Flying from New York, 9/11/2008

I (along with my boss) was in Manhattan on Wednesday September 10th for a business meeting, which, as things turned out, was an event with some darkly comic and deeply ironic elements to it, but confidentiality prevents me from disclosing what went on. As we had some time between appointments we ventured downtown to the Ground Zero site, I had never been there in person.

The churchyard of St. Paul's Chapel, looking towards the WTC site.

When I first saw the site -- rebuilding is slow, it's presently just an immense hole in the ground -- I noticed how bustling downtown is (it was a beautiful late summer afternoon in New York) and thought of the point David Chase was allegedly trying to make in the ending of The Sopranos: "Life goes on", even in the face of almost unimaginable tragedy. Given the date, there were some tourists around, and preparations were underway for a ceremony the following day, but most of the people in the area were workers from the financial district going about their daily business.

The inside of the chapel is the closest thing to a 9/11 museum at this time. Some of the relics of the recovery effort are displayed, it is quite moving.

I listened to part of Sarah Pallin's acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, which was full of snide references to 'liberal elites' in big cities and paeans to allegedly virtuous small town America, seeing this banner from Oklahoma, made me angry, not at the banner, but at the sentiments of her speech, terrible ugly things can happen in small towns, and virtue can exist in big cities. "Out of many, one" does not seem to a sentiment that the Republican Party buys into since the era of Karl Rove, or more probably, Richard 'Tricky Dick' Nixon.

Even though "life goes on" -- one still looks back towards downtown and sees blue skies -- very reminiscent of 9/11/01 -- and thinks of how thousands of people died violently there, in what is now empty space. Someone posted pictures from a childhood visit to the WTC towers in 1980 on a blog, I have memories (but no photos) of a similar experience about the same time, I remember it as a warm, humid, very still summer day, there wasn't a breath of air moving, even on the rooftop observation deck.

Flying out of New York on the morning of 9/11 could have been an emotional experience but I was too tired to think about it much -- we were supposed to return on the evening of 9/10, but the flight was cancelled, USAir was not helpful (the 'customer service' agent was positively belligerent) and it was a long, tiring night.

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