Thursday, September 11, 2014

Let There Be Light - Remembering 9/11

Like most people, I know exactly where I was when the Twin Towers came down. 

I was having lunch in the Groucho Club in London’s Soho with my best friend Elizabeth and the writer Keith Waterhouse. A waiter came over to tell us that we should go upstairs to watch the TV as a plane had just gone into one of the Towers.
I sat, in a crowded room, in complete silence, watching, with disbelief, the sight that has now become one of the most devastating in our lifetime.
Initial rumours were that 20,000 were feared dead, and in the French House, a local pub, a priest openly prayed in the bar.
It is 13 years today since the attacks took place, and time has not lessened the impact on the city. Among New Yorkers, there is bitterness that the tragedy has subsequently turned into a political argument over money; another dispute centres on the six minute film in the museum, which apparently fails to point out that the majority of Muslims are peace-loving, law-abiding citizens who do not run around blowing up buildings.
Others complain that the Freedom Tower that has gone up in the original Towers’ place is not tall enough. They wanted the biggest two-finger salute to Al Qaeda that it was possible to build.
But, for many New Yorkers, 9/11 is too painful to talk about, and they have no desire to visit the site, nor engage in any commemoration of it. As one said to me: “I lived through it. Why would I want to be reminded?”
I went to the site earlier this year - a perfect spring day in the Financial District, where the streets are eerily dark in the shadows of the buildings that stand sentry all around. Older buildings that look as if they could do with a good clean lend a grubbiness to the area, like poor relations who come to visit their better off cousins who long outstripped them in terms of wealth. In Liberty Square, the scent of tulips was overwhelming, the red and yellow adding some much needed colour among the greys and browns of stone and concrete.
And then there it is: an unostentatious tower of light like an angel that has descended unannounced, quietly, to restore order.
It is exquisitely beautiful. Most of my time here, since I arrived five months ago, has been spent photographing buildings rather than people, but the Freedom Tower is something else. Of course, its presence is loaded with the sadness of 9/11, which gives added poignancy to its place in New York history; but it also stands alone, both literally and metaphorically. It is the light of the future and, while the past will never be forgotten, it is a reminder that courage, fortitude and love remain at the heart of the human spirit.
When 9/11 happened, I wondered, if I had been a passenger on one of the planes, knowing it was the end, what my one regret in life would have been.
It was that I had never lived in Paris. The following week, I was on the Eurostar out of London to pick up the keys to an apartment in the 6th arrondissement, where I stayed for a joyous four years.
Ever since 9/11, I have tried not to live a Could’ve Would’ve Should’ve kind of existence. I cannot begin to imagine what it was like to live through the tragedy, nor to lose someone in such horrific circumstances.
But it taught me a lot about life: that it really is short, but it is also beautiful. 

Yes, there is darkness along the way, but it can turn on a dime.

You just need to look among the shadows for the angels.  


No comments:

Post a Comment