9/11

The Feeling that You're Dreaming

That Man Jumped Out the Window
by Cloud Cult, from "A Moment of Serenity," KEXP Seattle

It's the thoughts that you feed
It's the habits you need
It's the things that you don't think that you're seeing
When you're really seeing
That man jumped out the window
Come back in the window
That man jumped out the window
Come back in the window

It's your tone in my mouth
It's the things that we're too scared to talk about
It's the feeling that you're dreaming
(You're not really dreaming)
That man jumped out the window
Come back in the window
That man jumped out the window
Come back in the window

It's the feeling that you're falling
But there's a fine line between falling and flying
It's the feeling that you've lost it
What don't you get?
What don't you get?

To Think Oneself into the Minds of Others

Excerpt from “Only Love and then Oblivion,” by Ian McEwan, the Guardian, September 15, 2001:

I suspect that in between times, when we are not consuming news, the majority of us are not meditating on recent foreign policy failures, or geopolitical strategy, or the operational range of helicopter gunships.

Instead, we remember what we have seen, and we daydream helplessly. . .

This is the nature of empathy, to think oneself into the minds of others. These are the mechanics of compassion: you are under the bedclothes, unable to sleep, and you are crouching in the brushed-steel lavatory at the rear of the plane, whispering a final message to your loved one. There is only that one thing to say, and you say it. All else is pointless. You have very little time before some holy fool, who believes in his place in eternity, kicks in the door, slaps your head and orders you back to your seat. 23C. Here is your seat belt. There is the magazine you were reading before it all began. . .

If the hijackers had been able to imagine themselves into the thoughts and feelings of the passengers, they would have been unable to proceed. It is hard to be cruel once you permit yourself to enter the mind of your victim. Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality.

Different Paths

 

Jitish Kallat's “Public Notice 3” uses phrases from a speech delivered by Swami Vivekananda at the First World’s Parliament of Religions held in The Art Institute of Chicago's Fullerton Hall on September 11, 1893. Words from the address line the steps of the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase in LED lights using the colors from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s alert system. The installation is on display through May 1, 2011. 

Excerpt from the speech delivered by Vivekananda on September 11, 1893:

I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: "As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me." Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

 

On a Beautiful September Day

Making Sense of Life,” from September 11: Portraits of Grief:

Gates to the Bronx Zoo The Friday before the World Trade Center attack, John Patrick Gallagher, an electricity trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, played hooky from work so he could treat his wife, Francine, and 2- month-old son, James Jordan, to a day at the Bronx Zoo.

"He was so proud of his big boy," recalled Mrs. Gallagher. Later that evening, at dinner with his brother and friends, he told them about the jaunt. "Isn't that what dads are supposed to do with their families on a beautiful September day?" he asked.

Mr. Gallagher, 31, stood 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed around 270 pounds, but he had an extraordinary grace about him, his wife said. He never took anything for granted, perhaps because he lost his mother when he was 1 and his father six years later. He was born in the Bronx but he and his wife loved to travel. In 1999, Mr. Gallagher asked his future wife to marry him on a trip to Ireland. "He made my life make sense," Mrs. Gallagher said. "It's hard to make sense of things now that he's gone."

each life, put out, lies down within us

New Yorker, September 16, 2002

Excerpts from When the Towers Fell
by Galway Kinnell

From our high window we saw the towers
with their bands and blocks of light
brighten against a fading sunset,
saw them at any hour glitter and live
as if the spirits inside them sat up all night
calculating profit and loss, saw them reach up
to steep their tops in the until then invisible
yellow of sunrise, grew so used to them
often we didn’t see them, and now,
not seeing them, we see them.

Some died while calling home to say they were O.K.
Some died after over an hour spent learning they would die.
Some died so abruptly they may have seen death from within it.
Some broke windows and leaned out and waited for rescue.
Some were asphyxiated.
Some burned, their very faces caught fire.
Some fell, letting gravity speed them through their long moment.
Some leapt hand in hand, the elasticity in last bits of love-time letting—I wish
   I could say—their vertical streaks down the sky happen more lightly.

In our minds the glassy blocks
succumb over and over into themselves,
slam down floor by floor into themselves.

They blow up as if in reverse, exploding
downward and outward, billowing
through the streets, engulfing the fleeing.

As each tower goes down, it concentrates
into itself, transforms itself
infinitely slowly into a black hole

infinitesimally small: mass
without space, where each light,
each life, put out, lies down within us.

Prayer for the Dead

The light snow started late last night and continued
all night long while I slept and could hear it occasionally
enter my sleep, where I dreamed my brother
Howard Kestenbaumwas alive again and possessing the beauty of youth, aware
that he would be leaving again shortly and that is the lesson
of the snow falling and of the seeds of death that are in everything
that is born: we are here for a moment
of a story that is longer than all of us and few of us
remember, the wind is blowing out of someplace
we don't know, and each moment contains rhythms
within rhythms, and if you discover some old piece
of your own writing, or an old photograph,
you may not remember that it was you and even if it was once you,
it's not you now, not this moment that the synapses fire
and your hands move to cover your face in a gesture
of grief and remembrance.

by Stuart Kestenbaum, who "lost his brother Howard in the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center" on this day seven years ago. From American Life in Poetry: Column 181.