During the beer-and-pizza
philosophical discussions of a college dorm many moons ago, I had presented the
position that the devil was a figment of our imagination, a fig newton I had
remarked since we were physics nerds struggling with angstroms, coulombs,
newtons, and such.
Moreover, evil was another fig
newton, the same as shadows and cold, a convenient term for the lack of light
or heat, but not entities of their own. We cannot measure cold except by the
absence of the calories of heat.
So evil was just the absence of
good. This found traction in those days of flower children, and sent me into
the world with a bit of a Pollyanna attitude, often underestimating the ability
of folks to be under-good.
One would think this left me
unprepared for New Yorkers, rumored to be snobbish and grumpy. But to the
contrary, I discovered they are warm and kind hearted. From the subway cop who
walked me over to my train so I wouldn't get lost, to the Armenian fruit vendor
who was happy to show me how to sniff out the ripe peaches, the city was packed
with friendly human beings.
So it was that I descended to a
museum of terror and evil dedicated to thousands of New Yorkers extinguished on
9/11. Far below honking traffic and chattering kids, hundreds of us moved like
silent waves around the North Tower's foundation. The pictures, stories,
voices, and videos introduced us to the innocents, each so much like people we
No one looked up. We silently
drifted in our own space, sometimes reaching out to touch the resting place of
the blameless, whether in vain attempts to comfort the departed, to steady our
own hearts, or to emphasize the understanding that we all wander in fragile
Looking at a crushed fire truck, I
found most moving the radio recordings of cops and firemen who may have been
surprised by their own courage -- all snuffed out by brutal men wicked beyond
This cross-country voyage has been
marked by such welcoming fellowship that I was unprepared to stare evil in the
face, to imagine that so much pointless death and suffering could be unleashed
from the heart of another human being.
My turmoil was not the common
question of how God could permit this, but how a happy child playing tag in the
streets of Saudi Arabia, filled with stories of Allah the Merciful, could grow
so twisted that he would dance at the sight of a young office secretary,
someone's daughter, flinging herself out a skyscraper window because she was on
Between wiping my eyes, I took
pictures because that is what I do, but the realization that such beasts were
among us shook me with an anguish unlike anything before. I throbbed with
mindless hatred, fists clenched, ready for vengeance, ready to do great evil
Only hours later did a subway
musician calm me with a melody that wafted between happy and sad, showing me
that contradictions will exist, but that his gift of song will
From the ferry parking lot, my nightly bedroom view.
Inverted fountain of 9/11 memorial
Underground 9/11 museum at the base of North
Steel girders at point of impact with Flight
North Tower's radio/TV antenna section
Crushed fire truck
|For more pictures of New York, click here.