Monday, May 2, 2011

Worlds within worlds


I am having a hard time taking in this morning's news that Osama bin Laden is dead. It doesn't seem quite real to me, just as the initial events on September 11th didn't as I was unable to comprehend that something so horrible was possible in our world. I was not in New York City that day but in Paris. There is a photo of Remi and I at the Musée d'Orsay, blissfully in love and completely unaware of what was happening. There was no sign of anything amiss amidst the Monets. I do remember a scurry of activity, an urgency in the air in the lobby of the Ritz and how odd it seemed that we could just stroll in, the front door unattended. But it wasn't until we returned to our unfurnished new apartment that I heard my Mom's voice gasping into the answering machine. We had trouble understanding what she was talking about, just able to make out that my Sister was safe but to please call, she needed to hear my voice. Remi turned on the radio as I went upstairs to phone. And again, I couldn't understand when he yelled out that the "Jumelles" as the Twin Towers are called here, were down. We didn't have a television yet and so rushed to the offices of Gamma, the news agency that Remi was working for at the time. I think that someone might have taken a photo of me, staring at the screens and crying, but I am not sure. 

As a reporter, Remi was given access to the first flight back to New York. I followed a few days later. Again disbelief as I crossed the Manhattan Bridge, searching for the architectural Welcome Home that had always greeted me. The same over the smell of the smoke, so pungent even up on 51st Street and that feeling deep in my gut that "this is what death smells like". Wondering why it didn't fade. Taking flowers to my local fire station, one of the hardest hit in terms of loss. Trying not to read the words of the Missing signs that we all knew were put up in vain. Emotional shutdown.

The boutique hotel in Soho that I had been working at between acting gigs laid me off (our office looked directly on to the WTC and those working that morning saw everything, some fainted cold). My agent immediately moved to California as did one of my best friends. So I hurried up the pace and arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport on October 27th, 2001. Ready to look forward to a new life. 

I knew that I was lucky to have not lost anyone nor to have even known anyone that lost anyone. But today's news makes me remember all over again how much we all lost that day. How another world spun off within our world and we have been on that track ever since. And we are still there. Osama bin Laden's death does not fill me with any sense of joy or that justice has been done. As a former New Yorker, I am still deeply attached to my city and know that there is no real justice for the families that have lost their loved ones nor for the damage to our collective psyche. Not really. I do feel relieved. Even though I know that this is not the end of terrorism in the world. And I feel grateful for the positive messages in President Obama's speech. May they bring a light to the path ahead. 


12 comments:

  1. My husband was just walking into the WTC when the first plane hit so I didn’t know if he was alive or not, until three in the afternoon, since he was supposed to be at the top….he was late for a meeting. Thank God he was late! He couldn’t call since he dropped his cell rushing and he had to walk out of the city back to CT. So I’m not sad that Bin Laden is gone but there is always some manic to take his place unfortunately. Like you I’m not sad or overjoyed just sort of numb to the whole thing.

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  2. What an amazing story. You must have been so terrified. Thank goodness he was late that day. I am speechless. Sending good thoughts your way...

    And I agree about someone taking his place. Last week there was the bombing in Morocco with casualties from many countries. It will still continue.

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  3. Thank you for sharing. Your thoughts are similar to mine.

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  4. I'm not sure how I feel about all this yet. It's still simmering. When I saw all the people in front of the White House celebrating, I couldn't help but think of the images of the Palestinians doing the same thing when the towers fell.
    As a species we seem to enjoy the "victories" of death a great deal.

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  5. My daughter was a senior at Fordham University (in the Bronx) at the time; it made a huge impression on her and her friends when they volunteered to help survivors. She is still in NYC and I worry about the safety of the citizens there as there is bound to be a revenge attack.

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  6. This day must hold lots of mixed feelings for people. I am glad that justice was served for the families who lost their loved ones that day. Mixed feelings about the celebrations. Great read today.

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  7. Oh. You have put it so well with "emotional shutdown". The world was changed forever on that day, and hard to even imagine that it will ever go back to the happy innocence of before. I also had the same chill as Tracy when I saw the people chanting yesterday. We have a long to go to progress as a civilisation, but I think we are getting there slowly, inch by inch. Or at least I want to think so!

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  8. Since studying Buddhism and it's philosophy of causing no harm to any sentient being-- I felt no elation at the death of Ossama Bin Laden although deploring the devastation he caused.

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  9. Thank you for your comments and insights everyone. I am also having a hard time figuring out what I feel about this and so decided to write it out. Didn't really come to a concrete answer but it helps me to know that most of you are in the same gray zone.

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  10. "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that"
    ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

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  11. Thank you Jane. Amazing, amazing. If that doesn't inspire you, nothing will.

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  12. I'm not sure if anyone will see this but I was very excited when I saw that I had my first visitor from Iran. Then I realized that they came right after I posted this and only saw this page so it was most likely some sort of spider tracking internet responses to Bin Laden's death.

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