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for September 11, 2002

Among The Smoke, Stars
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

Hello, altrok reader. Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love is a reader of patterns, a finder of common elements. As we observe the one year anniversary of the September 11th disaster, patterns are indistinct and common elements not so common as one might think. Sit a moment, my darling. We have prickly topics to discuss.
Despite the ubiquitous "United We Stand" reminders, we are far from united. Let's start from one of the many, many beginnings: a year ago, almost everyone in America was frightened, horrified and mournful. Everyone. From Iowa housewives who've never seen the East Coast to a man who escaped the towers only to discover his family was on one of the planes. Yes. That happened. The spectrum of feelings, injuries and losses is greater than might at first appear. One of the most disturbing things I've heard/read is, "You didn't [insert situation.] You just don't understand." We are all tired. It has been a hard year of footage and interviews and analyses and suspicion and anthrax and landfill and the enormity of this tragedy obscures the pain of individual people. Because we are not one person, there must be aspects of your life that differ from mine. But "You don't understand" does not create empathy, it severs the connection. You don't understand. You can't understand. Is this divisiveness what we need from one another now?
What I'm delicately hinting at is despite what we see in the media, no one has a monopoly on suffering. On one hand, people who lost spouses, partners, children, parents, friends, comrades in arms, co-workers are most visibly wounded. A dear friend lost her childhood playground, friends, professional acquaintances and her shopping mall in a flash when the Trade Center came down. She feels deeply pained by the presence of tourists. She believes their interest is prurient: for tourists it's no different than Disneyworld. Perhaps. Some terribly shallow people might show up to gawk. The vast majority of people who came to witness the recovery process were probably motivated by sorrow, moved by stories of heroics or a need to see for themselves what cannot be real, can it? On the other hand, the grief of people who were not there, who did not see the disaster or flee for their lives may be just as real. The psyche is a delicate thing. Have you noticed suddenly crazy people embarking on adventures in denial and drug addiction? People who never wanted children suddenly have triplets? This is no joke. While a traumatic moment may change lives, when those lives produce children that do not solve the problem, we have a new one. In this case, the scale of this secondary disaster will not be apparent for another few years. I am very concerned for these infants.
Another horror with which we contend is tribute concert glut. Merchandising. Commemorative trinkets. Listen, Bon Jovi means...what to you? Does September 11th improve the band's show or the songs? Did you like them before? Do you like them now, or are you caught up in a fever you may later attribute to the moment? What about commemorative coins? Watches? What purpose do these useless items serve? If your answer is the purchase supports a worthy cause, send a check directly and skip the middleman. Please. Don't encourage this insult to the memory of your heroes.
Listen, you. I can't pretend to possess any special wisdom. I can tell you what I feel (anxiety hanging in the air) and what I see (a lot of people who may need professional help and not realize it). A few weeks from now, you may be tempted to declare yourself Over It and demand like declarations from those around you. Please don't do this. It's a simple human impulse, but please resist it. We have a long way to go. I'd love to tell you everything's going to be all right, but we've come too far together for me to lie to you now.
A year ago, the night sky was muddied with smoke, but the stars, for the first time in my life, were all stars. Yesterday, I remembered the raw emotions of the day, despite time passed, newscasts, war footage, endless concerts, political yammering, exhaustion. It is a relief to feel, rather than think, momentarily; the one indisputable fact is that we survived. There is no shame in it, my darling. We are free now to imagine whole new lives. What will we do with this tremendous freedom?

©2002 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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