Re-posting for the umpteenth time because it was the first thing I read after that day, after that blur of a day and the two-three weeks that followed, that didn’t feel like a fucking greeting card, that made any kind of sense to me at all:
As we approach the Brooklyn Bridge, a ferry pulls in to the pier, calling for passengers to Jersey City. That’s where Don lives. We both stop, frowning, and for a moment we just stand there together as others pass us with their heads down, concentrating on going. We don’t want to leave each other. Without each other, it’s just us by ourselves. It seems strange and worrisome, and I sense that he wants me to go with him so we can stick together still, but I also know he knows I have to go north and finish the walk, that it’s important for both of us to get to our homes. All of these thoughts come and go and we don’t say any of them aloud. We shake hands, wish each other the very best of luck, although it’s not a day with much of that. Don heads back towards the pier. I turn back to the hill ahead of me. I don’t turn around. It’s just me now, going home.
We reach for this easy stuff, all the time. My Facebook feed is being overtaken with images of bald eagles superimposed onto the Twin Towers by people who were thousands of miles away when the planes struck. I got angry at it back then; I am angry at it now. It’s so easy, the treacly songs, the easy post-and-repost remembrances. We were Forever Changed by this terrible thing that happened. Every word of that annoys me because no, we weren’t, and we aren’t we anyway.
(I think I get so angry at the easy remembrances because I envy the sense of safety people now mourn as having been ripped away. I envy their former obliviousness to the randomness of bad fortune.)
Those for whom 9/11 was just a particularly compelling TV show, for whom the community prayer vigils were fan conventions for America, who were happy to wave their flags and paint their chests red, white and blue and beat up on Sikh shopkeepers? They weren’t altered by it, not really. Three to six weeks later they stopped going to church again, or quit calling their parents, or started snapping at their kids, because that’s how we’re built.
We are prone to grand declarations — remember how snark and irony were going to be So Over? — that have no hope of coming true. We make wild promises we have no hope of keeping, and get angry when someone reminds us of the words we spoke so rashly, of the vows we made in moments of clarity. Full of excuses as to why we didn’t live up to our best image of ourselves, the one we invent to keep from going mad when something terrible happens. Like a couple of planes slamming into a building. Or a gunshot.
Change doesn’t happen with a break, or a leap, or a plane crash. The shock isn’t what alters you. It’s the grinding down, afterward, the every day scraping forward and forward and forward until the skin’s rubbed down to the bone. It isn’t fun and it isn’t set to music and it certainly can’t be reduced to a 15-minute ceremony in front of a statue once a year. It’s every day. It sucks.
You tell me, though.What choice do we have?
Giffords was broken on that day, and she’s broken now. I’m broken, too, and so are you. Every day breaks us in a different way. But broken is not the same thing as dead, and if you’re not dead, you’re alive, and if you’re alive, you can do something. That’s not courage; it’s just what you do. You wake up. Something’s sore. Your head hurts. You don’t want to do what you have to do today. You don’t want to talk to humans. There’s so much weight that it feels like you can’t do it anymore. It’s pointless. It’s unmanageable. It’s awful. You can’t do it. You know, deep down in your stomach, that you simply can’t do it anymore. It’s impossible.
You get up anyway.