[I wrote this in 2001, a few days after the terrorist attacks. It was my first published article, running in our local paper, Beaverton Valley Times in Oregon. A year before, I had moved from Long Island to Portland. Wrapped up in a hundred other emotions that day was the feeling that I was a long way from home. Millions of words have been written since then about 9/11 and these are just a few of them.]


Snow is white and arrives without thunder. The moon is miles and miles away.


When the Twin Towers fell on September 11, I held my breath again. And again. At ground zero, ashes and dust smothered the streets like the hot breath of an angry god.


What did I see: a grim Christmas morning.


What did I see: the moon around the corner.


I eerily recalled 9:03 am EST and broadly redefined that moment, just as the content of the first plane crash was edited by the second. The “accident” was violently revealed to be an attack. With the suddenness of spilled wine across a bare tablecloth, the immediate consequence of the attack bled through the fiber of our society, gradually revealing itself as a shifting of reality. The importance of it as history is dwarfed by its effect on existence. The timeline of American history snapped at the moment of impact, beginning anew with that September morning.


We are survivors: an unseen enemy has lashed out at America. We are Americans; only the measure of farther, rather than the concept of further, spared us the fate of thousands of our fellow citizens. Though farther from the carnage, we are no less further from the tragedy than the people of New York.


At work, I disregarded the petty tasks of my job for days, accomplishing only enough to keep the wheel turning. In the first few days of this new world, I couldn’t focus on anything but the tinny voices grinding out of radios throughout the office, my head craning right and left from the streaming video on my computer monitor to the scramble of papers anticipating order on my desk. The papers would wait.


On my screen: Singed paperwork floated through a fog of smoke and soot, blanketing the ashen streets below while a tragic number of its authors vanished into our memories forever.


On my screen: In the dust on a fire engine’s door, a fire fighter wrote a prayer to a fallen friend. The city is thicker with heroes.


Our acceptance and our perseverance negate the terror visited upon us. This tragedy magnifies the kindness and courage of New Yorkers and other Americans who have risked their lives for their fellow men and women in this time of danger. Despite the catastrophic enormity of the terrorists’ actions, their success is only subjective. This country did not collapse, nor grind to a halt. We’ve been brought closer together, and in the process forged a stronger nation. Our duty now is to care for and comfort all victims of this war.


If we hate in order to cope, we must be wary of hating when we react. Anger is an energy—preferably used constructively, not destructively. These terrorists are not our neighbors. If we try to determine our enemies by shade of skin or belief of creed, we fail, and in the process of turning on ourselves, only continue the work of these undetectable enemies who will only reveal themselves through their deeds, not by their appearances.


We’ve all been affected by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the four hijacked planes. We’re donating our blood and money; we’re offering our love and prayers. We continue at our work. We continue with our days.


Perhaps the worst day in the history of our country, September 11 stands like a monolith rising from the ocean of time. What could have been a gravestone instead can serve as a lighthouse, its beacon shining on us now.



As I type this, it’s 11:35 pm and the television is on, tuned to the news. Every so often, I lift my head. Again and again I see United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south Tower. The building swallows the plane. Each viewing surprises me. Like a temporary amnesiac, I anticipate the plane safely brushing by the Tower and disappearing into the television. I’m shocked every time it hits it. Yet I continue watching and remembering. I suppose our options are to be haunted by the visions we’ve absorbed, or be inspired by the illuminations we find in our memories.


In 1949, the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett wrote, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” in his novel, “The Unnamable.” Under what heading can we record this unnamable disaster? The events of September 11 seem too grand, too numerous to package under a single title. Nevertheless, we’ll each give name to our experience of this unnamable disaster.


But how will we go on?


We can’t go on.


We’ll go on.

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