Monday, May 03, 2004

because I had to find a way to say it

I was writing a post about the visit we took to WTC, but then my computer crashed because it was folding too many proteins and I lost the post. I figured it was one of those things and that I had to rewrite the post again. But rewriting it was harder than I thought it would be. So, I'll try it again.


The E line's last stop is WTC. It is our last stop for the day. We take our time as the SO calculates light and shadow figuring that it be best to arrive there later in the day rather than early morning. So we meander to B&H Photo, the mecca for photographers and videographers run by Hasidic Jews. One stands frozen for several minutes before finally deciding which section to begin browsing in.

The SO and I had discussed our reasons for wanting to go to WTC. It seemed more than just "to see." Only going there would really answer that question. I had never seen the buildings when they were standing, so I can only imagine how large they might have been, based on the numerous tourist kitch that contains their image, how they truly embodied the word "skyscraper." I wonder if it was like looking at the giant sequoias, and we are the birds and squirrels and animals running up and down its limbs and branches.

The train empties to a larger plaza where most of the people rush back and forth from the ferries that take you to New Jersey and cities like Hoboken. (which until this day had only been in my mind a city from where the penguin who cries ice cubes on a Bugs Bunny cartoon hailed) There is a large pane window where the sunlight pours from the construction site. The natives pass by this everyday. The tourists are drawn to the sunlight, take pictures and videotape.

We walk up the steps to the sidewalk. There is an old chapel surrounded by trees and Century Department Store that boasts the lowest prices in town. Shopping and Religion. There are numerous tourists here reading the signs on the metal fence outlining the center's history. How they consolidated 14 city blocks to form these 7 buildings. I had heard that the towers were so tall they sat along the flight path of migrating geese, thousands of which died upon it's glassy surface by instinct or habit.

Throughout the rest of the city, the wind breezes and swirls past you in gusts tossing even the tips of my long hair into the air. Here, it comes softly with no cliff faces to tumble upon. Even the wind knows, this is a place to slow down and contemplate. The rusting I-Beam cross stands marking the memorial that has come to repeat itself around the world of the day the building fell.

There is a flautist hoping his patriotic songs will embolden people to drop pocket change into his cup. He plays American Revolution fife songs. Marching peppy songs. Somehow, this soundtrack seems inappropriate to the feelings and thoughts I am having.

I am not familiar with buildings. I am familiar with holes. Like the one on Kearney in SF, holes fill with stories of the lives that are attached to this place. In densely populated SF and NY, spaces like these left open are painful reminders like raw sores. The outcry is almost always to build another building to replace the one that stood. Square footage is too expensive not to. A friend thinks it should be made into a park. My coworker thinks they should build an even grander building, one that rivals the tallest buildings in the world as in Asia, so that America can have the grandest structure in the world.

I read the names of the people killed September 11, their names listed for everyone to see. And I wonder about the names of people who will never be listed here. The names of the military who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. I will never be able to see their names nor their faces. How many lives, I wonder, will fill this hole.

My coworker tells me seeing the hole makes him angry. Angry at the people who took away his chance to see these monuments of grand architecture. He sees concrete and steel as men and women. It is much more tangible this way.

I cannot help but feel remorse and regret. This destruction is the consequence of our actions. A chain of cause and effect that perhaps has been cultivated for generations to bring us to this moment. Did the people that day deserve to die? Was it their time? What of the ones that die each day? What did we truly lose that day? Is it so easily counted like bricks and bodies?

When something is taken away, our instinctive reaction is to fill it, to replace, to bring everything back to the way it once was to turn back time. We dislike space. Space is chaos easily filled with any probability. We don't like chaos we want predictability even if that predictability comes at a greater cost. We would rather fill space with something tangible. The new buildings will bring new business and people and money. A park cannot be so easily itemized.

The precision of the tragedy is artful. Only two other buildings across from the center still have considerable and visible damage yet the structures are still viable and standing. Scientists study how the towers were able to fall straight down as opposed to wiping out a few other city blocks by tumbling to the side. But that's what happens with focus so pure. It's easy to get caught up in the beauty of a sword strike only to forget the amount of destruction even beauty can possess.

I remembered I spent the evening of Sept 11, 2001 teaching Kali. It fell on a Tuesday. It was warm. Class was outside. We closed class by forming a circle. The students closed their eyes concentrated on their breathing. I walked to each person, placed one hand behind their back, the other in front of their chest and prayed. I don't remember what I prayed. I only remembered that my teacher had done this once with his students. It seemed appropriate for me to do the same now. Perhaps I prayed that they may find their way through the chaos, to not be afraid and to fill this space with love. I don't know. But it's what I prayed for before getting back on the train.

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