Like most of the country today, I’ve been thinking about 9/11. Granted given the current geo-political situation, it’s difficult *not* to think about 9/11 since there is always something in the news reminding us. For New Yorkers, the experience is understandably much more personal. It wasn’t just your country that was attacked, but your home. The familiar iconic towers vanished, as well as the lives of many friends and loved ones. Personally, despite my extended connection with New York City, I’ve always had a somewhat detached perspective towards 9/11, mostly because I wasn’t around at the time.
I remember being in afternoon seder in Gruss learning hilchot shehita when someone came in with the news he read off the internet. Knowing this person’s jocular nature and the implausibility of the report we didn’t take him seriously at first. Eventually we went in to double check, and were shocked at the images and video. Our lagging single dial-up connection combined with the worldwide demands on the Internet throttled any incoming information. Phones were down for hours so we couldn’t even make direct connections with people. Understandably, confusion was rampant as were the feelings of uncertainty and helplessness.
Still, while we felt these emotions, we weren’t impacted directly. We worried and prayed, but our day was still basically uninterrupted; there was even a bris in Gruss the following day. Then of course, the religious hyperbole started coming in. It only took a few days until I started hearing quotes from kabbalists claiming how this would usher in the war of Gog and Magog or other signs of the impending apocalypse. Having not been so directly affected, 9/11 almost immediately became mythic; it wasn’t so much a terrorist attack but a watershed event in hummanity.
Returning to New York, I felt like a ghost. There was the aura of tragedy and meaning, a collective experience with which I could never fully empathize. Gradually people moved on, but as those who pass Ground Zero today will notice, the holes are still there.
I think it’s obvious that people are still dealing with the tragedy and are in their own stages of grief. Some have accepted and moved on, others are still in denial. For me 9/11 is somewhere in the middle of feeling the raw emotions yet always remaining distant. It is both personal and abstract simultaneously. But while there is a feeling that I will never be able to share with my fellow New Yorkers, I hope that I will never have the opportunity to share such an experience in the future.