New York, September 11th, 2007
from an ancient culture obsessed with remembering
every detail of a long and often tragic history.
So, it has a lot of holidays to commemorate
catastrophes, epiphanies, and even a triumph or two.
The year is filled with obligations to remember
events, lost in the mists of time, with prescribed
rituals, prayers for prophets and martyrs, and special
foods --or no food at all. There are days when
you have to be happy, and days of somber
self-contemplation on the meaning of it all. So
it goes year after year, marking time.
also a first generation American, steeped in the
history and holidays of the relatively young nation to
which my parents fled as refugees. I'm a
veteran; so there's another set of holidays to take
seriously and keep track of. And I'm a New
Yorker, a citizen of the City whose horror was seen
and heard around the world as it happened. Here
in New York City there is an immediacy and intimacy to
the day etched in everyone's mind. There were so
many martyrs. Everyone here knows someone who
was in some way directly afflicted that day. For
most ordinary folks here, 911 is a day for quiet
reflection, far from the hero hype and pontificating
were real heroes here that day, so many, straight and
gay, black and white, speaking every language under
the sun in a city that is and has always been a
melting pot of peoples from somewhere else since the
first days dawned on New Amsterdam. On that day
it didn't matter who you were or what you were into;
everyone either helped someone else or needed
someone's help. Seeing the soot covered masses
marching across the bridges to Brooklyn, the Hasidic
communities there set up tables on the street and gave
them water. People did whatever they could, what
they knew how to do, without having planed to be
honored in any way. Some ran into the burning
buildings to rescue whomever they could, to say
prayers for the dying, and they were crushed to dust.
Some served water to strangers; some said prayers both
sacred and profane.
is an unknown New Yorker, standing somewhere near an
open news media microphone when the buildings began to
fall, whose words were broadcast live around the
world, "Holy Shit!" It was when I
heard those words, as I sat horrified in front of a
television on the other side of the planet, that I
knew that what I was seeing was real. It was
that expression, in my own profane pure New York
dialect, that connected me intimately with what has
happening at home, as I sat in far away Australia on
vacation. Thank you. In his own way, he
did his part, unintentionally. Suddenly, I was
no longer a gay Yank on an Aussie holiday. I was
an American whose heart had been pierced by an enemy.
Is that what makes one a patriot?
the day has a name for better or worse, Patriot Day.
After nightfall, from the farthest outer reaches of
the City, one can see the twin blue beams of light
from near Ground Zero burning into space. And
words cease as we look on in silence.
2007 Gay Military Signal