I had hardly scanned Lolita Baldor’s “Terror takes back seat; Americans safer now” headline before having to readjust and start over. It wasn’t that I was taken aback, or that I misread a word or that I found the subject jarring. It was that the halting Uptown 4 which had just arrived at Union Square and 14th Street had shifted my view.
Though I was born and raised in Manhattan and had been on the island in September 2001, the article frightened me more than the memories of that day; the ashy clothes of a family friend’s soot-covered uniform, the tears of my heartbroken mother.
I was 10 and couldn’t truly bear the weight of such an event, focusing more on my upcoming birthday that I knew then was canceled. So when I asked my mother why it mattered, she explained that her and my father’s wedding reception took place at Windows On The World. I shrugged and went outside.
For the next year American flags flew everywhere, more than I’d ever seen. Flags that to a child were reserved for cruise ships, stoic city park poles, baseball games, emblazoned on tails of certain Airbuses before I became afraid of flight. That year the eagle became more prominent of a figure, more resounding of the American belief that we’ll be alright, we’ll rebuild, we stand together.
As the years passed and the anniversaries marked the more than 2,000 who perished, as we trudged through a seemingly endless war and butchered politics, an era of Facebook and MySpace, of Bush and Barack, the flags were stowed but instead flown on one July day each year.
“Americans have stopped fretting daily about a possible attack or stockpiling duct tape and water,” Baldor reports. “Getting through airport security has become a routine irritation, not a grim foreboding.”
Maybe she’s right. Maybe we’ve become complacent, just not yet miserable.
And, now as a twenty-something amid the 9-5 crowd each weekday, when looking at the people around me, I don’t see a lack of fear, but an abundance of apathy – a war of attrition may leave one unbowed but still broken. I read the articles leading up to the memorial as I stepped onto the island to take note of things I never would have until now: the loose nuts of scaffolding, a turbulent subway ride, an armed man standing in front of an Empire giant …
… a plane flying too low.Contact Kenneth Rosen.