Yesterday was September 11. The emotional power of that day lives on, even though we have long ago returned to "normalcy".
Sunday. I drove past a church in New Jersey on my way to the city. There were a dozen fire trucks and emergency vehicles parked out front. A fire at the church? No, the mind catches up with the scene and quickly corrects the mistaken impression.
A Memorial Mass for a NYC fireman who died in the World Trade Center. John Collins, a hero. Grew up in this parish -- served at Mass; his folks still live there.
Continued my trip, and waiting on the platform at Journal Square for a PATH train around 3pm, a train coming from NY pulled in and stopped. The first car was filled with men in kilts and their bagpipes. No, it isn't St Patrick's Day.
I start to feel very guilty for traveling into Manhattan to see a movie. The day before, I had wondered for a moment if it was smart -- would someone blow up the train? No, I reasoned. Too few people on the train on Sunday -- it will be tomorrow, or some other day. Not quite comforting, but we move on.
On to the PATH stop at West 9th Street and Sixth Avenue. A short walk from there to the Cinema Village. Just in time to see "Music from the Inside Out", which profiles the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The documentary explores how these musicians think and feel and live with their art and their vocation.
The movie and the music is uplifting, exhilarating, joyous. Really.
One scene: a street musician playing an accordion. Vivaldi's "Four Seasons: Winter". Ruslan Slinko is his name. See the movie -- if only for this one performance. It is amazing. When the movie ended, the director held a Q&A session, and in response to one question he described Slinko as a "starving musician".
I thought to myself that life can be difficult and painful sometimes, but there is always music.
Last night I was far from the City. I knew the memorial lights were shining above Lower Manhattan, but I did not go outside to look.
I get into my car this morning and the radio is tuned to WNYC, as always. Someone is ringing a bell, solemnly. Recordings edited and joined together to capture some of the memorial programs acrossthe City yesterday. Reading aloud the now-familiar names of the dead. Voices choking. A choir singing "The Star Spangled Banner". A recording of "Imagine".
At 6:39am on the NJ Turnpike, the sun is rising over Lower Manhattan. Big, orange, and beautiful. Just about where the twin towers of light were shining last night, in my mind's eye.
On the bus, I read some more about the flood. About 500,000 Americans seeking new jobs, schools, places to live, peace of mind. Which of these will prove most elusive?
An article considers the problem of evacuating New York City. As if we do not already know the obvious truth.
As I emerge from the subway at Grand Central Station, five policemen are set up at the turnstiles to search knapsacks and other suspicious packages. They are not interested in me -- I am on my way out and onto the street.
On to work, and a normal day in this life at the edge of normalcy.