Saturday, September 03, 2005

Re: Out of a Clear Blue Sky

The AmbviaBlog has a couple of great posts.

After reading all the annoying blah, blah, on various political blogs right and left about who to blame for the aftermath of Katrina, both sides lining up lock step, the lefties bashing Bush, the righties bashing the lefties for bashing Bush and posting ponderous defenses of his inaction (yes I have my opinions and frustration but they don’t seem very necessary now and are probably pretty raw and ill informed), I read this little gem.

And then there is this amazing post on still being haunted by 9/11 (go read the whole thing first), which inspired a lengthy response that I decided to post here as well:


I understand completely, though I don’t think I ever totally “moved on.” I still get very emotional when I see images from that day. (I like that you put that phrase in quotes; it is in so many ways an inane phrase).

I was working in New York then, and that day I was, as I had been for several weeks, pretty emotionally raw because my wife had nearly bled to death after a bungled operation at Lenox Hill Hospital. So those two events and the strong emotions involved will always be linked.

I still remember the bus ride into New York the morning of 9/11. There was a low fog in the fields along Route 29 as it rose out of the Delaware River Valley and away from Lambertville, NJ. I still remember what I wrote in my journal early that day:

His voice was low fog in a field
Half water, half air suspended

By the time the bus was in sight of the Towers the sun was up and the sky clear. The Towers rising over the New Jersey skyline were always the first sign we were close to the City. Then two days later as I went into work, really to just be in New York to show sympathy and support, the first thing I saw as we approached the city was the smoke towering over the skyline.

And now this, just 300 miles away…where I have several booksellers friends I work with (so far I’ve heard from 2 and about a 3rd and they are fine, but there are still a few folks I haven’t heard from yet) in a city I’ve grown to love after visiting it regularly for business, a city that though very different from New York in ways reminds me of New York – New Orleans even has it’s own Brooklyn-like accent, the “yat” accent, when you hear it, you would swear the person was from Brooklyn or North Jersey.

Now with the destruction along the Gulf coast, all the emotions I had after 9/11 have come back full force.

When I volunteered yesterday at Reliant Arena helping evacuees as they came off the buses, the glazed look in their eyes, their slumped shoulders and slow walk reminded me of New Yorkers in the days after 9/11 when the sadness in the air was literally tangible. Yet this is worse…think of 9/11 New York times 10. The scale of the human toll is unimaginable. Thousands of people were arriving with only the clothes on their back, and maybe a few personal items shoved into a trash bag or a single suit case.

I watched one woman pull out a handful of Polaroids and snapshots from a bag. She wasn’t looking at them so much as feeling them to make sure they—some of her last possessions in this world—were really there. Writing about it now, I’m reminded of the way people clung to the photos of loved ones missing after 9/11, posting them desperately around the city.

And yet even with the massiveness of this tragedy and 9/11, one thinks of even worse tragedies—the Holocaust, last year’s tsunami with an estimated 23,000 dead, surviving the sieges of Stalingrad and Leningrad, Rwanda, the massacre of the Armenians, Rwanda, Darfur, the Rape of Nanking—not to diminish the tragedies of Katrina or 9/11 but to realize how vulnerable we all are, even we who live in the United States, who live in such safety and who, like me, often think we wont suffer such things—but we do, and maybe we are, somehow, more human for it.

All the best,



At 6:58 PM, Blogger Brian Campbell said...

Thanks for this post and those links.

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