I know perhaps that sometimes I may seem to go a bit overboard, but In desperate times — and war is desperate — because it could be your son one day, to do nothing is to be a part of the problem. If not me; if not you, then who? The other guy?
Perhaps I feel a greater sense of urgency and sense of threat living here in NYC along with almost every one I love. Think about that. Many New Yorkers I know (certainly not all), feel the policies of the Bush Administration are threatening our lives and the lives of those we love most. *Boom* End of story, but hopefully not a *boom* of the wrong kind.
Five years and a couple months now ago , I watched the Twin Towers burn. I paced the white dust and paper-littered streets downtown the next Saturday for hours trying to understand.The chemically smell of destruction still lingers and clings to memory. From the park by the water on Grand Street here in Williamsburg and from my rooftop, I watched the smoldering sky for weeks on end and, even now, I still become lost in Tribeca because I no longer have THOSE thousand points of light to guide me, those lights that cast a soft reflecting silver twinkle across the water that night of September 10, 2001 where, sitting on a boat upon the Hudson River, I enjoyed the opening night performance of “A Thread in the Dark,” an updated riff on Theseus lost in the maze of the Minotaur and guided back to the light by Ariadne’s thin thread.
From the next morning onward — my last view of the Towers being them awash in the rosy pink fingered light of dawn offset by a curiously black-hole shaded Empire State building as I was on the way to work — I have never experienced emptiness in such tangible manner. I can still see the amber sunset and the Statue of Liberty through the newly-wedded paned-glass of Windows on the World that Sunday evening three weeks before at a wedding where, obliterated on champagne by the end, I embarrassed my future girlfriend but left with her still, dozens of roses in hand the bride and groom needed not there was such a surfeit.
That view I experienced that Sunday is a sight that now exists for birds alone and, perchance, a lingering spirit or two; or, if the fates be cruel, a whispered echo of that golden-haired bartender’s gorgeous smile. I don’t know if she worked the Tuesday morning shift, [friend]. And I doubt I ever will, but this much I know: Anyone standing at that spot from which I gazed down upon the bay when the plane hit saw not the smoky black fingers of sunset drifting across the city skyline that evening as did I from the subway platform at Queensborough Plaza, a view so eerily compelling I tried to find a disposable camera to record the moment, but could not because every store in a 10 block radius had been stripped bare of recording devices.
In any case, you try to forget, but it’s hard. You remember every time you hear the sound of an airplane overhead and every time you see the NYC police by a bridge, there, but hardly paying attention. You see the police late at night stop by a van and wave a little box around, perhaps screening for explosives. The air raid sirens go off as a test, as they did but an hour past, and you wonder, should I turn on the news? Are we under attack? Is this it?
It’s all quiet here on the Western Front of the War on Terror… for now, but, speaking just for myself, I’d feel a whole lot happier and a whole lot safer if our soldiers and our National Guardsmen were here at home instead of losing their lives overseas to that hydra-headed monster we ourselves have created through indifference bred by the murmur of that human creek Thoreau called “quiet desperation.”
Understand all this and perhaps you will understand why many New Yorkers are uniquely positioned to understand the cries that trickle through to us from afar via the Internet and conversations of happenstance in Muslim-staffed bodegas across the city. Would ever we see graffiti bearing the word graffiti bearing the word WATER here by our lustrous shores? Let us pray to whatever Gods we may that the answer is, and will continue to be, “No.”
December 15, 2006