September 11th (Patriot Day on my wall calendar)
…Memories come back—fainter, more muffled after all these years but still that feeling deep in the nerves and bones—reverberations of the shock, disbelief and fear from that awful day.
After those buildings fell and all those people died the city has never felt quite the same—always, underneath all the getting and spending, all the business of daily life, there is a small but pulsing sense of doubt and worry.
And it’s not just New York City. Obviously, the entire country has changed; doubt, suspicion, fear and a trillion dollar governmental reaction—wars and police powers and suspension of liberties, the government spying on its own citizens. (Did I mention it’s Patriot Day?)
What will the future be like? Do we see any shift or change in the way our society behaves that might indicate a reaction to the reaction—a movement to reclaiming the liberties we had before that day? Or maybe we never really had these all those liberties to begin with (and if you’re black in America, you never had these liberties from the start)… Maybe it was all an illusion and the great increase in income inequality and governmental police powers was inevitable; it just took that day to flip the switch to activate machinery that was already in place and ready to go (or was in place from the very founding of the country).
You can see that anything even faintly resembling the great political protests and movements of the Sixties is stopped before it even gets started or met with overwhelming force. When a volunteer army was created just after the Vietnam War we took the first step toward what might ultimately be a dictatorship.
Alright— enough of that for now.
September 11th… I see my sixteen year old son emptying out his small savings account and walking the money over to the local fire-house where they were taking donations to help the families of men who lost their lives that day.
I see the shocked and hopeless look on the face of a man on the next block who lost his wife that day.
I see the fighter planes in the sky and down on Wall Street where the WBAI studios used to be, I see army troops, looking grim and nervous, wearing combat uniforms and carrying automatic weapons.
And I feel, once again, that strange—and for New York—extraordinary quiet that settled over the city for several days afterward. It was the kind of thing that you experience after someone dies… an awed, respectful silence. It was the only time in my life in New York City that I ever saw that happen; quiet and kindness and a sense that things had changed forever. It was a great pause in the crashing, mindless materialism that always ran through the city like a rushing flood. I felt, then, a sense of real hope and possibility. From that extraordinary moment we could have gone anywhere…