There is a great weight lifted from my heart. The rancor and sense of futility that has been eating me away since last September has been sublimated. I have been waiting for this shift, this moment where I felt the sun finally begin to rise in my thoughts. I needed to see for myself what happened to New York. I needed physical contact with the landscape. I needed to look into the Nothing where Something used to be. I didn't know what I'd find there, and I certainly didn't expect to find Hope in the midst of despair, but that is exactly what I found, and I am so thankful.
I got off the plane in Newark and saw the skyline, and that's when I broke down. I guess there is some part of one's brain that can protect you from reality if you haven't had proof. There was now no question: the towers weren't there. Suddenly, the city looked so small, save the Empire State Building, which rises as a Colossus above it. I felt myself choking with grief. My mom brought me in to the city on Sunday and we went to the site. What I was seeing felt incomprehensible. Here's where I worked for a short time. Here's where David worked for a longer time. The sky is empty. And here, below, are workers, still clearing the hole away. Here are hundreds of witnesses, staring into the gaping hole in the ground. They are taking pictures, and leaving flowers. Some are crying, and some are smiling, even laughing. All are wonderfully, beautifully alive. I suddenly felt I was part of something so much larger than myself. Nearby at St. Paul's Church, every space of its gates is covered in memorials: tributes, flags, candles, flowers, shirts, origami, pictures of the dead, and prayers. All have a prevailing theme: peace, love, grief, tolerance, and hope. Everywhere I looked, where I expected to find devistation, I found Life. New York was still breathing, even if her intakes were shallow and her exhales sharp. The nut vendors still lured their customers with honeyed air. The cabs still made their yellow streaks across the streets. Yet, something has shifted. Going North, more and more humans went about their lives with...could it be...smiles on their faces. Upon exploring my old well-loved neighborhoods downtown I became more and more struck with the realization that people were looking at each other. Could this be something in me? Maybe it was I who never looked up. I'm not sure. But wait, people in my old building are saying hello, people I only knew cursorily, wondering where I've been, saying I look great.
I feel great. I feel radiant. I feel Human. In my head, this city I love had been frozen in a moment of terror, and I had been unable to picture it moving on. But it has, because it has to. Because that's what we know to do. And once again, I am a part of New York's story. She hasn't forgotten me, and I will never forget her. The pain of this act will reverberate, but it doesn't mean the world is without hope, and beauty, and love. I'm so glad to learn this lesson. And I realize, I've been living in the grip of fear in a way that I refuse to do anymore.
So, two funerals. My Aunt's passing was like a lamp being put out to welcome the dawn. The funeral was peaceful, almost joyful.
The nuns had great stories to tell of her rambunctiousness and selflessness. The major revelation of this rare meeting of my father's family is that I am IRISH. There has been rumblings of it for a while but now I have no doubt in my head. During the funeral, a nun held up my aunt's prayer book and it had a big shamrock on it. "Sister Jean loved being Irish," she said. Wow. Suddenly a part of what I thought my identity was changed on a dime. If you looked at my ghostly white, freckled skin you'd know that wasn't from the Italian side of the family.
What an amazing trip.
For those of you who are interested and know the area, there are plans to rebuild that are pretty interesting. I personally am leaning towards Memorial Square, but I am curious to know what you think.
That's it...You put into words what I was feeling on that day with you. Even as I write this, there are tears welling up inside of me. Remember, too, the sense of awe and reverence that permeated the grounds. The iron cross... Thank you for being with me and writing a poem of such beauty. Lovingly, Mom Jul 23 2002, 12:28 am Mom, from the archives | 04.11.05 - 10:21 am