New York City, September 11, 2006
This day began as beautiful as that day five years ago. Cool, clear, amazing September day.
From the papers, I knew that throughout the city there were observances. Names read. Moments of silence. Somber music in the parks. Visits by dignitaries.
For me, however, it was another work day–a Monday–as usual. Busy enough, nothing too stressful. It wasn’t until my late afternoon run across the George Washington Bridge that I had some time to reflect on this city and the world that are different places than they were five years ago. As big as the events were that day, and as big as the events are that have taken place since, I couldn’t help but wonder how we will look back on these years ten, twenty, thirty years hence. In what way will they shape that history that has yet to be written? Will those 3,000 lives lost fit into some larger meaningful picture, of what we hope will be sacrifices for freedom?
On the Hudson River, a tugboat guided a gargantuan barge far beneath the bridge on which I ran. I noticed the hues of the sky’s blue as it faded into the clear horizon miles and miles to the north. Gray and purple clouds floated in a smattering across the sky. I saw the Jersey shore with its steep tree-filled banks. To the south, the densest part of the most crowded city in America lay in distant rest. Manhattan, quietly basking in the afternoon sun, balanced around the Empire State Building.
But most memorable, as cable after cable raced behind me, was the flag hanging in the arch of the western tower of the bridge. I’d seen it from a distance; it could easily be spotted from miles away. But as I jogged closer, the size of it was what pressed onto my mind’s eye. Easily 60 feet wide and 100 feet long, I imagined how many eighteen-wheelers it could cover. It billowed over the bridge in the cool eastern wind.
As I came closer, a helicopter circled far above. I wondered if the pilot could spot me–a solitary runner–dwarfed beneath the American flag. And this is the picture I will carry as I remember this day. Yes, the world changed shape on September 11, 2001. Yes, an narrative is forming as the rudder of history swung a new direction. But I’d like to take a moment this day not to simply solemnly remember the number 3,000, but to think that beneath the vast banner of American freedom are individuals who died that day…from this vantage point, each is not much more than a speck beneath that unfurled flag, but every one is far from forgotten.