It’s hard to believe it has been thirteen years since the attack on the World Trade Buildings on 9/11, because the memories of that day are so clear. But there is no doubt that a lot of time has passed. The cross above is from the twin towers site, part of a favor to the pastor of Good Shepherd Church at the time they started removing rubble. It stands in a little garden on the northern side of the church, and 15 feet away, surrounded by a tall hedge is a double circle of round marble stones, each topped by a small color photo. The stones are in memory of the firemen and Inwood residents who perished on 9/11.
I have attended memorial services there twice, but this year I found no indications there would be a service on that day; instead they had commemorated the day the previous Sunday. I decided that rather than watch the reading of the names on TV, I would go to our memorial and do a small service of song and poetry for whoever happened to go by.
When I arrived a family was there, putting out flowers for their son, and they stayed a few minutes to listen. However from across the street, people were leaning out their apartment windows as they heard my voice bouncing off the stones, and small groups of pedestrians stopped and came into the garden to see the monuments. A man who was passing by parked his car and stayed until I began putting away my music, and the teen who had seen me and came back, took the photo above had asked permission to take my picture as part of his school’s photography class assignment. They thanked me for singing and asked whether I knew if anything else would be happening that day.
A young mother with her two pre-teen children in tow passed by, and her kids started laughing and made fun of the people at the monument who were crossing themselves. She didn’t stop them, but when I said from several feet behind them, “Wow. That’s a shame”, they shut up and walked faster to get away.
I guess it really has been a long time since that day when I looked out my bedroom window in Hoboken, looking at the empty space in the skyline where the towers used to stand, seeing only a blackened hole with smoke pouring out of it. My memory of the faces of the shell-shocked surviving Cantor Fitzgerald staffers who for whatever reason did not go to work that fateful morning, and were walking around Hoboken clutching each other and crying uncontrollably as they set up so many makeshift memorials that the fire department had to keep running up and down the main street putting out the fires they caused, will fade eventually. The many small–and large–kindnesses people extended to each other as they struggled to get home; get away from Manhattan with all the phones and transit system dead, will stay with me. Fire trucks racing around the city with giant American Flags flying defiantly from the rear of their vehicles, and the sad police motorcades carrying bodies of the fallen officers and firefighters as they found them in the rubble, pop up in flashes….
I wonder how long will be long enough?