Five years. I can hardly believe it's been that long. And I wonder at the same time why that seems such a significant marker. Because it's half a decade? It's funny how we give certain spans of time importance over others. Six months. A year. Five years. Ten. Twenty. Twenty-five. And the leap to 50, to 75, to the century mark, when all of us who lived to see this will be, despite miraculous medical advances, dead, most likely, and this will be just another moment in history, rather than a significant moment in our personal history, a "where were you when . . .?" moment.
I can't bring myself to call this an anniversary. Anniversaries should be for happy occasions in my mind. Calling it that strips the event of its portentousness, its horror, its sadness. Yet there's no other word in English for it. And because it's five years, there are reminders everywhere, more than usual, coupled with a new bickering about interpretation and what, exactly, happened, and I find myself remembering and thinking more than I really want to, and sitting in tears at what comes back. In those five years, I thought I'd moved past it, because God knows I've had enough else going on in my life since then, that's been equally uncontrollable. But, I suspect that, like many New Yorkers who were here that day, it's much closer to the surface than we expected, even after all this time and all this change.
Five years ago, I still lived in Brooklyn. Five years ago, we had no Axis of Evil. Five years ago, Kath and I were still fast friends. Five years ago we still had civil rights. Five years ago, I had a different job. Five years ago torture wasn't an official U.S. policy. Five years ago, Peri was still married to a nice man and struggling artist who hadn't seen a flaming fuselage and dead bodies. Five years ago, only the phobic were afraid to fly. Five years ago I still had parents. Five years ago citizens weren't disappearing as though they lived under a fascist dictator. Five years ago I'd never made a book by hand. Five years ago, we weren't at war. Five years ago, it was all so ordinary for us here, in New York, in this country. Five years ago. Five years.
So little time, so much change.
Some of us it broke,
the ones who were already fragile,
or who thought themselves
the center, and could not hold
in this new and sudden vortex.
Some were made the center
by character and action
or unwittingly by chance
and bore it with a fierce grace.
Some it brought a moment of clarity
wrapped in smoke and ash.
Some it plunged into darkness,
or made their own lurking night starless, moonless,
Some, who’d known war, it brought
and to those who hadn’t,
Some rose to the occasion,
never to rise again.
Many slates were wiped clean.
Some lost love, and a few gained only fear
and a new shrillness.
Some seized the opportunity
for power and acquisition
disguising it as vision, while
many of us, wandering, inhaled the dust of demolition
leaving more than lungs scarred,
and the memory of a hot electric stench
that will never mean anything else.
Just this one event
to tumble everything we thought we were
into everything we truly were
before, making us
what we are now,
–September 7, 2006, NYC
© Lee Kottner, 2006
Requiescat in pace.
"Be the change you want to see in the world."