Monday, September 11, 2006

Finding humanity.

Random reflections on 9/11, five years later.

While I have many vivid memories of five years ago today -- where I was, who was with me, etc. -- there is one sensory memory that gives me chills to this day. Silence. I walked outside after the towers fell and looked up in the sky, and knew there were no planes up there. None. The skies were silent. Every once in a while, that sensory memory will hit me, and I'll feel just as I felt then.

My wife had some friends who died that day. They worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. One of them was Chris Panatier, whose wife, Carolyn, was a close friend of Julie's when they lived in Tokyo in the 90s. Carolyn has been raising their young children on her own since then.

I bet we're all within two degrees of separation from victims of the 9/11 attacks. If you don't know someone who was killed that day, you know someone who does.

No matter what your political, religious or social beliefs, there was someone killed that day who shared them with you. Liberals, conservatives, moderates, libertarians, socialists, Catholics, protestants, Jews, Christians, atheists, agnostics, stoners, zealots, parents, grandparents, children, heteros, homos, male, female, pregnant, unborn, athletes, brainiacs, prodigies, enigmas, workaholics, sloths, handicapped, artists, talkers, listeners...

For a while, we were all united in our grieving. We were more polite, more thoughtful, more tolerant than usual. Our shared grief was more important than our differences. Politics, for the shortest of times, seemed mute. Humanity was most important. Support for the NYPD and the FDNY. At the time I was participating in misc.writing on usenet. While many of the posts became predictably vitriolic, I would scan them everyday for updates from Stan (the man). Stan was there at Ground Zero with the NYPD. He'd write about what he saw, what he experienced. When a few days would go by without a post from Stan, I'd start to worry. I've never met Stan in person, but he was my connection to the recovery effort. I worried for him every day, not just for his life, but for his head and his ability to wrap it around what he saw. I would imagine myself in Stan's place, and in the place of the FDNY and NYPD men and women who were there trying to save lives. Those who rushed into the burning buildings knowing full well the danger they were facing. Could I have done it? Could I have been so brave. Five years later, I still don't know. We often lament the lack of heroes in this world. They were wearing uniforms five years ago.

9/11 has become a political buzzword. It's become a platform. It's become an opportunity. I am refusing to listen to anything any politician has to say today. I won't read anything by them, I won't watch anything with them, from the president down to the local city councilperson. 9/11 is no longer about heroes and victims, it is now about votes. I will not allow that to soil my memories, nor my reflection.

Today I will read tributes to victims. I will read blogs from people who were there, or people who lost people who were there. Today I will be reminded of heroes and victims, of loss and tragedy, of family, friends and unity.

Today I will remember, and celebrate, humanity.

Thank you.


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