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The Dams Have Broken, Re-post

I woke up the way many did that morning: my phone was ringing. It was early in the morning. It was my mother. She told me to not turn on the TV, to sit down. I sat down. She told me that a plane had smashed into the WTC and then mentioned something confusing about Washington, DC and something going on there. I turned on the TV. While I tried to get her to calm down, I saw the second plane hit. And then everything else. I was stunned. Literally. I imagined the terror each person in each disaster zone was feeling. I tried not to imagine it too deeply. I just wanted to be able to absorb enough to understand the import of this moment, to be able to process this kind of fear without panicking if I were ever in the midst of it.

No one that I was personally acquainted with died. But co-workers lost friends and family. Online friends lost loved ones. A couple of SG folks had losses. The far-reaching impact of the event was known to me, but I still couldn't reach that core of horror that I knew must have nested in me as I watched and realised that this was intentional, as I watched (briefly, before turning away) people choosing a certain death from a fall over the uncertainty within the building.

A couple of weeks after September 11, 2001, I finally had a full reaction to what had happened. Media brought me to it. I wrote about it as I felt it, so it is probably overly emotional for many of you. And I was overly optimistic in some cases. But I think that I do want to remember this. For the reasons I mentioned when I first wrote about it, and for the reasons that have happened since then. For every soldier that has died, for every innocent soul snuffed out by our confusion over who should be punished for the loss of our cocoon.

I know that I am posting this late, but that is because I originally wrote it so long after what had happened. I felt it would be incongruous to post it with all of the other "on time" recognitions of the date. And so, the emotional flood that I posted to a messageboard in October of 2001...

Ah, the dams have broken.

Watching Jon Stewart struggle for words, trying to make us smile through the tears, giving in to his own emotions, being human...it was worthwhile. Knowing that he wanted to provide some kind of healing with what "little" he was capable of as a satirical humorist gave me the final push into dealing with the remote grief I've felt for the past week and a half. I want to write to him to thank him, but I'm so afraid that the purity of my gratitude will be twisted by the clumsiness of my words, especially in the face of how close to it all he has been.

Reading, right after that, through this week's edition of People, really gave me an appreciation of the good that managed to peek out of the dark clouds that I watched enveloping the two different US archetypes. If you haven't looked through this issue, you should. Maybe don't pay for it, like I did - they have them available to look through at the library - but give it a glance over. Amidst the expected trite preciousness, there are some really worthwhile stories. Amazingly, there is a quote from Madonna in there that amazed me in its profundity. Perhaps it was designed to sound that way, but the sentiment doesn't suffer from the possibility. They're good words that should make you think, despite the source. Or perhaps because of the source.

Then, after a Mahatma Ghandi profile on A&E and some of Invader Zim, I happened to click on a channel that had the "Tribute to Heroes" special on. I hadn't intended to see any of it, but I've seen some things that have impressed me in just a few minutes, so I think I'll watch for a while longer. Tom Petty singing a very, very purposeful version of a song that I never envisioned fitting as well as it did - "I'll Never Back Down".
Comedians telling us so seriously about individual heroes, giving us a familiar face doing a completely unfamiliar thing.
A rendition of "Imagine" that had the artist break a little when he sang the lines about no hate in the world.
Billy Joel, the lounge artist that he is, with a burnt and battered fireman's helmet on top of his piano adding to the weird note of incorruptability of "New York State of Mind".
Looking into the banks of people handling the phones, and realising that every single one of them is famous. I can identify 95% of them by most well-known role if not by name.

What else has ever drawn us together this way? Nothing that I remember. Nothing in my time. Nothing that I can draw upon in order to make this seem less surreal. And do I even want it to be more understandable? In the name of all that is good in this world, no. This should be a mystery. This should be puzzling and bizarre. I never want something like this to seem normal or expected. I want the world to move again, but I want it to remember this. I don't want everything to be in stasis anymore, but I want it to bear the marks of this particular set of events in perpetuity. I want it to be a milestone. But, please, if there is any way in the universe to influence how these things go, don't let it be a milestone of horror and suffering that grows every day. Instead, please let it be a milestone of the world learning that we are so much closer together now. Three buildings can be hit by three planes, another plane downed by those who would not allow it to be used as a bomb, countless souls can go floating off into the aether, many hearts can be broken, but we can all bind together and see that the loss was worldwide. That no truly aware person was spared the pain of this thing. That we will all be asked to give something in the coming years in order to keep the world bound together with love and reason.
And those of us that have been aware for so much longer, who have witnessed (near or far) the pain in other places of the world, and the suffering of those who live right here with us in the U.S., who weren't as surprised by this as we possibly should have been...it's okay to be hurt by this. It's okay to not try and justify it away. It's okay to worry about how you're going to push yourself tomorrow to help more, all over the world, right after you finish grieving about the things in front of you.

How will New York change? Will it suddenly become a polite and courageous place? Somewhere that people go to in order to prove that they are not only the bravest but the kindest? I am not as worried by this as I possibly should be. The New York I have known of my entire life never seemed to me a cold place. It seemed vital, like a big neighborhood with many families that don't necessarily get along all of the time but rely on each other to get through each hard day. It doesn't seem like much of a change for them to reach out to each other, try to pull together and give all they can to recover and rebuild. A jailed mobster has offered use of his $6m scrap shredder to the city for free, so that the task of clearing the debris can go more quickly and be done more cheaply (his is closer than the one they're shipping things to now). That says something about that city. I've never been there. I missed a chance to go there this year and see the two towers in person. I'll go there within the next two years, as planned, but it shall be a different experience than my original plans had intended.

Here on the TV, Tom Cruise is telling us about Father Judge, who was giving last rites to a fallen firefighter when he was killed by hurtling debris. Maybe these stars don't really care. Maybe they're up there in order to make it clear that they will do anything to raise the value of their images. Maybe they are the most selfish bastards in the world. The least talented whores ever known.
But right now, I can't hear that. I am grateful in a deep and abiding way that they are there. That they are answering phones. That they are putting their works before us in a way that ties them to this experience. That they are standing up and giving us little pieces of the beauty that was seen as the tragedies took place. That they know the little thrill some people will get by calling up and hearing Jack Nicholson or Julia Roberts answer the phone and ask them for their donation. That they are telling us that even they were affected in some way. That we can find the human spirit even in our glossiest idols. Why that comforts me, I don't know. But it makes them more precious to me. The entertainer is never as appreciated as they are in times of trouble. Whether they are eliciting a laugh or evoking a surge of sad understanding, they help us to identify the emotions in our lives in a way that is disassociated from the selfishness inherent in our daily existences. And here they are. Doing what they know how to do (or have been trained to act as if they know how to do). Trying to give us something that will make it worthwhile for us to not only watch and remember and grieve, but justify digging into our pockets and giving something towards those who must live with the after-effects of the terror of September 11. That's a heavy load to bear, in my mind. Begging from a country in mourning, faced with recession.

As Sting sings of how fragile we are, in memory of a friend of his wife's who was killed in the "appalling tragedy", I have to admit something.
I'm not stupid. I know that there are people right here in America...right there in New York...who are thinking about how "they finally got what they were asking for". How "The Man" has been kicked in both of his nuts by someone he's picked on for far too long. People who believe they are somehow removed from this horror by how little money they have in comparison to the majority of those who died, who have a different shade of skin than whomever they imagine being the target of this travesty. They are feeling that they have been vindicated. They jeer at every reference of "the tragedy". There is nothing that can be done about this. They don't understand they are part of this, too. That this went beyond class lines. They have been disenfranchised for so long that it is easier for them to walk away than to try and embrace any of it. Have patience with them. It will hurt them even more when they realise how vast the toll will truly be, because they did not see the starting point for what it was. They are unaware of the chance to recover from the social divorce in this moment where every person is needed. They feel justified. It will take them some time.

That quote of Madonna's?

"Each and everyone one of us should look inside our own hearts and examine our own personal acts of terrorism ... it's not just bin Laden, it's all of us. We've all contributed to the hatred in the world today."

Feel love, people. Feel love for yourselves and every soul yours flutters up against. Be prepared. It's time to be ready for whatever comes, and we need to be ready to stand tall and keep our convictions as pure as we are able. We must put forth our beliefs and not let ourselves be trampled. Be flexible, but be strong. If there is something to be learned, you will be given the opportunity, so be open to it. Stand. Ready. Love.

Did you know that Eddie Vedder now looks like the lovechild of Bruce Springsteen and Patrick Swayze?
Watching Muhammed Ali shake from his disease while Will Smith reminded everyone that hate should not be our motivator really tore me up.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 12th, 2003 07:33 am (UTC)
My mother-in-law called during breakfast and told me to turn on my TV right away. For a few seconds I actually thought it was an accident.
Sep. 12th, 2003 02:21 pm (UTC)
I thought it was an accident, too. And my mom wasn't making any sense. After it occurred to both of us what was going on, she told me not to go to work.

I did, but I was late. And shaken, all day. I just thought of how I'd watched public knowledge crystalise in one massive swoop that this was no accident - we had really been struck with intent.
Sep. 12th, 2003 02:48 pm (UTC)
A few weeks earlier I'd made a lunch date for that day with the female half of One Wilde Knight, the corset makers. We both showed, had a nice lunch, and talked shop and relationships. It was a little... I don't want to say surreal, but we both felt not quite right. It was a gorgeous day to be walking down Broadway. Gee, I hope da lench mob doesn't come after us for that.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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