New York on 9-11

Thoughts and observations from a day of remembrance.

by Christopher Scott Brooks

Yesterday was the 19thanniversary of the unprovoked attacks on the United States. Most of the death and destruction happened in New York City. Not to detract from a field in Pennsylvania or the auditorium at the Pentagon—where, by the way, my brother-in-law had delivered a presentation a few days before—but the prevalent images and long lasting devastation were inextricably tied to Manhattan. 

 My wife Jennifer, our friend Liza, and I walked six and a half miles from midtown, along the Hudson River, to the memorial. The weather, much like it was in 2001, was mild, with a refreshing breeze and a beautiful sunset. The river walk is complete with parks, restaurants, boats, bicycles and butts covered in spandex, or whatever that lulu lemon material is that many woman (and some men), regardless of age or athletic ability, stretches over his or her derrière.  

The number of New Yorkers—and, fortunately, some tourists—walking, running, playing tennis, basketball, skating, relaxing and generally enjoying the otherwise solemn day, was massive. Yet, there were no real crowds or clumps. Masks were prevalent, although logically lowered by some people not gathered or passing by large groups. Physical distancing was considered, if not strictly adhered to, but mostly it felt like life was being celebrated, regardless of, or maybe because of the fragile, finite, fundamentally flawed state that we all so painfully have come to recognize in the last several months. Children played soccer with renewed ambition and excess energy stored up from months of staring at a parent and a computer screen. Young men played basketball with a few onlookers and a boom box. Bicyclists sped along the uninterrupted path that circles the island. Amateur sailors struggled to tack their rented boats against the wind. (Tack? Is that the nautical term?)

What everyone had in common (other than a mask) was where they were, and how fortunate they were to be there. There was a magnetism that pulled most south toward the Freedom Tower, and, as dusk was upon us, those two magnificent beams that marked the original two towers of the World Trade Center.  

Once we reached the memorial site we stayed on the sidewalk, not motivated to penetrate the crowds surrounding the two sunken fountains. Even into the evening, long after the official (and unofficial) ceremonies had dispersed, hundreds lingered. The images at ground zero, as we have all come to know it, were real, were painful to see, and will forever be etched in my mind. 

I have a secret. I have avoided this place for as long as I have been coming to, and eventually living in New York. I knew the pain would penetrate my soul. And it did.

Feel free to tell a story of your experience on 9/11.

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