September 11th : Ten Years After

“It is not what happens to people that is significant, but what they think happens to them.” … Anthony Powell

               Obviously, I wish that I had the perfect thing to say about “911”. Something moving and deep, poetic and beautiful. I wish I had the skills to convey the ways that what happened on that crystal blue skied morning transformed me. All I can say is that there are moments in your life that you carry forever, like a coin in your pocket that you never get to see. You can feel its shape, the edges, the etched faces, the cold substance that its made of; but it disappears in your hand whenever you try to pull it out to view it completely.

               Ten years after the terrible events of that day, I feel like a mourner at a well attended wake, where everyone refuses to be the first to leave. I’m not trying to be callous or mean spirited or dismissive of the abysmal sadness and loss of September 11th. Especially on the tenth year since the attacks, I recognize our need as a people, to draw strength from national events, and to use this occasion as a way to recall the sacrifices made by so many Americans.

               Personally, however, this will be the last year that I spend my day reliving Sept. 11th by viewing the countless specials on television. I know the facts by now:

  • 8:46 a.m., Flight 11, North Tower.
  • 9:03 a.m., Flight 175, South Tower.
  • 9:37 a.m., Flight 77, the Pentagon.
  • 9:59 a.m., the South Tower collapses.
  • 10:03 a.m., Flight 93, Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
  • 10:28 a.m., the North Tower collapses.
  • 2,749 dead in my hometown of New York City.
  • 184 dead in my nation’s capital at the Pentagon.
  • 40 dead in my heartland in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvannia. 

               Suddenly my vocabulary included words and phrases like Islamism, terrorism, jihad, Al Quaeda, Taliban, profiling, ionizing radiation, homeland department, national security, threat level, backscatter x-ray, waterboarding, rendition, military tribunals. It was enough to paint a very dark picture for a very long time, and now it is over for me.

               It’s not that I want to forget what happened, it’s because I can’t forget that I must move on.

               As a librarian, I will always have to help others get information about that awful day, but I also know that with each new class that enters our school, September 11th becomes more and more a history lesson and less a vivid memory they can’t quite wrap their heads around.

               Fortunately, many writers have discussed September 11th in their work to give us different perspectives on that day. Do a quick search at the Barnes & Noble website under 911 and you’ll discover almost 1300 titles. I haven’t read all of my recommendations, so the descriptions are lifted from the B&N.com:

  • 102 Minutes, by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn: In 2004, NY Times reporters Dwyer (a Pulitzer Prize winner) and Flynn (the paper’s police bureau chief at the time of the World Trade Center attacks) released an account of the attacks told from the inside, drawing on radio transcripts, phone messages, emails, and interviews with survivors and rescue workers to communicate what being at ground zero was really like.
  • Falling Man, by Don DeLillo: Brave and brilliant, Falling Man traces the way the events of September 11 have reconfigured our emotional landscape, our memory and our perception of the world. It is cathartic, beautiful, heartbreaking.
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.
  • Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill: In a New York City made phantasmagorical by the events of 9/11, Hans, a banker originally from the Netherlands, finds himself marooned among the strange occupants of the Chelsea Hotel after his English wife and son return to London. Alone and untethered, feeling lost in the country he had come to regard as home, Hans stumbles upon the vibrant New York subculture of cricket, where he revisits his lost childhood and, thanks to a friendship with a charismatic and charming Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon, begins to reconnect with his life and his adopted country.
  • 9-11, Artists Respond, Vol. 1: Cartoonists Tony Millionaire, Sam Henderson, Mike Diana, Scott Morse, Mark Crilley, Roger Langridge, Chris Eliopoulos, and Mark Martin are among those offering differing takes on a range of subjects spanning from terrorism and heroism to survival and the challenges of parenting. Other stories include an illustrated essay by Dean Motter; a Walt Whitman-penned meditation on death illustrated by Quique Alcatena; Darko Macan’s “An Expert Opinion” on breaking the cycle of violence; and “T.V. Exec Visits Ground Zero” by TV Funhouse creator Robert Smigel and his Ex-Presidents collaborator, artist Michael Kupperman

I hope you find something on the list that informs and inspires you. Thank you for stopping by and I wish you a great week.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2011. All rights reserved.

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About htwilson

born in brooklyn, raised in queens, massachusetts, that's where I be.
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