Reading, writing, and talking can help us process the devastating attacks of ten years ago without submitting to fear and despair. Below are some reflections on 9/11 we find especially moving. An unexpected empathy swelled after 9/11, and we hope on the tenth anniversary to recover this compassion.
Sketchbook, Maria Kalman, The New Yorker:
From the caption: By the time the 9/11 memorial site is completed, more than four hundred swamp white oaks will have been planted. They will provide a dappled haven from the urban frenzy and solace from the horrors of history. In the center of the plaza stands a single Callery-pear tree. A burned stump after the attack, it was nursed back to health at the Arthur Ross Nursery, in the Bronx. Brought to its present spot, it flourishes. Where there’s life, there’s hope.
Frank Rich, New York Magazine: “Now, ten years later, it’s remarkable how much our city, like the country, has moved on. Decades are not supposed to come in tidy packages mandated by the calendar’s arbitrary divisions, but this decade did. For most Americans, the cloud of 9/11 has lifted. Which is not to say that a happier national landscape has been unveiled in its wake….Thanks to the killing of the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and the scattering of Al Qaeda, at least no one can say, ten years later, that the terrorists won. But if there’s anything certain about the new decade ahead, it’s that sooner or later we will have to address the question of exactly who did.”
Jim Dwyer, In Love With War, The New York Times: “At vast cost in human capital, we carved 9/11 into the history of loss in other places, the enmities of a decade rising from the horrors of the day. But the majesty of that day does not belong to the chronicles of war. It lives in truths the size of atoms, nearly invisible and — one hopes — indestructible….That morning, Raffaele Cava, age 80, was working on the 90th floor of the north tower. After the plane hit, no one could open the exits, so he went to another office and sat with Dianne DeFontes and Tirsa Moya. The hall floors were melting. Suddenly, two men in the stairwell pried open the door, walked in and ordered everyone to go. They were Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz, Port Authority employees who worked one flight down, and who took it on themselves to climb up and down 14 floors, getting scores of people out. They never left. Tirsa Moya walked Raffaele Cava down all 90 floors. You could ask no more of human beings.”
A clip from episode 8 of Ric Burns’ fantastic New York documentary, featuring Columbia professor Kenneth Jackson, former mayors Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch, and poet Allen Ginsberg. The rest of the episode is available on YouTube in pieces.