Friday, September 9, 2011

Ten Years After 9/11

View of the new tower, One World Trade Center, 
as it is being built from Hudson River Park (July 2011)

It is hard to believe that the 9/11 terrorism attacks happened ten years ago.

I remember running a fire drill in New York University’s dormitory in Florence, Italy, around 3 PM on September 11, 2001. The students took over ten minutes to exit the building and I was frustrated. Yes, I was partly frustrated because there was a bit of a contest between the villas to see who could run the fastest fire drill and apparently I couldn't.

I think I might have said something to the students lazily walking down the stairs about how dangerous it would be if there had really been a fire. That people could have died. That is, if something had happened. I know, the villa was mostly made of stone and the structure burning was unlikely, but we had to follow American protocol with these "pretend fires," as one local called them.

After the drill, I went back into the office and received a phone call from a professor living on campus. He was the first to tell me what happened. He liked to joke and I thought he must have been telling a bad joke. When someone came running into the office with tears running down her face, I knew he wasn't.

We quickly got to work. In the midst of helping the students, I tried to check-in with family and friends back home. Of course, as we all remember, phones were down. I was able to get through my Aunt Dora, who was 93 at the time and almost always at home in a New Jersey suburb. She passed messages between me and my parents. I thought of all of my friends, those I still talked to regularly and those I had lost touch with, who lived or worked in New York City. Throughout the next few days, I managed to find everyone I imagined was missing.

Today, I might hear plane pass low and suddenly feel afraid. It doesn’t seem as though ten years have really passed. But they have. The world that existed that morning, or afternoon for those of us in Italy, before the first plane struck and the world today is quite different.

Writers have been doing their job of writing about that day and the world as we know it now. Facts have been cataloged and analyzed. Human truths have come to the surface. We’ve all been changed and writers can be thanked for helping us to understand what happened, from the dangers, like increased discrimination and hatred, and the joy, like the re-connections and community.

Here are some places to find poems and art that help to illuminate what happened and our changed world:

Poems After the Attack, An Poetry anthology

What else would you recommend?

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