Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category


Wish You Were Here…

September 11, 2009

Wish You Were HereStrangely enough, I didn’t even notice until a few hours ago that it was 9/11: the eighth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center and the thousands of lives lost there and in the other attacks in 2001. It’s one of those things that’s almost a cliche to even mention these days, because it feels like journalists and politicians and commentators never stopped talking about the “post-9/11 America” that we live in. Which phrase, incidentally, to me sounds about as meaningless as the “post-racial America” that Obama supposedly created, but that’s neither here nor there. But I can’t deny that I am to some degree a post-9/11 human being, for how powerfully the event shaped my own life. There are things about that day and those following it that I will always remember.

  • I remember I was 19 at the time, in college and living about 40 blocks north of the World Trade Center.
  • I remember the night before the attack, I was at St. Paul’s Chapel, literally in the shadow of the Towers, rehearsing for a liturgical dance thing I was intending to do with some dancer and musician friends. It was pouring rain that night, and once it calmed down a little I stood on the sidewalk and stared up at the Towers, watching their glass surface glimmer in the moonlight and the city lights.
  • I remember we never got around to doing our liturgical dance, because the next day and for the next several weeks, St. Paul’s would become a shelter and resting place for the rescue and construction workers digging through the ruins.
  • I remember I got the news while sitting in my European Thought And Culture class, hearing a lecture on the differences between the Enlightenment in England, France, and Germany. Yeah, I’ll probably remember that forever.
  • I remember thinking “Finally, something’s happening,” but not saying it to anyone, because that would be callous and nobody would get what I meant. I’m not even really sure what I meant, but I remember I really did mean it.
  • I remember the next Sunday I went to church, like I always did, but I left halfway through the service because everyone around me was comforting each other and wondering why the violence couldn’t stay in the Middle East where it belonged (okay, they weren’t actually saying that, but in my less generous moments I thought they were thinking it) and struggling with that omnipresent question “How could a loving God let this happen?” and I just wanted to punch them all in their stupid faces. (See above, re: ANGRY emo dancer college kid.) That was the last time I went to church voluntarily for about five years.
  • I remember the next week the Village Voice came out with the cover image above and the caption “Wish You Were Here”, and I kept that issue for at least six years until it was yellowing and falling apart and sometimes I wish I’d kept it longer.
  • I remember quietly making fun of my roommate when she started carrying around a backpack with emergency supplies everywhere she went.
  • I remember being pissed at W the first time he called the perpetrators of the attacks “evil” because I knew that was nothing but a technique to dehumanize the enemy as a prelude to warmongering. (Angry emo dancer radical liberal college kid.)
  • I remember candlelight vigils in Washington Square Park every night for weeks, grieving for the people who’d lost their lives and family members and friends, and talking with other New Yorkers who all agreed that the rest of the country might be angry and ready to go to war but we just wanted to come together and find peace.

To all those who were killed in the attacks of 9/11/01, those who lost a friend, who lost their livelihood or their sanity or their health, who had their rights and dignities squashed in the heightened security measures, and who still suffer from the intolerance and distrust that day fueled…

Wish you were here.