every day that still list "World Trade Center" as their last station stop. And every single day I walk by the photos of Bobby Fazio and Moria Smith. They used to work at the NYPD precinct next door to where I live. Some days, I'll be coming home from a meeting, or from a party, and just get stopped in my tracks by the sheer overwhelming weight of their legacy, and the legacy of the attacks in general. A month ago, this was out on the curb:
I don't talk about the attacks any more, as much as possible. And I don't write about them, except to make sure that people know I remember. They're part of me, but a very personal part, and sometimes they feel too valuable to give away with words. I realized, though, that I can maybe let go of some of my own anger and that, even though it hurts, maybe it's not wrong to try to look forward as much as we look back. I've known some people who suffered brutal, unforgiveable assaults, and they actually ended up becoming better people because of it, they were motivated to be more loving just to prove they hadn't lost their humanity when they were attacked. I wish the same for the city I love.
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