Friday, September 9, 2011

I was watching Mr. Rogers.

In the past couple of days the where-were-you-when-it-happened stories have swept over me. I didn't want to join in. I find it painful to talk about 9/11, and it's sometimes strange to me that no one else finds it so painful they won't talk about it. Perhaps I'm still at that stage of grief when you just try to go on, day to day.

So I'll say it. I had a three-year-old at the time and as soon as I got up I put Mr. Rogers on. I never watched the news in the morning then. Now, I watch the news every morning, ever since, and I've learned to recognize that tone in the announcer's voice that means, something very, very bad has happened. Then the phone rang.

We'd left New York six months before. My husband was born and raised there and it was my adopted city, where I went to college, lived and worked. In all that, I never went to the World Trade Center. I never had to. Didn't have business there and wasn't a tourist interested in the view.

But the World Trade Center was the modern city. There's a video -- a very primitive, early video -- for the Blondie song "Heart of Glass," which basically shows the band, playing on Saturday Night Live, intercut with shots of the World Trade Center and the Manhattan skyline. The Trade Center was the city, for those who came to it in the bad years and lived through them. It wasn't the past, like the Empire State Building. It was our city, the one we had trekked to.

My one thought, out in Las Vegas, was I should have been there. I should have gone through it with my city. I wasn't glad I had escaped -- I felt guilty.

The towers have never meant to me what they seem to mean for other people. I don't think of "first responders." (A horrible coinage.) Or freedom, that being a word that is so twisted around sometimes I don't recognize it. I take nothing away from the people for whom it does mean those things. We all have our own experiences of grief and our own methods of dealing with it.

This Sunday the streets of my town will be filled with people running a triathalon in honor of September 11. Running/biking/swimming is great, especially when do it for your own health. But part of me wonders how running a triathalon does anything for the dead. (Or the "fallen" -- another new coinage.)

After 9/11 my church orchestra got together, learned, over several weeks, Faure's Requiem, and, on a certain Sunday, performed it for the congregation. I remember listening to it, hearing the words, "Lord, give them peace, give them peace." And I thought, it's not peace for them we want. It's peace for us.


Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

That's exactly it. They are at peace in Heaven. We, still here on Earth, are left waiting and wondering and trying to make sense of it all. Survivor guilt is a natural response to tragedy, too. I agree that the nation is jumping on the hype of the event. It feels commercial to me, not authentic.

Elle Strauss said...

I've only visited NYC and I know how deeply the event impacted me, I can only imagine what it must be like for people who have called it home. Thanks for sharing your heart today. :)