I took that photo in late winter/early spring of 2002, a bare five months after our world changed forever.
Since I took that picture, I've moved a dozen times. I've held four or five different jobs. I volunteered as a firefighter. I fell in love, got married, bought a house, got a dog, sold a house, moved across the country, fell in love again, and - in hindsight - have watched myself grow up.
The one thing I have not done is return to the corner of Church and Vesey Streets.
I wasn't ready.
This past weekend I was in New York City for a friend's wedding and had a morning of downtime before the service. I decided it was time.
I took the subways down, and walked the block from Cortlandt Street over to the 9/11 Memorial.
I spent some time walking and thinking. And watching. And looking. And thinking some more.
I posted the following two pictures to my facebook account, with the caption, "The real awe is not what fell... It's what arose."
The towers were buildings. Knocking down a building is not awe-inspiring.
Freedom Tower, symbolic as it is, is not awe-inspiring.
The memorial pools are beautiful and gut-wrenching in their way, but not awe-inspiring.
No, what awes me is the spirit that is embodied in the pools and tower. On 9/11, we were forced to see the reality: we are not beloved 'round the world. And we were hurt, deeply. And we turned around and built a symbol right back up.
It doesn't matter how tall Freedom Tower is. We could have built the crudest plywood shack in the same spot and the spirit would be the same. Abraham Lincoln said it, far more eloquently than I may:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.As I walked, I saw a young girl - perhaps five or six years old - and overheard part of the conversation she was having with her father, as he tried to explain what had happened, what it meant, why it happened... He tried.
I took one other picture while I visited:
They went up.
I cannot imagine a more fitting epitaph.