"Many people jumped. Perhaps hundreds. No one knows. They struck the pavement with such force that there was a pink mist in the air. But he reached for her hand and she reached for his hand and they leaped out the window holding hands. I try to whisper prayers for the sudden dead and the harrowed families of the dead and the screaming souls of the murderers but I keep coming back to his hand and her hand nestled in each other with such extraordinary ordinary succinct ancient naked stunning perfect simple ferocious love."
I emailed Brian Doyle ten years ago --tears streaming down my face -- to thank him for his essay. I read his words and took a few minutes to send him a note of thanks and then I had to go for a walk and get out. Get out. Get out and breathe. His gentle words recalling the memory of a horrific day were a reminder to me, for me about what I've always known but rarely say in a straightforward kind of way and that is, love is what we're here for. Brian responded:
"I thought I could say nothing but silence and prayer but my daughter reminded me of what I have so often said to her: use your tools to carve what grace can be found and sung under pain and brokenness and loss and despair. Such acts are what we are here for."
The anniversary of that day is now upon us yet again. The better angels of my nature tell me to take the day off and not turn on the television. I had the thought as I told a friend, that I might go down there, as a pilgrim of sorts, and retrace my steps. I don't know. We all run the risk of being supersaturated in the subject to the point that it loses it's sacredness. But, I also believe that for some of us, the flooding of our senses again with the memory and the films and pictures will indeed help us all heal and not forget. As if we really could forget.
So I went for a walk with no destination in mind. A perfect, perfect morning, much like that morning had been and I found that the air did my spirit good. I should return to that place when that day comes. And when that day comes I won't take away the idea that it was some sort of conspiracy or the reality that a thousand year old struggle made it's way to American shores. I'll just remember the faces and the hearts that, even broken and spent, opened wide on that day.
I decided, as I got back to my desk, that the next time someone says something like, "Well, you know, 9/11 really made me think. It made me appreciate what's really important..." That I will now ask, from now on, "What? What's really important?" I wonder if they will be able to say it, (in a straightforward kind of way that is). I'll wonder if they'll understand. I'll wonder about the scars that we will carry. I'll wonder about the perfect simple ferocious love and the horrible pink mist of blood that filled the air that day.