I don’t have anything particularly eloquent to say today, though I do wonder if the sudden turn from the idiocy of the campaign to the solemn memorialization of 9/11 will spark a least a little bit of self-awareness among my brethren in the press corps. Below is something I wrote just a few weeks after September 11th, 2001. It was never published and it’s very raw and unpolished. But it captures the way I felt then, and, really, the way I still feel:
On September 25, exactly two weeks after the World Trade Center attacks, my aunt Judi died of breastcancer in her home in Milburn, New Jersey. Unlike the thousands who unknowingly went to work on Tuesday the 11th, my aunt knew that the end was near. After doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to her liver, she underwent five weeks of emergency chemo. It didn’t work. When I got the news that she would be going home to die, I knew that I would be going home to New York to grieve.
As soon as I walked into Midway, and witnessed the barely muted chaos of the new ‘security measures,’ I realized that there would be no way to separate my family’s loss from the country’s loss. Three thousand New Yorkers died in the World Trade Center. My aunt’s death suddenly, strangely seemed like one voice in achorus of despair. Time and again during the weekend — over lunch, at the wake, in the parking lot outsidethe church — talk bounced back and forth between the impossible tragedy of my aunt’s death at 40, and the impossible tragedy of September 11th. There were flags everywhere in New York, from bodegas to buses to adult video stores, so it wasn’t terribly surprising to file into the pews only to be met with a comically large flag draped across the balcony. As much as we would claim the disaster in lower New York as our own, attach our own grief to this greater grief, this flag seemed to signal the converse. Our grief would be claimed by America. When I picture the funeral in my head, I see mostly the flag. As we drove away from the church, my mother leaned in and solemnly informed me that we had had to leave promptly so they could start the second funeral of the day-a local resident who had worked in the Twin Towers. When minutes later, I saw a funeral procession of equal length enter the other of the cemetery’s two gates, I knew instinctually why they were there.