Tribute, Part 1

tribute test, originally uploaded by xpressbus.

It’s funny how the most profound moments in life sneak up on you.

I expect to be moved to tears when I go to see, say, Hotel Rwanda. But as I was walking last night from Point A (dinner with a friend at ‘wichcraft in the Flatiron) to Point B (another friend’s gig at Arlene’s Grocery), I didn’t expect to be confronted with the brevity of life, the passing of time, and reflections on what really matters in life.

But it’s 9/11 anniversary time. And those lights are back.

The first time I saw the Tribute in Lights was from the top of the Empire State Building, on the six-month anniversary of the Towers’ collapse. By all counts, the perfect vantage point. But they mean so much more to me when I’m just walking through the East Village, and they peek above the skyline, shooting up into nowhere.

So many memories came flooding back as I walked downtown last night, staring at the lights the whole way. I moved to New York in June 2001 and lived four blocks from the WTC. I’d moved to Astoria on September 1, but my memories of downtown were plenty fresh as I walked across the 59th Street Bridge that day.

I remember being overwhelmed with a sense that things would never be the same—this was before we had any clue about the loss of life, before I’d seen any newscasts, and well before we had any clue who was responsible and what that meant. I just looked down at the plume of smoke that had replaced those tall buildings and thought, “One of the world’s most iconic skylines has been changed forever.”

It sounds so shockingly selfish now. I felt it in the moment, too. The buildings that dominated that skyline held thousands of people. But on another level, the iconicism is what makes New York… well, New York. A city unlike any other. Without a doubt, people matter so much more, but the skyline is still significant because it matters to people. It represents something: something different to everyone who’s made the move here, but for so many of us, the fulfillment of some sort of dream. So to see those two big chunks taken out on 9/11, to see holes torn in the tapestry of the hopes and dreams the citizens of this city have woven together—it was profound to me. It was heartbreaking.

So when I’m walking around the city, just doing my thing, and those towers of light confront me… I don’t even know how to put it into words. A failure for a writer, but one I suspect many others share. They are the perfect tribute to me. They illuminate—giving light to the city left behind. They point up—reminding us that there is more than the earth on which we rebuild. And they are present—able to be seen from any point in the city, like a compass point; an anchor that helps us get our bearings as we chase after the dreams that brought us here in the first place.

I’ve been thinking for a couple of weeks that I want to transition into telling more stories here, to practice the art of fiction with some inspiration from the truth. I was planning to write about experiences from my travels, but I’m going to start at home. In this week, where I can gaze across the bridge at the lights, I’ll tell stories from those moments that still resonate so deeply with me, nine years later.

More to come.


2 Responses to “Tribute, Part 1”

  1. 1 Jackie 9 September 2010 at 14:50

    Great post Jen … Keep on blogging!

    I think we will all remember that day, even those of us who were far away. One of my most vivid memories is the point (about 45 minutes AFTER I heard the first reports, which happened as I drove to the office on my way to work about 6:35 AM) when I suddenly realized “oh no …. Jen is there!!” I was afraid to call your Mom, but knew that I had to. I can still hear the relief in her voice when she said “Jen is OK” … and even the memory of that phrase still moves me to tears.

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