It"s a year later. We made it through the much-anticipated anniversary of an event that still seems like a nightmare. In some ways it feels as though Sept. 11 is a date that now defines the beginning of another year. Time changed last September, along with our world. Time has taken on a distorted quality, sometimes accelerated, sometimes drawn out, hard to explain, but somehow we all know what we"re attempting to articulate. Once again, words fall short. I approached this Sept. 11 with agitation, trepidation, sadness and gratitude. As the calendar closed in on the date, I began to replay the events of and around that day. The images of my own experience frequently flashed through my mind"s eye, just as vivid and blurry as they were a year ago. I heard parallel experiences of reliving the whole thing from others who were also near the World Trade Center that day. The key word here is RELIVING, obviously indicating that we"re still alive and able to go through this process, as strange as it may be. That"s where gratitude comes in. It seemed like the world wanted to know what was happening in New York and that New Yorkers were doing all that they could to avoid it on some levels. In spite of my avoidance of much of the newspaper and television coverage around Sept. 11, I was occasionally drawn in anyway. The constantly existing poles of opposites, of resistance and non-resistance, of exposure or protection from more sensory input. I was drawn into a story on the front page of the New York Times about a woman who is still hospitalized from injuries sustained from the same falling debris that many of us experienced following the second plane crash. Once again, I am reminded of my own "close call" and how fortunate I was and still am. I still can"t wrap my mind or spirit around the grief of those who lost loved ones. My experience of loss is once or twice removed: parents of students, friends or family members of friends. I do know that on this particular anniversary it was important to ritualize the tragedy Ö not in an attempt to achieve that illusive thing called closure, but to move on from here, as we have for the past year. It felt important for me to do some of the same activities as I engaged in on Sept. 11, 2001. So I rode the train with my friend and professional colleague, Mary Ann, to a gathering of some of the same people who were near the WTC last year for a meeting. Having been through this experience of fleeing the site during the onset/onslaught with Mary Ann, it seemed necessary to be together on that anniversary morning. Maybe it was important to complete the circle of events. To have a different outcome, maybe, just being together and having "normal" conversation. Not to say that there weren"t some weird and tense moments when we emerged from the subway (this time on 34th Street) at almost the same time as last year. The sky was clear and vibrantly blue, the winds unusually strong. Some people suggested that spirit presence(s) were felt through the high winds. Who"s to say? This extremely gorgeous day was a gift in this atmosphere of equally extreme grief and sadness. It feels different in New York these days. I can"t quite pinpoint it. Sometimes the energy seems to be different Ö the unseen energy Ö the "vibe." It"s abstract but you can still feel it. I think the whole country and even world has felt some of the same thing. Being closer in proximity seems to intensify this feeling perhaps. But no one has a corner on the grief market. People everywhere were touched and affected in both personal and broader ways, seen and unseen. Poet laureate Billy Collins expressed it so poignantly in his poem "The Names": "So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart." One of the things that makes me nervous about these times in which we live is the escalation of paranoia. On one hand, we must be alert, on the other we must continue living our lives. When the president advises us to report any "unusual" things to the authorities, I wonder what might be considered "unusual" or "out of the ordinary." Sometimes it"s hard to say, especially in New York. This strikes me as both comic and tragic. I"d like to think that we don"t need to be suspicious of everyone, but so many questions come up around this very issue. Are we encouraging intolerance? The idea is frightening to me. I am still glad to live in New York. I saw a T-shirt yesterday that read, "I love New York more than ever." We made it through a challenging year. Now what? As usual, I have more questions than answers. I do know that I am tremendously loved and supported by a small army of dear ones. I am truly grateful. And, like many others, I most likely will continue to feel a range of emotions from grief to joy and places in between. I continue to focus on my own small ways of contributing to the greater good, each day renewing the commitment of moving from a place of peace, love and respect for everyone, however challenging that might be, in both my personal and professional lives. This year has made me even more aware that we are citizens of the world, not just one place. Margot Faught is an arts educator with ArtsConnection in New York City. She was an educator and performer in Indianapolis for many years. Her previous article on Sept. 11, "American Terror: A Hoosier at Ground Zero," appeared in NUVO Sept. 20-27, 2001.
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