It is a rare day that begins in sadness and ends in some state of happiness or satisfaction. I was eager to wake up early today, to be alert and respectful for the moments of silence and to watch all the memorials on tv. So we got up and turned on the telly and watched the spouses of the victims reading names. My throat hitched when one woman lamented the death of her fiance - they never even had a chance. I looked at the photos on the Washington Post site from that horrible, indelible day: people peering out from the windows of one of the towers, trapped above the impact area; people emerging from the dusty caverns of lower Manhattan soaked in feasrsome gray ash; a man tumbling heels over head from his previous perch in the building; people holding candles in vigils across the world.
We are five years removed from that, but the sadness and anger remain. This was horrible on a micro, personal level -- the lives lost, the fear, the last cellphone calls, the decisions to fall from the twin towers rather than be consumed within them. Yet it was also horrible on a larger level, in the bitter fruits it has bestowed on our body politic: a misguided war, cynical manipulations of the truth, the politicization of national tragedy, Orwellian contortions of language: "terrorism," "patriot act," "homeland," to say nothing of the ubiquitous flag lapel pin, now a symbol of jingoism and political ideology. Yet the worst part of all is that there has been no redemptive moment for this entire ordeal; nothing good has emerged, no justice has been done, yet our country has paid a price in its liberty, security, youth, optimism, national character and hope. And we have not yet been redeemed.
Tonight I was walking home, towards the two towers of light jetting upwards from lower Manhattan to commemorate the day. They reached so high above that I felt aware of the curvature of the earth. I considered that five years ago, these streets were filled with ash and billowing smoke and utter confusion, and yet tonight I saunter down these same roads, towards the same ground that witnessed the horror.
People on the sidewalks around me were eating dinner and talking and laughing. They were taking photos of the lights. Everyone was aware of what this day means, but life endures anyway. Pain becomes more bearable, perhaps anger turns into patience and peace. One day New Yorkers are fleeing up from the streets of lower Manhattan with crashing buildings at their backs; another day you walk back down, towards home, after the smoke has dissipated and with a strong light to guide your way.