I was going to include photos and words about Ground Zero in my New York City post, but it just didn’t feel right. I’ve spent half of this year living in the US and simply brushing over 9/11, without mentioning what I’ve learnt and felt during my time here doesn’t make much sense.
As an American Studies student, 9/11 plays an undeniable role in my modules, my readings and the essays I write. My favourite module of last year was one called New York, New York. To some of my friends it might have seemed silly, but for me it was so interesting. We questioned why New York City is such an iconic place, why does it play the role of a muse to so many artists and why is its stories so timeless? From graffiti to hip-hop, literature to film, politics to architecture and pre/post 9/11, we analysed what NYC means to the people who call it home and those on the outside looking in. It was fascinating to look at one particular place in such detail, I almost wish I could do that for Liverpool or London too.
Fast forward two months and I was on US soil, experiencing the effects of 9/11 that have rippled across from the East to West coast. From airport security to the American flags waving outside homes and Fire Stations. People love their country deeply and the wounds of 9/11 run just as deep.
Conversations about that fateful day bring up gut wrenching memories. A family friend spoke of hearing the news whilst teaching at a high school in Philadelphia; what was she to say to her pupils? I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for her and so many others in similar positions.
When visiting Ground Zero I noticed how quiet things were. After the hustle and bustle of Times Square this felt a little eerie. Walking the streets you feel so aware of what happened. Approaching the memorial pools I realize the eeriness I originally felt was actually tranquility and peace. My hands brushed over the names each engraved into the walls of the memorial. I’m not necessarily religious, but the thoughts in my mind were no doubt prayers.
The awareness I felt made it very difficult for me to take photographs; I felt uncomfortable. That was until I saw the little American flag badge laid poignantly over the engraved words of “New York City Fire Department.” I had to capture this gesture. A little further on I saw this yellow rose placed for Laura Rockefeller. Beautiful.
Breathing in the crisp air coming in from the Hudson River helped me gather my thoughts. I sent last thoughts of love before I left to those who lost their lives, who saved lives, who protected lives, who gave food, shelter and warmth, those who lost loved ones and to those who’s lives changed forever.
Life is precious, we know that in our minds but we need to live according to this and savor every wonderful moment and battle through the toughest ones. The Christmas period can be both of those, so give thanks, celebrate life and hold onto your nearest and dearest a little tighter. Even those who “don’t do hugs.”
“war is not the answer, the answer is within you.” – Ray LaMontagne