Friday, November 17, 2006

[This is the feeling version]

September 11-14, 2001. Brooklyn. I remember feeling helpless. I remember walking around with Susannah, then Kyp, then Troy, trying to give blood and getting turned away everywhere. I remember feeling exhausted. I remember crashing into sleep after hours spent in front of the neighbors’ TV, speechless; after hours of being at home glued to my radio, my new lifeline. I remember feeling cut off. I remember picturing my friends in Manhattan and wondering how they were and what their days were like. I remember feeling useless. I remember making trips to the 99 cent store to buy socks and gatorade for the emergency workers, then making signs informing others where to drop off supplies for the workers, then yet another trip to the 99 cent store.

I remember thinking of people like Gerry, who’d lived on Cedar Street since before the World Trade Center was built, was his family alright; or Katie, who got me my first paying work in New York, was she still in that office on the 17th floor of the South Tower; or Gary, was he rushing against the tide towards the disaster because his job was to faithfully record. I remember guessing which one of my good friends would have lost someone close, and I remember being sad when my guess was right.

I remember feeling relieved. I remember my heart flying open for humanity especially in my city. I remember the relief of letting go of petty anger towards my awful roommates. I remember the control freak in me losing all steam, I remember the calm of knowing there was nothing I could control.

September 15, 2001. I remember Noel luring me out to Manhattan. I remember us looking on the streets for people to talk to; I remember finding them. I remember everyone’s openness. I remember Noel and I arguing patiently with a small group of people in Tompkins Square Park. I remember my conviction that war was not a sound solution to two buildings’ worth of people disappearing; I remember my lack of anger. I remember the urgent anger of some people we encountered. I remember the willingness to speak of most people we encountered.

I remember tripping over Union Square later that night, with Noel, and finding my body surrounded by others, hundreds of others, who were again willing, open, speaking, listening; who were not interested in rushing towards revenge; who were prepared to articulate why not. I remember their articulation included inhabiting an entire park. I remember Union Square, transformed by the people in it, and I don’t have a memory (from these weeks) of its surrounding corporate box-stores: Toys R Us, Barnes and Noble, Bradlee’s, Nobody Beats the Wiz, Circuit City, Virgin Records, Walgreen’s, and right next to the statue of Gandhi, Staples Office Supply. I remember this night, Gandhi was in his glory.

I remember the great pile of flowers, poems, votive candles, photographs, mementos of those believed dead, all laying at the feet of George Washington on horseback. I remember chalk grafitti, I remember heartbreaking posters in search of family members, I remember heartwarming posters speaking my feelings, I remember incessant drumbeats, I remember softly and loudly sung songs, I remember being surrounded by people whose openness I had never felt in such numbers. I remember wanting to spend part of every day, from now on, in this Union Square.

I remember hope opening in me. I remember feeling safe because there was such engagement in that public place. I remember feeling alive because people looked into each other’s faces. I remember feeling heard because I had listened to sane voices. I remember sleeping soundly that night. I remember being surprised that I hadn’t believed such a coming-together was possible.

I remember my hope being shared by others. I remember that hope growing into an energy, that energy growing into an urgency, that urgency finding a voice, our voices forming a community. I remember that community wanting to speak outside of itself, that energy wanting to reach outward. I remember three solid years of artists speaking out without stopping to catch their breath.

I remember all of this, in my mind, growing out of Union Square after September 11th. I remember Mayor Guiliani shutting this park down, two weeks after it began, and I remember this energy living on in the city anyhow.


Read the previous post, "Union Square of the Mind," here:


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