20 Years Ago

The 20th anniversary of…that day.

What a complicated memory. You try not to think about it, but then you do. It’s true what they say, that you remember exactly where you were when you heard.

20 difficult, troubled years – and many of the same problems are the same. Or worse.

NYC was never the same. When those buildings were built, lower Manhattan still had freight trains running on what is now the High Line. The streets near the docks had cobblestones, and freighters still unloaded at the piers. People used to go and sunbathe on the wooden docks, next to the oiled ropes tying up the ships.

The buildings went up. Didn’t nearly everyone who could go to the top? It was a terrifying view, and a heart-stopping elevator ride. Way up in the air, the lines of the avenues and streets faded into the distance like a child’s drawing, and the planes went in and out of LaGuardia Airport like toys.

The science of building a structure like that as unimaginable as the science of destroying it.

Now it’s Tribeca, and FiDi, and there’s the new building. A replacement? It never looks quite settled, but perhaps that is because the shadow of what was there is always hovering, a ghost of times past.

I saw a picture of Bruce Springsteen playing a song at the memorial. Suit and tie, disappearing grey hair, very thin. It’s the first time he’s looked old.

We are all older. A collection of histories, and memories, and events. They say memories fade, but I don’t believe that. There are images and moments that resist all time and healing.

Around the corner from me, yesterday, a man was killed. He was riding his bike, delivering food, when someone did a U-turn. I walked by the taped-off crime scene. The police were talked amongst themselves. The car and the bike were at the sides of the road – empty.

My grandfather’s birthday was the other day. He was a great man.

Sadness leads to sadness.

I want to think about the cobblestones. I wonder how many are still there, under layers of tar and dirt, past efforts buried by the rush to renew.

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