Ten years

September 11 from space
Lower Manhattan from space, about 11am, September 11, 2001. Photo credit: NASA

All the possible words have long since been said.

It is people we mourn, not buildings: the parents and children, the co-workers and friends, the brave and the terrified, the uniformed first responders of all agencies who walked into hell, the everyday New Yorkers caught at their desks, the passengers looking out windows and seeing a rushing cityscape that could lead to only one hideous conclusion.

  Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street
  Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street, looking south, about 11 am, September 11, 2001.

We mourn the people. The buildings are mere proxies that stand for an absence too terrible to bear. Never before has private, everyday loss been so visible to so many. For New Yorkers who grew up seeing the Towers — or for those of my generation, who grew up watching them rise, floor-by-floor, distant down the length of Flatbush Avenue — they were part of the firmament, like the Brooklyn Bridge or the Empire State Building. To see the skyline these past ten years has been to be visibly, viscerally reminded of all those lives gone. The absent Towers are the world's largest headstones.

Although I continued to work in Manhattan for another year, I never went near Ground Zero. And never have since. Even those occasions where I had to drive by on the way to Brooklyn have been almost impossible. I know that someday, soon, I'll have to visit the Memorial. I don't expect closure; anyone who has experienced true loss knows what an empty concept that is. But those who have experienced loss — and survived — do know one dark secret: the only way out is through.

On this day of remembrance, I hope that all the families, and friends, and colleagues, everyone touched by this shadow, can find some measure of peace as we all move on together.