September 11th. I didnít want to write about it anymore, I didnít even want to talk about it. But in the chat room the other night I got asked about whatís the mood like in New York right now. And I talked about it going down to Union Square Park. And then I talked about some other, less depressing stuff (like how to pick up space if he were a 7 year-old girl), and then logged off.
I thought Iíd be fine with it. But then I lay in bed, awake, just thinking. And the minutes passed and I kept thinking. And thinking. Until finally there was nothing left to do but boot up the old computer and get writing.
So, now Iím here and not exactly certain what to say. First, I guess, Iím very satisfied with George Bushís speech from last week. I wished he hadnít done it in front of Congress, with all that showy clapping and standing, but he did what he needed to do. Said what he needed to say. No rush to war, because we arenít going to war, we are going after justice. And for that I am glad.
Our government has shown remarkable restraint when a lot of its citizens have been making all manner of Osama bin Laden jokes or screaming to bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age (too late). I donít think I went that far, but even if I did, itís nice to know our leaders are a bit more level headed. Iíd never have suggested freezing anyoneís bank account as a proper response to killing 6000 people, but Iím not an elected official, am I?
So, the question of what the mood in New York is right now. Tough to say, really. Are things back to normal? No. I donít know what you in the rest of the country (and world) are feeling right now, but as of this moment, things here really have changed, and it is tough to imagine that things will ever get back to normal.
Iíve yet to force myself to look at the giant hole in the skyline where the World Trade Center used to be, but I did go down to Union Square Park this weekend. Union Square is hardly a park really, just three square blocks with a couple of trees and some patches of grass. Union Square is where they filmed the opening scenes of Mad About You. They have a statue of Ghandi there and four days a week they have the cityís best farmerís market.
But, more important than any of those facts is that Union Square Park is right at the northern cutoff of where they closed the city the day after the attack. On September 12th, it was the southernmost point any non-rescue-involved New Yorker could venture. Mind you, there is a good two miles south of Union Square ground zero was just that large an area. Since it was the closest point people could get to the towers it was where people congregated, lit candles, hugged strangers, and sang.
Now, a common passerby can get within two blocks of ground zero, but people are still congregating at Union Square Park. When I went on Saturday night people were still singing, still lighting candles, still hugging strangers, still grieving.
I can only say it was the most amazing human situation Iíd ever personally witnessed. Iíve seen videos of (the first) Woodstock, thousands of people singing, and doing drugs and loving each other. Iíve seen news clips whenever the pope goes somewhere and a hundred thousand people show up to pray together. Those, I imagine, are magical places to be, with love just so think in the air itís hard to breathe. That is what is what like in Union Square Park.
On an average summer Saturday night, there would probably be a large number of people sitting, or passing through Union Square Park. But all these people were stopped, purposefully. They werenít concerned with getting from point A to point B, they were concerned with sharing their grief and somehow hoping to understand just what the heck happened.
Now, this is New York. No one loves anyone here. But complete strangers were singing together. In a city where space is a premium, hundreds of people where standing shoulder to shoulder.
The park is about three city blocks big, one block wide and three long. Every single square inch of the park was full. Full of people, full of candles, full of cards, posters, flowers and hundreds of other little shows of affection and remembrance.
In one part of the park, a group of about 50 Tibetans were chanting. In another part were some Hare Krishnas. In another part of the park were a group of teenagers playing drums and doing freestyle. In another part were over a hundred people singing Amazing Grace. But mostly, people were just walking around, lighting candles of their own, and reading all the cards and posters people had left.
I donít feel like Iím doing a very good job describing things... what it was really like to be down there. For that I apologize. I do, however, feel much better having tried.
I think you did a wonderful job for such a hard task! I wish I could be there to take some photos of that, it sounds so wonderful that so many people are together in such a (so called) cold city. I think NY gets a bad rap for the most part. People from out of town talk about how "scary" NY is and how NY'ers do not care about anyone but themselves. I learned otherwise several years ago. There really are a good many NY'ers who *do* care and who *do* feel. You also showed that here in what you wrote. Good Job MG...I enjoyed hearing it!
by Pristine at September 26, 2001 1:00 PM
I too was haunted by that chat room conversation. The thought of all those disparate groups of people, gathering to comfort one another, and the ground covered in wax... everything still so unimaginable. I don't blame you for not looking at that hole in the skyline yet. Have some good friends there with you when you do, ok?
by kd at September 26, 2001 2:02 PM
Bravo, Mg! Great presentation......perhaps, btc and toc could join you some weekend this fall and take a trip to Union Square... I'll bring my digital camera.
by othercheek at September 26, 2001 6:25 PM
I just wanna say congratulations man. Or something like that. Your account of that experience brought it to life. I been to New York last year, and the atmosphere then was fantastic. I'm just kinda finding it hard to imagine it changed forever... Good luck
by doddsy at September 29, 2001 6:59 AM
I can hardly ever get in the chat. The IRC server seems to go down A LOT. Maybe we should see if we can get on the Blog IRC server, instead.
by Charles at September 30, 2001 11:04 PM
by Sam at October 12, 2003 8:11 PM