June 12, 2014

Source: Shutterstock

Two things did arrest my attention. One was a huge “€œcomposite”€”€”a great lump, a dozen feet across, of hyper-compacted metal, building materials, office equipment, and perhaps, in its interior, flattened and carbonized human fragments. Just a formless lump of flattened wreckage, but I couldn”€™t take my eyes off it.

The other was a partially walled-off recess, just big enough for a half-dozen people, on the inner wall of which were projected, one after another, still pictures of jumpers. There is no accompanying sound, just the pictures. In one of them there are five jumpers strung out in the air, yards apart. Colleagues, friends, lovers”€”who knows? What is it, this human life, to end in such horror?

By the time I got to the gift shop my cynicism had all drained away. Heck, I even bought a 9/11 commemorative mug”€”the one that says IN DARKNESS WE SHINE BRIGHTEST. Looking at it now, here on my desk, the cynicism creeps back.

Yes, let’s feel good about ourselves, and remember the courage and skill of our cops and firemen, and marvel at how well the city recovered. And let’s go on with the same fool meddling policies, the same half-wit multiculturalism, that brought 9/11 upon us. Oh, and while we”€™re at it, let’s gut the fire department in the name of diversity! 

Those are desk thoughts, though. Moving among the mostly-silent crowds in the 9/11 Museum, amid all the images of chaos and death, cynicism is badly out of place.

Philip Larkin, who was a stone atheist, wrote a poem about visiting an old country church. The experience didn”€™t turn him to religion, but he did come away acknowledging that: “€œA serious house on serious earth it is … If only that so many dead lie round.”€

I guess I”€™m never going to get the idea of memorializing 9/11, any more than Larkin got religion. Still, I came away minding the place less than when I went in. It’s not for me, but plainly it is for a lot of people, and I respect their honest reverence; if only that so many dead lie around.



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