So we met Tom our guide at a church- St Paul’s… and he was funny and articulate and enthusiastic. And he walked us around and gave us some background.
And it will be 15 years this September.
And so it was… the bell, the statue in Freedom park… Double checking??
And the Millennium Hilton… and this other building with the black beams.
And the thing that looks like a soaring rack of bleached ribs. The Oculus?
And traffic and noise and construction and an officer with “Counterterrorism Unit” on his back. Walking a fire engine out past the guard houses.
And then to the memorial… the double inverted fountain with all the names.. that go on and on. The footprints of the tower. The white roses for birthdays. And the survivor tree. A Callery Pear.
And we walked and took pictures. There was one flag stuck in one of the names.
And it is all suddenly so real. You remember. Those towers once stood here.
I look around and I remember the flaming wreckage. The shock of planes hitting buildings. The shock of building burning and people jumping. She shock of the buildings falling. That awful cloud of grey dust billowing and rolling down the streets in every direction. That flaming debris pile. The dogs who were sad that they did not find survivors.
And we go down into the museum and I begin to cry. This is just a wall… the “bath tub” wall. This twisted set of beams… and that one. The last column. This fire engine. And I lose Marquita somewhere in wandering around dazed. I walk past those box columns that were cut off at the ground level. Pictures and names of 3000 lost. Notes and people talking. Tours. And looking at one of the cases…I make eye contact with a woman about my age and she is also crying. And a child is asking her something. Somehow the space inside is bigger… and the exhibits go on and on. There is a dog chain… Cicero?? And an axe… and ID tags.
There is this chunk of stuff they call “composite”… of compacted charred and rusted concrete and glass, melted plastic and aluminum and paper and wires and conduit…. Five floors compacted and melted into four feet.
I have to lean on a wall in one section. There is a warning at the entrance and a wall that hides what is being shown. Slides of people falling… one here. Two. Four people in this shot. And on the wall are words of witnesses… one recounting how a woman held her skirt out of modesty… I can’t seem to breathe or stand or look away.
Marquita finds me and walks me back to the wall to look at a dot on on photo… of where we are standing. And I remember where I was on September 11, 2001. That I called in sick the night before. And I was laying in bed as Marquita worked out to a VHS tape downstairs below our open loft. And one plane had hit… and then another… and then I watched it on television- the towers burning and then falling one tower- the shock and then the other. The second plane hitting. And then again. And the uncertainty and stunned, fearful uncertainty. Fifteen years?
And like a parent mourning a child the country was hurt and angry and lashed out at everything everywhere. And like a parent we held on and rebuilt and survived. And we wept and mourned and we will always weep and mourn… a little.
That things survived. A pear tree. A column. A person. A memory.
It gives me hope. That we build museums that help us mourn… and monuments to lives lost. And this beautiful motorcycle, built by his firefighter family… and this quilt… and these things like the names, so thoughtfully arranged. That this is how life goes on.
Repaired and renewed. Torn down and rebuilt. One thing at a time.