"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago

There were anxious whispers in the hallway, rumors, confusion. But we started school as if it were a normal day. Normal. That's almost laughable now. I was in the band room, about halfway through first period freshman Concert Band, when there was an announcement over the loudspeaker that not only two planes it World Trade Center towers in New York, but a third had crashed into the Pentagon. "It sounds like it's pretty bad. Let's end class here today," my band director said. So we packed up our instruments early, as every TV in the school was turned on to broadcast the most shocking live images I had ever seen. My brother was a senior advisor for band, and as we parted, I felt alone and scared.

My second period class was Treble Ensemble, the freshman girl's chorus. I remember walking down the short hallway of the fine arts wing to the next classroom over; I walked like it was a dream, or a nightmare rather. First period hadn't ended yet, technically, so the hall was practically silent. Everything had a hazy quality about it, but maybe that was the confusion in my head, or my eyes misting over. As I entered the dark room, I stood for a moment looking up at the TV in the choir room, practically alone. My choir director joined me, as my fellow students and friends started filing, almost silent in their shock, into the room. Nobody turned the lights on. Was that to better see the TV, or was it because everyone else was similarly in such a deep, dark place that a light would be piercing?

We took our seats and watched in horror as the south, and half another later, the north tower fell. I don't remember crying, but I must have been, or even nearly hysterical, because my choir director somehow figured out what class my brother was in, and got the message to him that I was especially upset.

I frantically used school phone (I didn't have a cell yet) to call my parents, but nobody answered. I was panicking because my dad was supposed to fly that day, and I knew his flight wasn't until the afternoon, but who knows? But then I saw my brother in the hallway between classes, and he told me everyone was all right. He had gotten a copy of my class schedule so he could try to check up on me throughout the day.

The rest of the day was spent in front of the TVs, glued, mesmerized in the horror, or trying to learn something, though concentration was futile.

I got home and was relieved to curl up in our family room with my parents. I was supposed to have ballet class that night. I figured it would be canceled. But class was on, and I didn't want to be counted absent. I didn't want to go, but I pulled myself away from the warmth and comfort. What I found at my studio, took me by surprise. The class was not only full, but even more students than usual had shown up to take class. It was amazing. We had all come for the same reason....to take our minds off, even for a moment, those terrible images, and to live in the world of pliés and arabesque. For an hour and a half, we danced. It was beautiful.


Here I am, ten years later, at age 24, still remembering these images as if they were yesterday. I had a long conversation with a friend yesterday about the importance, or lack thereof, of remembering. When are we genuinely honoring those who lost or sacrificed their lives, and when does it become a tacky show of patriotism (or worse, vengeance, hate, and justification for war?)? When should we remember, and when should we move on? And what the heck is up with the idea that if we don't come out with our flags waving and our "Never Forget" T-shirts, that the terrorists have won?

I recognized that people are affected differently by September 11th. Some people, like myself, are sensitive to the images, and remember the day with disturbing vividness, and feel it is right to take the day to mourn and remember. Others think it is best to move on. Regardless, we must move forward to create a better world.

There were a couple sudden and awful terror attacks when I was in Israel. We were told that we do not know what was going to happen, but we must keep living our lives, and keep dancing. Israelis are true masters of resilience. (You can read my post on these attacks, and how I thought of 9/11, here: http://artinmotionblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/no-ones-laughing-at-g-d.html)

I know that for me, there was something beautiful and comforting of being in my music classes when the towers went down. Music, is something that has to power to make us aware of our humanity. Being with those people, my closest friends, provided the best comfort I could find. In dance class that night, we clung to our art like it was holy.

"We must admit there will be music despite everything."-poet Jack Gilbert