Every year, when September 11th comes around, like everyone else, I just don’t have the words. I’m not American, I didn’t know anyone who was there, but like everyone else, the loss is still felt.
Last year, I was finally able to visit the memorial and the museum. From getting out of the subway in the Financial District, the silence was thick, suffocating. People had their heads down, eyes not meeting others. It reminded me of what people had told me about Auschwitz, that there was no noise, not even birds overhead. I stopped for breakfast that morning, in some bright and beaming diner, and it was as if the joviality I found there was a thin mask, layered over the subdue.
I won’t speak too much on the grief I felt stepping into the museum. The initial entrance on escalators passes alongside excavated parts of the towers, and I had a instant knee-jerk reaction to seeing something so physical. That continued on throughout – the museum displays important artefacts of the day, from the Survivor’s Staircase, to parts of storefronts from nearby, still encased in dust and debris. We listened to phone calls from the airplanes, saw stiletto heels that had been abandoned, the posters put up to find the missing, the posters drawn by children thanking the NYPD and NYFD for protecting them.
I’ve spoken of this many times, and I will do again I’m sure, but when I think of all that happened on that day fifteen years ago, and I think of the pictures and the videos we saw here in England, how I felt when I first heard what happened, how we were talked to about it in a dark school assembly, I now think of one moment. In the museum, in front of a glass fronted case of burnt and dirtied clothes and shoes and papers, I stood next to a towering, moustached Canadian man. I didn’t know him. I’m not even sure if I know that he really was Canadian. But all I remember is standing beside him, helplessly crying, and him too, this big burly man, just crying, and just looking at each other. That day has marked the entire world, and it doesn’t matter where you are from, or what your life is like, we all watched those towers come down, those people falling, those people running, and if I ever had the fortune to see that Canadian man again, I’d buy him a coffee and ask him about his life. We have no control over anything in this world, but I for one, believe in the humanity of people, on this day, and every other. There is a light in the city, and it will not be extinguished.