Melancholy and the infinite sadness
It wasn't until hours later, after I left Faith, after the train ride back to the Island, after getting home and watching a movie with my husband and not until I put the discs in the computer and looked at the photos that I took today that I cried. And here I sit now, crying and typing and uploading those pictures.
I'm writing this straight from my head and my heart; no previewing, no editing. I just really want to get back on the couch and have a glass of wine with my husband and maybe watch a funny movie. So pardon any stilted writing or disjointed phrases. I've done this photoessay style, which turns out to be much better than just putting up pictures with captions because sometimes a photo deserves more than just a caption, sometimes it deserves a story or an emotion.
When you are standing there, looking down into a pit that used to be the foundation for two enormous buildings, and the last time you stood in that spot those buildings were still there, still alive with people, it's just hard to comprehend. All you see is a hole and dirt and the the facade where the subway used to be. And you see workers moving around and Caterpillar trucks driven by burly men smoking cigarettes and wearing hardhats and you think, ok, this isn't so bad, they've rebuilt so much already and maybe, just sitting here watching these men work, I can feel hopeful about what will rise here.
And then you look at the girders that surround the steel fencing that keeps you back from the site and you see the writing all over the girders, black Sharpie marks in a thousand different handwritings and so many different languages, some written by children and it breaks your heart in two. I had to swallow that lump in my throat and take my eyes off of the words of sorrow and the blessings and the poetry that read like a funeral dirge. And then you see the cross and you avert your eyes but youturn back and look again and your stomach does this giant leap into your throat.
And no sooner do I stop looking at the scrawled messages then I look up and see the big boards, the ones that look like marble but maybe aren't and they've got the names on them. The names of every victim, every person who died in and around that building, the workers who never saw it coming, the emergency workers who saw it coming and ran towards it, as is their life's work to do so, the people on the ground, all of them. So I take my camera and point it upwards and walk carefully, slowly towards the G's and I snap one, two, three, I don't know why I kept snapping those photos, I just did. And then I walked towards the R's and looked for Claude Richards and there he was and I snapped again, just two this time before I realized that I did not want to look for any more names of people I knew, people my father knew because - just because. We walked around and Faith was so patient because she had done this before, more than once and I know the last time she was there it was raining and she cried and she was hugged by a stranger and I know it was hard for her to do this again, to be my tour guide of sadness, but she did and she waited while I leaned my face against the fence, my fingers entwined on the metal grates and I stared. And stared. And I still could not comprehend that there used to be two towering buildings there.
We walked further and there were people selling things; trinkets and photo albums of the dead and dying, photos of the smoke and fire and little crystal replicas encased in plastic and I saw one man tentatively pick one of those trinkets up and the man who was selling them, who did not speak English, smiled at the other man and flicked his finger against the plastic case as if to say hey, this World Trade Center is fortified with polysomethingorother and look, it won't fall down! and I felt a bit sick at that.
A few more steps down, next to the people selling FDNY t-shirts and I Survived The Blackout t-shirts, there was a table of more, a sea more, of those plastic trinkets and behind that plastic garbage were three laptops with DVD players and they were all going loud and strong, music with the words of newscasters talking to the beat and the images, all those images, the planes crashing and burning and people running and sobbing. Why? Why would they play that right there? Would it make people by more plastic towers? Why didn't I take my arm and sweep it across the table like someone in a movie would do? I had this sudden image of that scene in Jesus Christ, Superstar, where Jesus goes into the temple and knocks all the wares off the tables and I just choked back my anger and moved on.
We walked some more, I think we were on the west side of the pit now, I'm not sure but on my left were the buildings, the lesser known buildings in this act, the minor characters who still played an impact, which I think is called fifth business in some industry or other. I could see the scars on the buildings and this one was draped in black. Have you ever seen a building draped in black? Like it was in mourning. On the next building there was a mural and I went snap, snap, snap again, just shooting and thinking and maybe keeping myself from looking the other way, where you could still see parts of the concrete of the original foundation and I needed to keep my mind from going in the direction it was headed, which would be the direction where you start thinking about that day and all the strewn pieces of whatever once laid in a heap down there.
And then we were done, I didn't want to see anymore. I had enough. I had enough of the smiling tourists asking people to take their pictures while they held their girlfriends hand and smiled in front of those girders and the workers and right under the plaques with the names of the dead. Enough of the people lining up to buy their photos of fire and their books of the dead with labels like Tragedy! Horror! and enough of the messages of hope and love and Jesus Saves.
And now I'm home and looking at the pictures and I still can't help but wonder why. I mean, even if I know why, even some people think they know why but they don't, I will never understand it and I don't think I want to.
But if feels good to cry. I don't do that enough. I think I'll have that glass of wine now.