A Day Unlike All Other Days

by Barry Drogin

Patricia Smith, age 2
Patricia Smith, age 7
9/11/2006 (Spencer Platt/GETTY IMAGES)

At the first anniversary in 2002, Levend Joods Geloof asked me for a contribution, which I called, "Unhappy with the Old Year, Unsure of the New (Ongelukkig met het oude jaar - onzeker over het nieuwe)." This is my response to their request at the tenth anniversary.

We are divided. For most of the world, it is, suddenly, ten years after 9/11. But for many of us, it is the tenth time that the anniversary of 9/11 is occurring.

Many who were in the city on 9/11 have left, some because of 9/11, others because of the later economic crisis. Now there are many in the city for whom 9/11 anniversaries are just another day, but there are still others, like me, for whom it is not, and never will be.

For many, the killing of Bin Laden this year brought elation. But for us, there is no closure, there is no escape.

For many, 9/11 stories flit in and out of the news cycle. For the local downtown paper, 9/11-related stories are monthly if not weekly front-page headlines.

Of course, there was the Park51 fiasco. Our local community board had already approved the center when some nut blogger from the suburbs turned it into a national and international disgrace. We never considered a former Burlington Coat Factory store to be holy ground.

I did have an opportunity to go down to “The Pit,” to set my foot on the dirt before it was turned into what has become “The Memorial.” That is what I would call holy ground.

Many people go to work on 9/11. I do not. I stay home and read some passages from E.B. White’s 1948 “This is New York,” such as this sentence:

The city at last perfectly illustrates both the universal dilemma and the general solution, this riddle in steel and stone is at once the perfect target and the perfect demonstration of nonviolence, of racial brotherhood, this lofty target scraping the skies and meeting the destroying planes halfway, home of all people and all nations, capital of everything, housing the deliberations by which the planes are to be stayed and their errand forestalled.
It will be sad if this year and month the United Nations building that White referred to may be the site, not of the racial brotherhood that this home of all people and all nations cherish, but of its opposite (I write this prior to the “Palestine” vote and its aftermath).

Every plane appearing in the city skies brings me back to 9/11. The acute traumatic stress disorder turned to post traumatic stress disorder and remains as a lingering anxiety. My chronic bronchitis, which my pulmonologist calls “World Trade Center cough,” is, well, chronic.

The subway maps still call it the World Trade Center. Every time I see a film or photo with the Towers, I notice it and think about 9/11. Every time I don’t see the Towers, I notice it and think about 9/11. All escapes are temporary.

Yes, this year we will all finally have The Memorial. But other memorials remain, scattered here and there. A wall of commemorative painted pottery tiles, across from the former St Vincent’s Hospital, is still near my children’s former elementary school. My youngest moves to a new middle school in September, located across the street from the World Trade Center site, and it has a prominent plaque he will pass every day that commemorates and honors the teachers and children who lived through the horrors of that day.

In his concluding two sentences, E.B. White expresses my feelings about these reminders:

Whenever I look at it nowadays, and feel the cold shadow of the planes, I think: "This must be saved, this particular thing...." If it were to go, all would go - this city, this mischievous and marvelous monument which not to look upon would be like death.
For many of us, we feel this way about our city. We feel this way about our day. Even those who have escaped the city cannot escape this day. A day that will always be unlike all other days.

Link back to My Personal September 11 Page.

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Last Updated: September 11, 2011