This day to me is my television. Less like a window letting me see, it was really a glass wall keeping me out. That is still how i feel. Throughout the events of September 11th and the days that followed, I felt like I was trapped in a fishbowl looking out onto a world I couldn't interact with. No matter how many news broadcasters told me how the ash felt, I couldn't feel it. No matter how many wives and husbands told me how it felt to have family in the world trade center, i couldn't hold their hands or hug them. As the stories of what happened on flight 93 emerged I just... heard... them. I felt like i was being restrained from getting into the midst of it and experiencing it with all those horrified brave people.
From my two room apartment above a farm house in Vermont I watched the world unravel, and felt entirely separate from it and helpless. I had no "9/11" connection even though it seemed like every news cast was trying to convince me I did,and that somehow if i did it made my personal tragedy greater. I didn't know a fire fighter. I didn't know a first responder. I gave blood in some sort of half-assed attempt to feel like I was helping. I put a flag in my car window. I cried a lot. I cried when George W. Bush gave a speech from the rubble. Two weeks before that I was hoping he'd be impeached for general sucking. There was a moment when no one was around that I sat on my floor hugging my couch cushion like it was a loved one, and just openly wept. Anguished weeping. The kind you do, i would learn in coming years, when your dear friend, or your nephew, or your grandmother-in-law dies before you're ready to deal with it. Which is always.
Ten years later, I'm grateful I was separated by time and space from this, the stories of those who lived through it tax the limits of my imagination. I don't know if I would be a strong enough person to live with it. But wanting to be there is such a human response. Its so human to want to be there for people who are in agony. It's so human to just want to help weeping ash covered new yorkers get to clean water, safety, family. It's so human to want to catch those poor falling people. Its one of those things that I think decries evolution. It's hardly in anyone's self interest to reach into the midst of chaos and grip on to someone who needs it. I know I'm not the only person who felt this way.
Human beings, so many of them, died and were injured that day. And for a moment we perceived the world as humans. Not as Americans, or Christians, or Muslims, or Canadians, or Republicans or Democrats, but as Humans. Just wanting to reach out and hold our brothers and sisters despite the danger it would put us in. There is no gain in that. Sadly that moment was all to brief. Within days all the various stake holders, which means all of us, flew to our corners and began to apportion the guilt, the pain, the responsibility. and as human self interest has taught us we protected our slice of this terrible pie and began to find ways to profit from it, perhaps not with money, but with power...or emotional leverage. In that all too human way we began using the acts of hateful men to further push away those who are different than we are, racially, religiously, politically.
For me the legacy of September 11th will always be that singular moment, when the worst that could happen brought out the best in humanity. Men and women sacrificed their lives that day for other men and women. Every person who could be, like me, was pressed against the glass of their television trying desperately to get in there and help. The heroism of first responders and ordinary people elevated us far higher than any tower can ever be built. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Bhuddist, all looked the same covered in ash or rubble, holding each other up, helping each other down the stairs of a collapsing building. These people didn't do this for profit, they did it because there was a human being trapped in a swirling hellstorm, and they could help them. So they did. This wasn't a Religious moment or a nationalist moment. It was a human moment. One we would do well to try and recapture.
Stay safe. Remember those who gave or lost their lives that day. Say thank you to someone. Help someone because you can and because they need it. And lets hope it doesn't take a tragedy of unfathomable proportions to remind us how powerful being human is.
I love you guys. Thanks for reading.