The following is from a series of musings on trauma, memory, community, and place. The introduction to the series and beginning essay [link] explains the purpose of this month of entries.
I remember in those days after “the Fall” attending a memorial concert at Lincoln Center.
Beverly Mills gave a little speech.
Classical music was played.
Originating on another continent and from another era.
We are “civilized”, after all.
Which appears to mean voluntarily living in someone else’s past.
Nonetheless, our bags were checked before we entered the concert hall.
A theater full of suspicious individuals.
It was rather disturbing, sitting there.
The metaphor for New York has always been: “a place where you are alone in a crowd of people”.
It made me feel worse, if that were even possible.
No one shared anything; no one spoke to their unknown neighbor.
I walked home alone, completely removed from my surroundings.
I attempted at one point to document what happened with some diary pages.
And then much later I took them all down.
It wasn’t about me, that day.
I wrote instead about how thousands of tales formed multiple ungraspable narratives.
It was important to listen to and understand as many as possible.
If not all of them.
This, as a goal, often forms the basis of various national reconciliations.
For good reason.
I had grown weary of outsiders claiming the trauma of that day for themselves.
As a revenge fantasy.
As an excuse for war.
As a reason to be a tourist in New York City.
To visit “the Hole”.
I remember the days when commuting downtown to work was an exercise in avoidance.
By this I mean to say steering clear of anyone who might ask The Question.
Like one family in the subway I remember who sat rather uncomfortably as the father tried to make sense of his subway map.
Finally he turned to me and blurted out: “Does this train go to the Twin Towers?”
I replied: “It used to. The Twin Towers don’t exist anymore though.”
“I mean Ground Zero.”
“Why would you want to go to Ground Zero?”
“To see the hole!” he said, angrily.
“Just so you know, the hole is not in the ground, but in the sky. Those of us who know where to look know what is missing.”
He turned and asked someone else his question.
What I said fell on absolutely deaf ears.
This might be referred to as wallowing in the misfortune of others.
Making a spectacle out of others’ woes.
Taking an other’s trauma and wearing it like a mantle.
While dismissing it in the original bearer.
This is an ignoble remove from reality.
Especially when the taken-on trauma is selective, according to criteria of class, and race, and religion.
Trauma cannot be segregated.
I recall Afghani immigrants selling photo albums of the Towers in the days afterward down at Battery Park.
A depravity of Dantesque proportions.
Image: The Islamic Center of America | Date: August, 2011 | Place: Dearborn, Michigan | Credit: CNN | Caption: Dearborn, Michigan has one of the largest expatriate Lebanese communities in the United States. I felt a certain affinity with it place-wise for having designed a story in Saveur magazine on the traditions of Ramadan. It was the first time the magazine received hate mail, written on American flag stationery. A few years later, the center itself was defaced as shown.