I was so proud of myself September 11, 2001 about 7:00 am. Not only had I woken before sunrise and actually caught the morning Jersey transit train back to the city, but I was on track to make it to my dreaded 8 am German class. My sister’s birthday is September 10th so I’d gone back for cake and presents, but I couldn’t stay longer because classes had started back up.
A family made homeless by the events started singing for food and change at night in Union Square in the days that followed. A dad, 10 year old girl and her little brother sang the Beatles and eventually a few musicians sat in to back them up. They sang with the sweetest purest voices when all most everyone else could do was stand around trying not to think or breathe in the heavy air too deep.
I lived down the street from the armory near Gramercy Park then. Relatives searching for loved ones posted their photographs and descriptions on the chain link fence with hopeful wording “When found please call-“. They stayed, but were soon accompanied by candles, flowers and new posters In Memory Of-. And I could not stop looking for those faces for weeks. I still remember a photograph of one woman with blonde hair and a green sweater because it was tied on the fence by a boy too young to look so frozen. Looking for strangers was easier than for those I knew who were so excited to be living downtown with the best views in the city and the Twin Towers as their beacon home.
In the days turned to years that followed, my Bengali-American boyfriend and Muslim-American friends were “randomly selected” for everything, threatened, chased, confused and frightened. 9/11 brought out the best in our heroes and good hearts, and the worst in those who used it to justify their own ignorance, racism and violence. It made me love and hate the city, and want to tip the scale to the former.
On Sunday, in an interview on CBS Sunday morning, Kofi Annan talked about his time at the UN and his new book. The interviewer asked what he thought about the conflict in the world today. I’ll have to try and paraphrase, but he wondered if there’s something innate in humans that we have to fight and kill each other. He addressed that the organization is far better at dealing with crisis, natural disasters and disease, than conflict. They showed a clip of him announcing his resignation as international peace envoy for Syria. The Telegraph covered the story back in April, including this quote:
You have to understand: as an envoy, I can’t want peace more than the protagonists, more than the Security Council.
At the end of the interview, Annan responded to the question of what will he do now with “Live”. I don’t know why that word in his voice echoes, but it does. It’s a quiet, fragmented day. Maybe memories fragment because it’s too hard to go back to that place all at once. This day always creeps up on me. Yesterday I made a molten brownie birthday cake, and today it’s back to that place between remembering too much and moving forward.