THE ETERNAL TOWERS
Six months later, an instant replay of that horrible
all over the TV, the radio, newspapers, the Net. Ted Koppel walked
through that hellish Staten Island dumping ground where cops are picking
the wreckage looking for ID cards, watches, desktop photographs, wedding
bands, fingers, toes, or any bit of flesh to provide a DNA match. The
force of destruction was so great that even the smallest items are
burned, or bent beyond recognition.
One worker told Koppel that in six months he hadn’t seen a single
whole telephone, desk, or chair in the rubble. Six months later, we are
all sifting through our memories of that horrible morning, searching
for whole thoughts, feelings, explanations. It’s hard to find any.
Our emotions have been crushed as badly as the towers themselves.
However, over the past two days, I’ve picked out a few fragments
from this ruin that I’ll cherish. They come from the documentary,
9/11, that was shown on Monday night. A
young firefighter had the bad luck of having the World Trade Center tragedy
as his first big fire. At the beginning of the film he was all awkward
eagerness and naiveté; at the end, he’d been through hell. "Did
this experience change you from a boy to a man?" the filmmakers
asked. "What’s a man?" he asked back. "I’ll
still watch cartoons and do all the silly things I did before. But I
do know, now, that I’m just like my brothers in this firehouse,
living a life where we try to help others."
The image of firefighters marching into the towers and
up the stairs into the blazing inferno struck me as Christ-like. Indeed,
to this devout
secularist, they appeared to me more Christ-like even than Christ. I
feel profoundly obliged, and redeemed by them insofar as they showed
what courage and love of humankind truly means – and what is possible.
The sound of human beings falling at terminal velocity and exploding
on impact, of course, is another thing I won’t forget. It makes
it hard for me to believe that human beings are singled out by God or
any divine as separate and above all other parts of creation. It seems
to me self-evident by this example that we are not; that we rise or fall
according to the same laws of chance that govern the forests, the birds
of the air, or the fish of the sea. Isn’t this a humbling notion
and a corrective to pride and ego that, all things considered, would
be well to incorporate into the human self-image?
The opening scene of the film showed the two towers, lit like Christmas
trees, spangled against the darkening skies of an earlier, more peaceful
day. They looked to me not like buildings but like people. A couple just
married, perhaps. They look smiling, proud, magnificent.
I miss them.
Copyright @ 2002 The McGill Report