Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years After: 9-11-11 Tears of Rage. Tears of Grief

“Tears of rage, tears of grief...
Come to me now, you know
We're so alone
And life is brief” - Bob Dylan

Dedicated to my fellow New Yorkers who behaved so bravely, boldly, calmly and resolutely; to those who lost loved ones and to those very loved ones who have left us. We came together, we pulled together, we supported each other - as we always do. We of the most diverse population in the nation, if not the world - we of every language, religion, culture, sexual and ethnic background - we who unite as one, time and time again because our differences aren’t a weakness but our greatest strength. We may in some ways be dissimilar but ultimately we are the same - with our regard, our respect, our embracing of our differences and the eventual melding of them that makes us the richest and strongest culture in the word. It is the might and power of our diversity that unites us and makes us above all - New Yorkers. Some express distaste when faced with unfamiliar garb and tradition and language; but when I stroll 8th avenue and, within just a few blocks, hear a multitude of tongues being spoken, I smile in appreciation of the rich, wonderful variety of peoples and customs and beliefs that I am so fortunate to live among,

A common question occurs around every anniversary of this day and that is - should September 11th be declared a national holiday? A day of sacrifice, contribution and recognition of valor and lives lost - appropriate. A day of reflection, of contemplation, of mourning – undoubtedly so. But as a culture with such a foundation of, and an unwavering commitment to, capitalism, commercialism and consumerism, how soon before what began as day of solemn commemoration converts into one of mattress sales, final beach outings and barbeques? We need look no further than Memorial Day for proof that such an unfortunate transformation is likely inevitable.

Of course, every American has their own stories and their own recollections - memories of that horrific day are not in short supply - so I will share but a few, brief personal reflections.
I think of the visiting firefighter from West Virginia that I met in a souvenir store in Times Square - he was searching for a pleasant memento of his trip, perhaps to help balance the very unpleasant recollections he would be taking home with him from the sad site where he was bravely voluntarily toiling. He was here to try to save lives and to bring a home a Big Apple snow globe; I was there in search of an American flag pin. And all I could think to say was to express my sincere thanks. A decade later our nation is divided unlike any time since the Civil War, but on that day he wasn’t from a red state, I wasn’t from a blue state, we were from the United States, and unfortunately that feeling appears all but lost.

For days I couldn’t tear myself away from the 24-hour news coverage - initially watching it mostly with a feeling of absolute disbelief which, when acceptance of the events finally sunk in, changed first into sadness and sorrow, but then into a seething rage. I found myself feeling an intense and ugly anger, a pure blinding hatred, a desire for reaction and revenge - done swiftly and even violently - that I had never experienced before and have not since. At times while watching the events on television, my eyes would well with tears, not necessarily tears of grief, but rather tears of rage. Not an uncommon reaction I imagine and one that would explain the outpouring of pent-up relief and jubilation that followed the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. People may criticize the joyous reactions of many Americans, but it was a genuine and necessary release, one long overdue and one needed for the continued healing of our nation.

Returning to the New York-centric theme of my remembrance (I am nycityman, after all) I want to continue with two quotes taken from a conversation on a recent episode of “the Chris Matthews Show” that nicely address some of the special nature of my metropolis and its exceptional inhabitants - in this case, in relation to September 11th.

Howard Fineman, Huffington Post - “Even right near Ground Zero and all over New York today, New York is alive more than ever, that is the Mecca for everybody on the East Coast, for every kid from all over the United States and still from around the world. The sense of creativity and possibility in NY remains undiminished.”

Jamie Tarabay, an Australian-born journalist from the National Journal, “The first time I arrived in America…I landed in New York and I went down to Ground Zero and I met New Yorkers and it just struck me how Al Qaeda had basically picked the wrong place, they picked on the wrong people. They just didn’t understand the mentality of New Yorkers… they are themselves, they are unique to this country… New Yorkers were like, ‘is that it. Is that all you’ve got? We are going to move on, we are who we are, and we are going to continue.’”

I fantasize about a future life in London or Paris, but in reality, I wonder if New York is really the only place I could ever happily live.

To very properly conclude, a beautiful commemorative song written by my extremely talented friend, Ed Kessel, “Voice of Freedom - a 9/11 Tribute.”


  1. I agree that NY city is a microcosm of how the world should be. We all get along and support each other whenever the need arises. That so many people from elsewhere in the country were surprised by this 10 years ago, just shows how wrong impressions can be. And it's not just in times of crisis, it's every day in our crowded conditions when we respect each other enough to file in a civilized manner (for the most part!) into our subway cars, hold the doors for each other, etc. etc.
    The fact that we mingle with each other on our streets helps us accept different religions and cultures that other people are fearful of. Most New Yorkers do not tolerate intolerance, we don't understand hatred directed at people for superficial, unimportant reasons.
    If we come across as superior sometimes, so be it.
    This is the way civilized society is supposed to function.

  2. Love it, wonderfully well put and my sentiments exactly. I expressed similar feelings about how we react under duress, but I love how you've expanded that to our regard for each other under regular, everyday, crowded subways and the like conditions. Thanks for commenting - and please write a blog!