It seems to be an unwritten law for writers with web sites and members of the Bloviating Class that something must be said about 9/11.
I have thought about this, and I’m sorry. I can’t. I just can’t.
It’s not a matter of personal loss, for I lost no one that day.
It’s not a matter of personal trauma, for I spent much of that day in an office far from the World Trade Center as the host of an AOL chat room.
My resistance is about privacy. In Victorian England, when there was a death, the street where the mourners lived was covered in straw, so the horses’ hooves didn’t disturb those who were grieving; in the forest, when an animal is sick, it goes off and hides until it’s healed. That’s how I feel about 9/11. Out there in America, you may genuinely grieve, but you cannot know --- and we cannot tell you --- how it is for us.
What we saw, what we did, how we felt --- these are our wounds. Do we heal? Is there --- that awful word --- closure? I think not. Neither does Michael Oreskes, Senior Managing Editor of The Associated Press, who has written that these wounds are permanent for New Yorkers.
Before I came to feel this way, I did two pieces that may be of interest.
One is an appreciation of Aftermath, Joel Meyerowitz’s fine book of the photographs he made at Ground Zero. (On Friday, HuffingtonPost will republish this piece, with a slideshow of a dozen images. I’ll add the link when it’s up.)
The other is my account of what it was like to work at AOL that September. (I’m told the piece will be published Friday; I’ll add the link.)
I used to stand with Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
But when words fail, there’s music. If you’re near a church or concert hall this weekend, there are some symphonies you can’t avoid. Very unlikely that you’ll hear Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, the “Resurrection.”
Leonard Bernstein revered Mahler. Conducting his music, he became Mahler. And in that transformation, he took an orchestra and chorus to the place where I’m trying to get my feelings about 9/11 to go --- transcendence.