". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where The Squirrels Play: The Memorialized Immortal 9/11 Dead

Unlike ten years ago, today was cloudy, cool and clammy.

I thought I was going to the subway and head uptown to Grant's tomb since the bushwa and O touring companies had left town for appearances in other parts of the country. Just knowing b2 was here brings up the hatred and contempt we felt about him that day and for days after -- and will feel forever. He was pusillanimous, hiding in a hole somewhere, so that even Guiliani, trapped by his own arrogant idiocy and thus couldn't go anywhere else, looked good in comparison. b2 never came to NYC until over four days later. No Fidel is b2. And then b2 lied and lied and lied and lied us not just into war, but into the wrong war, in which our people are still being wounded and killed.

Anyway, my feet kept going when I got to the corner of Spring and Ave. of the Americas. Once on that path I continued to the Hudson, as I do so often. Down there is my back yard. The traffic, either pedestrian or vehicle, was light, which probably had a subsconscious effect on my feet. Maybe I'm still trying to reclaim the River Walk and the park, as still has not been possible for me to do since that day, when so much of what was rightfully mine as a citizen of NYC, who lives in this part of it, and helps pay for it, was taken from me by this, that and the other organizations, institutions, the military, the police, Homeland Security -- as it was taken from all the rest of us to whom it rightfully belongs.  It is still not entirely given back to us, ten years later.

The Museum of the New York Fire Department though, here on Spring Street, was packed with visitors coming in and hanging out, whereas it has been closed almost all the time since the 2008 financial crash budget cuts. There were many firefighters in their dress uniforms with medals galore. When I returned from my three hour peregrination down to the end of the island, the sidewalk was packed with firemen, who were hung on by young women dressed in what they thought was hot. They were not of the professional Fashion Week sets who currently are having their annual autumn NYC rendevous. Vomit was also present.
The Hudson river is still excrement brown, browner than we've ever seen it, though not as high as last week. All that that Hurricane Irene rain and flood run-off, and the run-off from the following rains out of Lee, is still running off.
The yacht marina at the World Financial Center was full up. Their owners displayed themselves to each other and to us little people who pay taxes, while they drank wine and champagne and scotch, chatted with each other about their planned winter cruises down into the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Why, yes, we could hear them. Why, yes, the billionaires are partying like it's 1999 because this day ten years ago threw them one windfall after another, all at my / our expense as little people who pay taxes.

Lots of young fellows wearing t-shirts that declared NYPD and NYFD, who were not cops, were not firefighters, rolled along the shoreline paths marked "Pedestrians," "Bikers," "Runners." Again, not so many people as I expected (though the bikers still did their best to kill me on the clearly markes Pedestrian Only paths, when right next to it was the clearly marked, much wider bike way ... do bikers dislike and fear their fellows as much as we pedestrians do?). Police vehicles in vast herds parked all along the way to Battery Park, with clusters of their riders hanging out around their mounts.

I'm not sure it was a good idea to have gone down there or not. I wept to the music of a military brass group playing at Battery Park, which is now flag grove after flag grove, memorializing the immortal 9/11 dead. Squirrels played gaily among the aisles of the flags that proclaimed "we will always remember we will never forget." Each plastic fiber flag has the names of all those who died that day printed on it.

I don't know if I was crying because of Kris -- it’s the anniversary of my baby sister's death too this week -- Mom, Dad, Lou, Fernando, Ronnie and all those dear others who we lost along the way, or because it is more than ever clear how our lives broke that day to before and after, even though we have other befores and afters, and we've had them since that day as well,.  Maybe was I crying because My Person wasn't here to elp me keep the terror of the unhopeful future at bay.

Maybe I cried because this is NYC and nothing is immortal here. My first professional work as an historian was at the Fraunces Tavern Museum, and my study was the history of the city. I can name you city disasters that killed more people than 9/11, and each time it was solemnly vowed "We will never forget. Your names will live among the stars forever." Now nobody even knows the disasters occurred except some historians.
On the way back I watched the Paul Taylor dance company's performance with the Orchestra of St. Luke's -- Bach -- titled Brandenburgs. There was a whole program of  dancers and musicians, sponsored by the Joyce Dance Theater in the meadow. Evidently the Joyce was one of the few representatives of the arts here in NYC to receive any of the appropriation$ for the 9/11 observances.  If any artists should be included in this it seems to me that the dancers and musicians are them ....  The arts all together were obvious by their absence in the lists of activities for this weekend. The audience for the program was almost entirely white, despite the opening Prelude of selections from Mande epic songs and poems. Nor did you see any Mande people anywhere, which often on Sunday you do in this place.
What was most obvious by absence on this journey into the convergence of the nation's, the city's and my own past and present was any women in hijab, or -- despite the Joyce Theater's Prelude -- anyone who seemed Muslim or even Middle Eastern. This is a Sunday, the Nelson Rockefeller park, and that long recreational shoreline to the end of the island. Most days you see as many hijabs among the mothers and kids as you see of any other mothers and kids – southeast Asian, hispanic, Africans, African Americans, Afro-latins, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, etc. Not today, not even an African patriarch in his robes, of whom you usually will see at least one or two on a Sunday afternoon. Yes, I was only there for three hours. But when there were so many recreating families even today, I wondered what that absence meant.

What I fear this absence means, when I myself have been apprehensive of getting around the city these last days because of the crazy number of guns and dumbeating everywhere, is that many of our city's residents were too afraid of the rest of us to come out.

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