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9/11 Study break

September 12, 2010

At 10:53 p.m. this September 11 I had finished reading Dryden and was getting started on the German philosophers, but in between I took a study break. I watched the video my church produced last year in honor of this day. And I thought, “I was down in Lower Manhattan already today. Why didn’t I go to Ground Zero?” I helped someone from church take her art supplies from her apartment on the Upper West Side to her art school near there. And then I thought how it was dumb that I actually live in NYC now, and I didn’t take advantage of that in remembering 9/11.

So I hit Google Maps to see how long it would take me to get there. I hemmed and hawed about it. I shouldn’t look for excuses to stop reading. But I can read on the Subway. But it’s far, and it’s late. But I was going to stay up reading until midnight anyway. And it’s 9/11, for crying out loud; that doesn’t happen very often. So I compromised by telling myself I’d go for a walk up behind my apartment and see the beams of light from the Hudson River bank. But as I was walking up there, I just felt like going to the site itself.

So I did.

And I’m really glad I went. It was nice to feel a little more connected to the event because I was in Brazil on September 11, 2001. I found this post of collected stories of where people were when they heard the news. They’re interesting to read. In my case we waited on the bus with all the other missionaries to go to the São Paulo Temple, and we were waiting a long time. Suddenly we were all told to get off and go back inside the Missionary Training Center. We didn’t know what was going on, and the snippets of explanation floating around the halls as we were shuttled into the emergency meeting sounded like sensationalized bad rumors. I didn’t believe them.

We arrived only in time to hear President Hanks telling all the missionaries from the United States and Canada things like, “Everything will be okay,” and “You’re in the right place,” and “If you need to get in touch with anyone to find out how your family is doing, please let use know.” And so we still didn’t know what was going on. Finally we tapped the shoulder of the missionary in front of us and asked. He turned around crying and, by way of explanation, said very simply and sadly, “I’m from New York.”

When I arrived tonight, lots of people were there even though it was nearly midnight. I got off at Chambers St. so I could walk farther, look around, and just take things in. People were relatively quiet and just looked, held flowers, and took pictures all over the numerous street corners all around the area. Construction workers had raised U.S. flags up on their scaffolding and cranes.

From far off the sky glittered in the beams that shone up from where the towers had been. I wondered how they got that effect because it was so magical. I knew that it couldn’t just be bugs like you see in sports stadium lights. I was too far away, and it was almost sparkly, melding nicely into the backdrop of stars. (I could actually see a few stars!)

When I came closer, right next to the beams, I could see the sparkles. They were birds! Beautiful circling, diving birds, entering in and out of the light at will. And for me, that perfected the tribute. Huge man-made jets were forcibly crashed into the towers, and thousands of people died with thousands, probably millions more suffering. Smoke and fire erupted, and concrete and steel smashed. And now the birds fly, and it’s just still night air. They fly there because they want to and because they are free to do so, and they make it beautiful.

As I thought about them, it reminded me how “the larks still bravely singing fly” in Flanders Fields.

Good study break.

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Vaughn permalink
    January 17, 2011 10:49 am

    Did you ever sing that song at BYU? I never sung it but I’ve wanted to.

  2. January 17, 2011 10:55 am

    Nope. Didn’t sing it, but it was one of the poems we were required to memorize for my Great War and Modernism class I had in England with Dr. Tate. Memorizing it and then reciting it to myself as I looked at rows and rows of graves in France was one of the most reverent, solemn experiences I’ve ever had.

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