New York City has a rapid metabolism; a lot happens here, and even when it’s something unpleasant, the wound closes quickly, and rarely leaves much of a scar. September 11th was different, though: it hurt us very badly indeed, and though we don’t have much of a limp these days, we are still shaken. Today here in Gotham the old pain was back again, throbbing and aching, and the hole where the towers used to be still feels like a missing tooth.
Our family was lucky. My wife and I were still at home in Brooklyn when the planes went in, and our son, then thirteen, was safe at school nearby. But my daughter, who had just begun her junior year, was at Stuyvesant High School, about five hundred yards from Ground Zero. She and her classmates gazed in horror from an eighth-floor classroom directly facing the doomed towers, and saw the first one fall before they were evacuated onto West Street and left to find their own way northward amid the panicking throng. My wife and I, watching from our rooftop across the harbor as the ghastly pall of smoke blew directly over us, had no idea what had become of her, and grew more and more anxious as the day wore on. It was not until five or six that evening that she was finally able to get through to us on the telephone – tearful, but safe.
But everyone, as far as I can tell, knows someone who died that day.
As I say, New York is a resilient place – vibrantly alive if any place on Earth is – and we’re fine, mostly. But there are some wounds here that will never fully heal, and today you couldn’t be in the city without being aware of the presence of a great sorrow, the collective grief of the millions who mourn the thousands who died.
As I look out my back door I see, rising from the site about three miles away, the brilliant columns of light that pierce the sky every year on this day, towering to the very zenith. I hope our neighbor, firefighter David Fontana of Rescue Company One, who gave his life – on his wedding anniversary – to save the lives of so many others, can see them too.