It has been more than a decade since Mr. Powers, the superintendent of my high school, announced through the public address system that a commercial airliner had been flown into a skyscraper in New York City and still this day belongs to remembering that.
Before I knew anything about politics or religion or the world, really, I wrote a poem about 9/11 for a high school government class. Despite my not knowing anything, the teacher for whom I wrote the poem liked it very much and so he gave me high marks and mailed a copy to the White House. And my parents, being parents, also liked the poem very much and so they shared it with my relatives who hung copies in frames above the sinks in their kitchens. Although I think I remember being proud of having written that poem back in Michigan at 16 or 17, I remember not bearing to read it some years later when I saw it hanging above the sink in my grandmother's kitchen. I cannot recall precisely why it pained me, except that maybe I was embarrassed to have ever been so young.
Though I am less young on this anniversary of that morning when the words from the loudspeaker changed the lives of so many, I still cannot bear to read very much of what has been written about that day. So this evening, I turn to the words I can.
On Sept. 11, a new snow covered my shoes as I turned the corner toward my office. The Twin Towers had collapsed and the financial district was covered in its hallowed dust. It looked just like that day in February, the gray snow. But, this was September and it was sunny when I'd left that morning. My shoes were streaked again, but this time I walked back home, to the East Village instead of my office. I covered my face with the New York Post as I walked toward the river, waiting for the rest of the sky to fall, the dream to fade into oblivion. As the hordes of financial district employees moved away from the choking dust, there were expressions on people's faces I'd never seen before. It was a mixture of shock, sorrow, surprise and dread. This expression made the eyes widen, the cheekbones sag, and the teeth grit.
"I will not live like this. I will leave and chase my dreams elsewhere."
And I left. As soon as the highways opened I left. I wet home to see my family and friends and contemplated moving away from New York. Away from that awful place and shake the memories of Tuesday. But, with all of those grim realities, within all of that selfish pit for "my horrible experience," also realized I was part of something special. I was about to leave a city, which a week later continues to dig ferociously amidst the WTC wasteland even though all hope is lost. A city that has mile-long lines lined up at the blood bank. A city that has rallied itself and a nation to persevere and be strong — to outdo ourselves. To be better than we expected. To conquer fear. And I will do that. I will give blood until my veins collapse. I will donate money that I don't have. I, like everyone else in this city, this nation, will persevere and continue to dream.
A.J. Daulerio, Ambler Man
September 19, 2001
If there is to be a memorial, let it not be of stone and steel. Fly no flag above it, for it is not the possession of a nation but a sorrow shared with the world. Let it be a green field, with trees and flowers. Let there be paths that wind through the shade. Put out park benches where old people can sun in the summertime, and a pond where children can skate in the winter.
Beneath this field will lie entombed forever some of the victims of September 11. It is not where they thought to end their lives. Like the sailors of the battleship Arizona, they rest where they fell.
Let this field stretch from one end of the destruction to the other. Let this open space among the towers mark the emptiness in our hearts. But do not make it a sad place. Give it no name. Let people think of it as the green field. Every living thing that is planted there will show faith in the future.
Roger Ebert, Make It Green
September 14, 2001
If you are reading this, you are not dead. I myself happen to be very not dead. I'm giddy and sleepy and fighting the need to pee and listening to one of my favorite songs ("True" by Spandau Ballet) and physically not dead. I make enough money to waste it. I'm spoiled enough to be addicted to the culture of coffee. I wear rainbow sunglasses every day. I have a crush on 40% of the boys in my Gchat bar. Jesus, this is awesome. I want to be not dead every day of my life.
Megan Amram, Anniversary
September 11, 2011