Not 12 hours earlier, boom, a lunatic shot up a movie audience watching Dark Knight Rises. It could have easily been me or my friends. We just never know when it is our time, be it God’s choice or someone else’s. It was really difficult to watch the news coverage. As I get older, bad news seems to get harder to watch and digest.
Ironically, on Monday, I had an opportunity to visit the 911 memorial for the first time with a group of incoming freshman students. I was nowhere near the towers when the tragedy happened, but the devastation did not escape me, even 2 hours away in Albany, NY. As I got closer to the entrance, I felt tension and stress. I was not afraid to be there – quite the opposite. I felt very safe. The tension was a sadness and an uneasiness that felt haunting in spite of the 11 years that have now passed.
The memorial is beautiful. The museum is not open yet but architecturally, the building is very nice. I was focused on finding a name. It was the name of a college friend who died on September 11th. I had not seen her is many years, probably since the years following our graduation from Syracuse University. But it was still awful to hear that someone who I knew and had spent time with at one point in my life, had been victim to the terrorism and devastation.
I found myself walking over to the Name Locator kiosk and was alarmed when after typing in her name, her photo popped up. I wasn’t expecting the photo; even the person who I was with let out a light gasp. She was striking. But still.
Once I located her name, I went over to it, took a photo, said a little prayer and quickly exited the memorial.
As I made my way down 12th Avenue toward Albany and Greenwich Streets, the lump in my throat slowly disappeared. I’m not sure that anyone who lived through that day and was old enough to understand it, will ever feel completely at ease at the memorial footprint. I couldn’t see myself taking fun photos and postng in front of the reflecting pools. I didn’t fault the tourists for doing so. I understand. I just couldn’t do it. It didn’t seem right to me. I imagine that the Pearl Harbor Memorial or the Vietnam Memorial have similar effects on the soldiers who lived through that chaos.
The rest of the week was relatively uneventful, until today, when I find myself writing this blog post while I watch the Olympic opening ceremony. I love the Summer Olympics. I am so excited that there are several athletes of colors from the NYC metro area. I am especially excited about Bronx Puerto Rican gymnast John Orozco.
The Bronx – my hometown – where over 10% of the population is unemployed, over 28% is below the poverty level and almost 40% of its children live below the poverty line. But we have the Yankees and now John Orozco. It is so much pressure for such a young man, I am sure. But no matter where he places, I can assure you that my fellow Bronxians (Bronxites?) are going to support him and cheer for him no matter the outcome, simply because he made it there, against all odds. A black, Puerto Rican male creating so much hope and excitement brings chills to my spine, because it means that my little brown boy’s future is looking brighter. He can and will do anything he wants and I am even happier that he won’t be the first -that there will have already been trailblazers making it that much easier for him to live his life and build his dreams.
So while we shall never forget Aurora or September 11, I for one will keep hope alive that for every horrific tragedy like these, there are hundreds more happy endings shaping our futures.