Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memorials Everywhere

American flag stickers appeared in cab windows. I remember a friend
pointing out that it was a way for the mostly immigrant cabbies to
display or, from a more cynical perspective, feign patriotism.

On September 12th, it seemed like we awoke to winter. It felt as if some cosmic warmth switch had been flicked off.

When I returned to work, I began to receive notes and letters of condolence from other locations. The international headquarters even set up an intranet site for electronic versions of these greetings. In one of the most surreal moments of my life, I opened a message from the Beirut office, expressing their sorrow and horror that such a thing had happened to New York.

Soon, memorials sprung up everywhere, a constant reminder we were living on the front lines of a war we didn't sign up for or entirely understand.

The Empire State Building from my bedroom window

First, American flags appeared everywhere. The Empire State Building was lit in red, white and blue for what felt like forever. Then, the I Love New York More Than Ever posters. Even in Times Square, American flags were hung on every surface.

Flags on building under construction, Times Square, fall-winter 2001

Street vendor's table in Times Square, fall-winter 2001

Hardest of all, were the countless tiny photos on huge posters outside firehouses throughout the city. You'd turn a corner and unexpectedly be faced with all those faces.

I think they were meant to be twin towers of sunflowers

There was a project that planted pairs of sunflowers up Seventh Avenue. In the Village, it intersected with a tile memorial on Greenwich and Seventh Avenues, near what was then Our Name is Mud. I began to paint tiles and mugs there, trying to reopen creative doors within myself. I'd try to get my neighbor Kay to come when she could.

Kay was a nurse at NYU Downtown, where the first victims were taken on September 11th. She'd tell me about patients missing huge portions of their bodies or covered in burns. She described some who were fighting to recover, others understandably overwhelmed by despair; everyone healing and grieving at their own pace.

Tiles on the Greenwich Avenue side. The Seventh Avenue
side of the memorial is visible in the background.

The face was my favorite

The tiles were sent from pottery studios all over the country

During the holidays, the trees along the avenues were decorated with red, white and blue lights, as was the massive Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. NY1 had reported that the tree was on its way from Wayne, NJ. If you know me at all, you know my favorite band, Dramarama is from Wayne. I left for work early that morning so I could stop to see the tree.

I turned the corner and was greeted by countless American flags. It was breathtaking.

Rockefeller Center, November 2001. Normally, the flags represented
every state. During the holidays, they were silver and gold.

I must have cried everyday for months, out of grief, survivor's guilt and the memorials everywhere I turned serving as constant reminders of the losses that, while miraculously not impacting me directly, touched my New Yorker's soul deeply.

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