I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembrance wall

A composite of some of the notes left on the Wall of Remembrance in Battery Park, a reminder that for some of us this was all too personal. I asked the young woman who put up the license plate "4 Adam" who he was and she started to cry. "I can't talk about it!"

It made me feel a little like a poseur, being there, only as a citizen, a New Yorker, with no loss of my own except the ones we all share. And I wasn't even here on 9/11; I was in San Francisco moving my mother into assisted living, and I watched it all on tv. It was a week before I could get back here, to this numb, raw city, where we smelled the fires burning at Ground Zero every time the wind shifted.

That's what I wrote about on the wall: the smell. It was a rough poem I wish I could take back and do better, that I almost took back after I made the red-haired girl cry because I'm only a bystander and have no Adam to make the grief particular.

It was about the fires that burned for months, and how the smell reminded us that we were breathing lead and cadmium and asbestos, and my small way of coping was to tell myself that I was inhaling the towers, inhaling the dead.

Ten years on, steel spires in my spine
And you still walk Manhattan in my bones.

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