I went to the 9/11 Memorial after work today, and ended up, of course, back in Zuccotti Park. Occupy Wall Street was just beginning a candlelit vigil to the “friends, family, and fallen” of September 11th, 2001. We stood huddled around a cardboard memorial holding flickering tea lights, sharing both stories and silence in recognition of the day that changed world history.
“I know we’ve had our conflicts with the NYPD this year,” a spokesperson began, “but this is a day to set aside differences. We are here to honor the lives lost eleven years ago.” He bypassed Occupy’s standard “up-twinkle” fingers of appreciation for a rare, full-blown round of applause for those police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and others who risked their lives to enter the Towers in 2001.
Although a few handwritten signs alluded to 9/11 as an inside job, I only heard one such comment spoken aloud. “We’re here out of a respect,” another young man objected quietly. “Let’s keep the focus on first responders and all those affected.” “You’re right,” the initiator agreed quickly; “I’m sorry.”
It was a very solemn and respectful ceremony. People passing through the park paused to pray, snap pictures, or wipe away tears. Many stayed to light candles and listen. Occupiers and passerby alike shared stories of shocking TV footage, delayed trains, debris; apartment windows too smokey to see out of; firefighter cousins who never came home, whose bodies could never be recovered from the wreckage of the Towers. Everyone seemed to feel the world had became a darker place eleven years ago today, although many spoke of hope for “a better tomorrow.” An older woman suggested we sing a stanza of Bridge Over Troubled Water, because ”One way to fight fear is to sing.” Awkwardly, two or three people joined her off-tune acapella. Then another threw his voice in, stronger, and another, until everyone had joined. We guarded the little flames in our palms and fought fear together.
When you’re weary
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Yes, like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down