Monday, September 11, 2006

A moment

I have a lot to write about from over the last two weeks. I had an incredible weekend recently when I went hunting with Imre and family, and Dora has a birthday coming up tomorrow, but today I want to write something about the anniversary being observed today. It is September 11th. I was in New York City five years ago. I’ve been surprised by the emotions I’ve experienced today.

Dora left for work in the morning as usual. I didn’t have to work until four, so I went back to sleep. A phone call woke me up. It was my mother. She was describing the first crash when the second plane collided into the south tower. We spent a moment trying to understand whether or not it was a replay or a second crash, but when it became clear what had happened, we understood the reality of the situation.

All I could think of was the passengers on the airplanes, because those towers were so iconic that I didn’t even think about the people inside. Then my mother and I talked about my brother who worked two blocks from the towers at my aunt and uncle’s production company. My mom told me that they couldn’t get through to Drew, so I tried to get through on my mobil. I was fortunate in that my shitty mobile company didn’t have a lot of customers. I got through after a few calls. Drew told me he had seen some terrible things and he wasn’t sure what he should do. I told him to walk north. He did. His story is one of New Yorkers acting under duress. They didn’t panic. They didn’t turn violent. They didn’t loot. They pulled together and got through a day like no other people could. Drew walked north only to see the first tower collapse through the arch at Washington Square Park.

I think about those images of New Yorkers moving north without rioting or showing any real sense of terror, and I still feel a bit of victory. It felt to me like New York was giving a big old “Fuck you” to the people who carried out the attack. Like saying, “Sure, that was a pretty good attack, but is that all you got?” I was so proud to be a resident of the city that day.

After talking to Drew, I spent a moment thinking about Dora’s trip to work. She traveled underneath the towers to get to work, but when I remembered her departure time, I knew she had gotten to work before the attacks. After a few calls I got through to one of her co-workers. All passage off the island of Manhattan had been shut down, but Dora’s plan was to get back to Brooklyn as soon as she could.

I didn’t have TV, because we were receiving via antenna, and the broadcast towers were atop the WTC. So I listened to radio news and waited for Dora and Drew to arrive. Eventually they did, along with Sailor, Drew ex-girlfriend. The next 48 hours were a blur, but I was happy, and fortunate to have loved ones with me.

Five years on, I’m not proud of my nation’s response, but I’m proud of my nation. We aren’t a perfect people, and sometimes we look for an easy answer to complex problems. Nevertheless, the US works. I saw evidence of that five years ago. From time to time I see things that back that up. The bottom line is there is something American that no terrorist, no amount of poor leadership, and no amount of anti-Americanism can erode. We may not all be the smartest, we may not all be the toughest, we may not all be the most diplomatic, but when we pull together, Americans are a force to be reckoned with. I don’t want to sound all “Rah rah, USA!”, but I do think the nation that produced me has got some things going for it.