Friday, August 11, 2006

Whole. Hole. Whole.

I debated whether or not to write about this. I don't know why. Everyone has their own personal reaction to what happened here in New York on 9/11. Of course I have mine. I don't expect that anyone else should feel the way I do. I don't expect anyone to agree or disagree. We all cope with things in our own way, in our own time.

Since just after it happened, when the whole nation finally unglued themselves from their televisions, I have tried to avoid the visual reminders of 9/11. Which is why I change the channel when the newscasts run old footage or, more recently, when the trailer for the movie comes on. I don't need to see it to be reminded of it--it's just part of me now. And even though it may not always be at the front of my brain, I am aware of it and I mourn it every day.

For these same reasons, I have chosen not to visit Ground Zero.

But last weekend, my parents were in town, and they wanted to see Ground Zero. It was early on a Sunday morning, and traffic was light. So spiceboy and I picked them up and headed down the West Side Highway, down down down, to Lower Manhattan.

On the way down, my parents chatted, asking questions about the city and pointing out various landmarks, but spiceboy and I were more quiet than usual. If my parents noticed, they did not comment.

I’ve hardly been to that part of the city, so it was strange yet familiar to me. The streets were Sunday-morning deserted, and something about it reminded me of my childhood memories of downtown Pittsburgh on the weekends, when I used to think it was the biggest city in the world.

As we drove around, I looked up up up at the tall buildings, all squashed together. Then we made a turn and there was a gap in the buildings. A hole. Bordered by a fence and some sort of a walkway.

“That must be it,” my mother said. We pulled to a stop. My parents climbed out of the car.

spiceboy and I stayed inside.

We found a parking space not too far away, next to a little park, a sweet little park in front of the hole where the World Trade Center used to be. The park was empty, and we sat on a bench there. All around, it was very quiet. Hushed. Everything felt still and heavy.

The air was warm and the sky was bright blue and I looked up at it, then down at my feet, then up at the sky again.

I was holding my sunglasses. I put them on. Took them off. Put them on again.

Then I hung my head and I cried.

“Hey,” spiceboy said. He might have put a hand on my leg. Or on my shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I said. “But I don’t like it down here,” I said. “It’s very sad.” Then I felt guilty for saying it, so I cried a little harder.

It was the kind of intense emotion that prevents you from forming complex thoughts. Whole. Hole. Whole. That’s what I was thinking while I cried.

We sat there for a little while. Then I wiped my face, but I kept my sunglasses on. Next to the bench on which we sat were several large concrete planters, filled with fresh dirt but no flowers. To our left, there was a fountain, but it wasn't filled with water.

I said what I hadn’t noticed when we sat down: “This is new. This is a new park.”

Several workmen showed up and began fussing with the planters and spraying down the fountain with a hose, getting it ready for visitors. They were chattering and laughing with each other. At first, I was irritated by their good moods interfering with my melancholy one. But as we stood to leave, I tried to hear their laughter in a different way; after all, they were rebuilding something good out of something tragic and sad.

In the vast space in which such a horrible thing has happened, there should be room for every type of emotion. My tears have a place there, but so does their laughter. It’s something that makes the hush of the place feel a little less heavy.