8:53 PM — Memories
I went to the site of the World Trade Center Oct 3, 2001. New York is my hometown, and every year I make a pilgrimage to one of its great sites/sights. Usually I take one of my friends along for the ride, as their fresh eyes make everything seem new to my jaded ones. (We New Yorkers even wear black to weddings.) But this trip I made alone.
The main thing that struck me was the chalky smell in the air. I don't have that great a nose on me, but this couldn't be missed. The ground everywhere was covered in this off-white powder, made of the concrete and plaster and asbestos of the buildings. It got in your hair, your eyes, your nose. Even my skin felt dusty.
The next thing I noticed was a scaffold on another building, left from before, saying "METS SUCK!" That one elicited a bark of laughter from me. Nothing can break New Yorkers' spirit. Kill two thousand of us and we're still
going to argue over whose team is worse. "Sox" who?
Then, as I walked around, I started to notice the holes in the sky, where the buildings used to be, or where I could see a building behind that I couldn't see before. I stood in front of this small church for a while, reading the signs that children had sent. Large banners and small, wishing the firemen well, and praying for those who died. Across the street were pictures of missing people. After a while I remembered the church, that it used to be incongruously small in front of the huge sky scrapers behind it. Now it was the remaining buildings that seemed out of place.
The last thing that stayed with me from my visit was the street vendor. Covering his usual newspapers, magazines, and "Rollex" watches were ... Americana. Flags, scarves, pins, hats, T-shirts, posters, snow-globes, you name it. Gray towers on a gray sky, ink faded from the cheap printer, "We will not forget." White background, waving flag, AMERICA, size M-XXL. The man himself had a flag bandana, flag shirt, flag tie, American blue jeans, and a bright blue jacket. He was foreign. At the time I didn't notice his ethnic origins, but now I think he might've been Indian, or perhaps even Middle Eastern. And all I could think was "This stuff, what he is selling, he is selling the American Dream."
This afternoon I was at a Lowe's (who I heard are doing donation matching for hurricane Katrina) buying a bird feeder. Birds are a great comfort to me. I'll put it up this evening sometime. In the checkout line I started to psych myself out. There was a man standing behind me, not too large but strong, carrying a heavy shovel. What was there to stop him from reverting to base needs and swinging that shovel at me and everything! Then he muttered aloud "Man, I picked the wrong line," and I remembered we are normal, we are good people, we are human. But so were the New Orleansers, before.
For the tsunami and this hurricane I donated the same amount to charity. For September 11th I donated twice as much. My parents organized that, one of Dad's coworkers was collecting for a police and fireman's fund, and they were shocked when I told them how much I wanted to give. My reply was that I had more than that, and I in fact felt ashamed I wasn't giving more.
When I got home from visiting the WTC site in 2001, I sneezed and had a drippy nose for hours. It all came out black. And then I realized it wasn't just cement and smoke and asbestos that I was breathing in the whole time, but also PEOPLE.