This is an aerial shot of the skyline before 9/11 by Krider Photography.
It's so hard to believe it's been five years. The only consolation is that this being a significant anniversary means that I won't be marking this terrible occasion alone this year. Or well, alone in my little circle of friends and acquaintances. That first year I was very much like the cartoon Mom on South Park who lays on her couch day after day watching CNN, unable to turn away from the tragedy and begin living life again.
I had obsessed on this so often and for so long that I actually had to get some therapy to deal with it. I had to make myself give away the magazines, books, and videos and force myself to stop obsessing over it. I felt guilty for not having been able to go there and do something to help. I think in some odd way I felt guilty for not being on one of the planes, for not being in those buildings, for not digging in the rubble, for not having been able to save the life of even one of those people, and for being here on a perfect sunny day. I felt deprived of the ability to bring some kind of comfort to people who were suffering. I wanted to hug people, to let them cry on my shoulder and tell me their stories. I wanted to connect with people who were suffering and do something, anything to help. Perhaps I just couldn't stand feeling so powerless and cut off from the community of people who were dealing with this so personally, and then there were the constant reminders, the images that we were bombarded with, images I could not and would not turn away from.
I've felt similarly with regard to other great tragedies like the Asian tsunami and Katrina. But in this case there was something odd about the way I obsessed over images of the buildings collapsing, the way I scoured the net looking for first hand accounts and stories to read, and even three years later I was still buying books and videos on Amazon, watching them and rewinding the worst parts. I honestly felt alone in my strange undeserved grief, grief that I was ashamed to feel because I didn't know anyone personally who died. I felt like a character in a support group that one of the firefighters in the first season of Dennis Leary's Rescue Me attends but then rejects because all of the members were people like me, people who hadn't even been there.
This is the picture that breaks my heart.
But I love those people, all of them, people who were trapped in elevators, people who were burned and broken, people who jumped or fell, people who were injured or died trying to save other people's lives, people who died, people who were injured, people who survived, people who lost loved ones, and people who watched in horror as these events unfolded whose lives will never be the same again. I love all of them and I want to take away their pain and give them back the world they had before, but I know that I can't do this, and we aren't meant to go back because everything, even the most horrible things can lead to beautiful things, and the greatest growth can come from the greatest loss.
Now, looking back, I feel as if I was there in spirit because I truly believe that we are all connected, and this tragedy touched all of us so profoundly. We are different now. Before 9/11 we were invincible, terrorism and war was something horrible, evil and brutal, but something apart from us. Aside from Pearl Harbor, it was always over there. Now it is here.
So, five years on, I want to say that I remember. I remember. I will always remember.
I love you,
PS: I love panoramic photography. Here's a link to a beautiful night time photograph of New York City's skyline.
Liberty Lady at Dusk by Allan Tannenbau.