I have never written a daylog before. The first portion of the following was posted on my homenode, composed in the first few hours of my day and not submitted with the express intention of refraining from the creation of further unnecessary memorials, and protecting personal, empirically unsupportable thoughts from voting, positive or negative. I did not feel my experiences or thoughts warranted any degree of permanence. The section is unaltered but for the addition of links.
I hope those to whom I spoke of this will forgive what at first glance must appear a blatant hypocrisy and understand why I have chosen to submit it after all, with the addendum of the second section.
I do not intend to daylog again.
For one day only, I will write something on this subject, this damn subject, that much as I hate to admit it is in my thoughts. Believe me, I would rather it were not.
I was born in Chicago. I lived in the suburbs. I moved to New York. I live there still. I, like thousands of others, watched the towers fall--live. Not on TV. I saw them crack and splinter, watched smoke and debris billow out into Manhattan, hanging in the air. I saw people crying, screaming, clutching their hair, covering their faces, turning away at the last moment suddenly posessed of the right idea that they did not want to watch this happen after all. I did not look away. And it looked exactly as it should, these structures falling down. The scene met my expectations. And then, for a moment, I felt sick.
I am no patriot. I am no great fan of this country's practice and procedure, its politics or populace. We are riddled with the huge problems of a huge nation. Comparisons to the declining Roman Empire are apt. Protests against our greed are apt. Screams against our constant pressing of advantage are utterly, thoroughly apt.
However. I will not say the attacks were or are justifiable. Nor will I say otherwise. Some will say this sort of act is never justifiable. Others will say, have said, the country got what it deserved. About time America learned a lesson. About time Americans knew what it was like. Still more say countless other things. No one fucking knows anything at the end of the day. No one. I do not know what it is like to be Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Israeli, Afghani, Palestinian, European, disenfranchised, unemployed, starving, poor, rich, idle, powerful, important, desperate, tall, fat, skinny, black, brown, yellow, olive, blonde, dark, brilliant.
I know what it is like to be short, American, Jewish, with some money, some food, no authority, no power, some desire, some potential, red hair, and enough brilliance to know that my perspective is one point of light in a sky choked with stars. SO IS YOURS. SO IS EVERYONE'S. Do not pretend to greater understanding than you can have. Do not presume to know. You have no secrets, you are not privy to all motives, all reasonings, all experiences. Your belief is your own. You are welcome to it. You are welcome to express it. You are welcome to express it vehemently. You are not welcome, not by me, to say you know anything. Not about this. Not about much.
I will not discuss questions of right and wrong here. That is arrogance. I don't know enough. I will not go into a lengthy discourse about America's evils, the horrible things this country, EVERY COUNTRY, has certainly done. I am no patriot. But there are things in this matter that do enrage me. I am enraged by European and Eastern nations that have the luxury of taking the high road, and sneer back at the U.S. and its dirty work. I am enraged by U.S. corporate greed; I am enraged by the world not mentioning what portion of its interests are held by people overseas. I am enraged by the American media's disgusting coverage and reporting, outraged by the utter lack of any kind of integrity, its saccharine sweetness; I am enraged by the implication that every nation but this one tells its people the whole truth. I am enraged by U.S. self-intereseted involvement in the affairs of the world, I am enraged by those outside the U.S. who benefit from it and say nothing, or worse, speak against it.
I would very much like to see the U.S. withdraw from every position it holds over the planet. Every position, whether we are welcome there or not. Let every nation tend, entirely, to its own affairs. Take no sides, in any matter. Declare total neutrality. Make no war. Flex no muscle. Give no aid. Good fences make good neighbors. We tried that once. Perhaps we gave in to easily--we have worn the mantle of "responsibility" ever since, and have been corrupted by it. The States perhaps should cast it off.
But that too is not that simple. It's a question of degree, the world might say. Simply restrain yourselves, boorish Americans, start doing the right thing. But who's to say what that is? Who is on the side of right? I do not know enough, can never know enough.
Palestine v. Israel, East v. West, America v. the world. That simple, is it? That easy? This is not a fucking game of tennis. No one's paying attention to the lines. Everyone cheats.
I am no patriot. There are changes I would make, things I would not have my country do. Things I would not have your country do. September 11th, September 11th, September 11th. I don't know. I'm tired, so tired, of hearing about it, memorializing it, seeing the footage again and again and again, seeing stamps and stickers, decals on cars, faded flags in windows, We Will Never Forget, Never Ever Never Never Never. But I was lucky. I was very lucky. I didn't lose anyone in the attacks. I don't have to live with the pain of an innocent love one lost. I don't know what that's like either. It's easy for me to sit back, then, and speculate, theorize, pontificate. Maybe it's easy for you too. Maybe not.
I don't know.
By 8:00pm, I had seen enough. All the networks, flipping channels, one to the next, the same footage. Live from St. Peter's. Live from Pennsylvania. Live from Ground Zero. Presidential hand-shaking, head kissing, bugles playing Taps. Everyone a hero in an America on the mend, the Dawn of a New Day, they called it.
My apartment is directly beneath the flight path to LaGuardia. And I admit, I swear, the sound from the planes passing over was louder.
So I closed my window.
A few more minutes' worth of rolling eyes, frustration at the coverage, surely something is going in the world outside the states that I should know about, and I turned the TV off.
I rarely smoke, not more than a pack every two or three weeks. I don't even buy cigarettes anymore. But there was a pack left on my desk, a Brazillian brand from a friend, a novelty. So I took one and lit it with a butane lighter that has a picture of Chairman Mao on it, plays China's national anthem, and burns a green flame. A gift from my boss, another novelty, a two dollar souvenir from her last trip. A hot item in America, she said. The little stand she got it from was always running out.
Blustering winds outside. I'd heard about the winds on the news, they were interfering with broadcasts. I contemplated, snidely, with what meaning I could endow the phenomenon, uncommonly strong winds on this day. They were burning my cigarette down; it was nearly ash to the filter by the time I reached 7th Avenue. Headed for the subway, I passed the neighborhood regulars, mainly young people, loitering outside restaurants, smoking outside a local coffeehouse. No irregularities.
One irregularity. At the doorstep of a single building, shaded from the streetlamps by the awning of the deli next door, a little girl. I am no good with guessing ages--she was not more than twelve.
She sat alone on the step in the dark, taping a small American flag to the glass door, trying to light a low candle in a glass jar in the wind.
I watched for a moment from a few steps off. Four long pieces of Scotch tape sealed down the corners; the little wooden pole attached bent at an awkward angle where the glass pane fit into the door. She struggled with the candle. Bic lighters don't stand up well to a stiff breeze.
I could have helped. I had the lighter in my pocket, a jet-flame, windproof. But I didn't. She didn't want me to, or I didn't think she did. This was her memorial. Between her and whomever she'd lost, if she lost someone. Mother, father, brother, sister, I don't know. Maybe no one. But she was remembering something. She was crying. I could make out the streaks. They reflected in the headlights of passing cars, on and off, in flashes. And there was no crowd around her. There were no cameras, no reporters, no music, no sympathetic commentary. Just her. Sitting alone on a dark step in Brooklyn, remembering.
Then, because I could do nothing else, I got on the subway and carried on with my evening.
She knows something. Something I don't know. Earlier this day, I spoke big words about the world. I expressed big ideas, got angry, frustrated. In the catbox, I scorned memorials, was surprised at the Cool User Picks, felt wholly untouched and above the teeming masses of whimpering, sentimental mourners of September 11th, likewise the whimpering, sentimental mourners of those on the other side of it.
That was easy for me. That was really fucking easy. For me.
There were probably countless other vigils like the one I witnessed. Private, personal. Real. They deserve my respect. My big important ideas have not changed. My small important ones have.
I posted this under September 12, 2002 because it isn't really about September 11th. And by the time it happened, I rather felt that day had sort of already ended.