Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11

Many people have questioned, since the very beginning, America's involvement in the events of September 11, 2001. Many are calling for an independent, international investigation. For more information see 911blogger.com and 911forthetruth.com.

Union Square vigil, NYC

I was in NYC on that day and in the weeks after. The following are some excerpts from my 9-11-01 journal:

September 15, 2001

Last night at about 11:30pm I went to Union Square to take part in the vigil going on there. Part of me just wanted to go to bed, but I had not yet participated in any way in this "Day of Remembrance"--and since I have a suspicion that prayer does make a difference, I felt a sense of duty to go and add to the numbers.

The first thing that struck me as I walked from my neighborhood towards the square was the number of people in bars and night clubs--just like any other Friday night--dressed to the nines, talking fluff on their cell phones, resuming what now seems like such an inappropriate, if not meaningless, social activity. I was carrying a candle and was dressed in jeans and a sweater. Who can think about makeup and tight clothing at a time like this?

The scene in Union Square was 180 degrees from that. I was very touched by the number of people who had gathered. There were candles EVERYWHERE. Impromptu shrines were set up on the walls, the drinking fountains, in the grass. People had drawn "love" and "peace" in chalk on the base of a statue of some general on a horse, and put an American flag in his upraised hand.

There were millions of flowers, poems, photographs, drawings, murals, collages and candles upon candles. There were even people who seemed to have taken on the job of relighting the candles that had gone out. People were passing out food. I felt as if I had been transported back to the 60s and was encouraged to see so many people standing for Peace amidst a horrible attack.

In one part of the park there was a drum circle with people chanting, in another corner, a heated argument, in another, a guy with a guitar leading songs. Around the main shrine where a piece of metal from the WTC stands, people were sitting and standing in prayer and reflection. The variety of faces was fascinating. I would glance around the circle from time to time and see many new people filtering in and out. At one point, as I scanned the crowd, I saw face, face, face, dog, face. Someone from behind had held up their Greyhound so the dog could see into the circle. It made me smile. This disgrace is not only an affront to humanity...but to LIFE.

At one point a man began to shout hysterically. "Who has an ANSWER?! There are 2000 of us here. Someone MUST have the ANSWER! SOMEBODY TELL ME WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO!!!"

After sitting there for about an hour, I decided to walk through the park to experience the other groups that had gathered. There were so many forms of expression happening simultaneously, with quiet beauty and grace. I hadn't realized it right away, but there were many discussion "huddles" of people straining to hear what the speaker was saying. I joined one of these groups, and ended up standing there for the next 4 hours.

They had a "talking stick" and the rule was that only one person was permitted to speak at a time, without interruption or response. When they yielded the stick, another person could express themselves. This was the most powerful thing I've yet seen. Utter strangers discussing their feelings, their fears and anger, their criticisms of themselves and of America, pleas for peace, pleas for retaliation.

And then someone mentioned passive resistance.

I have often wondered if a time would come when I would be able to actually practice the passive resistance that I so admire in figures such as Gandhi, MLK Jr., Jesus... The question is, would passive resistance work against a terrorist mentality? It has been proven to work against oppression. Would it work against aggression?

It's absolutely fascinating to watch a Peace Movement forming right before my eyes, and so quickly on the heels of so much immediate loss of life here. There are those who demand retaliation, but often decisions made in haste and rage are the wrong ones. I think the most important need here at the moment is the dissemination of ACCURATE, OBJECTIVE historical information about America's relations with the rest of the world, particularly the middle east. We need to be educated--and fast!

September 16, 2001

It seems like a YEAR since Tuesday. And yet the individual days seem to go by very fast.

I spent last night and again today in Union Square where thousands of people still congregate to hold vigil and pay respects. I spent some time walking around to all the missing persons posters trying to feel some sense of the reality of this thing. But it's too overwhelming. There are posters plastered everywhere. On phone booths, walls, fire hydrants, trees, even cars with desperate determination. But Giuliani announced today that there are no more "john doe's" in the hospitals. Everybody has been identified. We can infer that the 5000+ that are still missing are now presumed dead.

In the park today, a group of about 100 Tibetans were gathered with prayer beads, incense and flags, chanting. In another area, a large crowd of Mexican people with their red, white and green flag, and portraits of the Virgin were calling out the names of the missing, and their countries of origin, in spanish. There are candles and wax everywhere, and the grass is trompled to mud. The chicken-wire fences that were meant to keep people off the lawns have long since been tossed aside.

The breadth of creative expression in the park is remarkable. Someone has created a giant likeness of the twin towers entirely out of flowers on the lawn. Around it, other people have added poems and quotations and candles. There are children's drawings of the world trade center being attacked by planes taped to fences. There are piles of paper cranes being strung and hung from telephone poles. There are hand made posters, paintings, sculptures--one is a giant american flag welded out of metal that people are scratching thoughts into with a metal object.

There are hippie Christians singing songs with a guitar and distributing leaflets and street preachers shouting through microphones. Other religious groups are handing out free sandwiches. The Tibetan ladies in traditional dress are handing out coca-cola in little plastic cups.

I spent most of the day with a group of jazz musicians who were playing for Peace.

There's lots of wierdness too. There's a lady dressed up like the Statue of Liberty who will let you take your picture with her if you donate to the Red Cross. She was standing up on a box with a huge crowd around explaining how she was a school teacher from Indiana...blah...blah..blah. Last night I heard someone playing "Yankee Doodle" on a piccolo. What the hell? Then there was a Broadway chorus singing "It's up to you, New York, New York." Then of course there are many small groups of musicians singing the peace ballads of the 60's. And it struck me that we have not yet had time to write our own songs about this tragedy or this upcoming war, so we're having to appropriate music from other eras and circumstances. None of it quite fits the occasion, but in one form or another, it does seem to soothe.

Probably the most disturbing sight is all the "memorabilia" that has sprung up overnight. T-shirts, hats, posters, American flags--even candles--being peddled in every shape and size. So just as we've all been reminded this week that there are ill-willed maniacs living among us, we are also confronted with the fact that many among us are quick to profit from the loss and tragedy of others.

Tomorrow the Mayor wants us all to go back to work. For most of us, work seems pretty meaningless at this point...but what else can we do?

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