Stories. Stories. Each one of us has stories about Tuesday and what hashappened since. We need to tell our stories. We need to hear each other's stories. We, ourselves, are stories.
Tuesday morning at 8:45 a.m., I got out of a taxi here at the corner ofFifth Avenue and 29th Street. I heard the sound of a jet plane flying very low overhead. I looked up. I didn't see the plane, but the sound struck me as odd, because one doesn't hear big jet planes flying low over Manhattan. It doesn't happen, but this day it did.
I gave it no further thought and I went to my desk. Moments later, myyounger son called me and said, "Dad, get to a television. A plane just hit the World Trade Center." As he was describing the scene, he said, "I see another plane coming. It hit the other building! What's going on? Something's happening!" And it was. And it has.
We've seen those pictures a thousand times since. For generations ofAmericans, things have changed permanently. For you and for me, things will not be the same again. America has changed permanently. Something has happened. For thirty years, as I would walk down Fifth Avenue and look straight ahead toward the very bottom tip of Manhattan Island, I would see those two gigantic buildings. And never did I see them without a feeling of awe and wonder that the human mind could create such mammoth, extraordinary structures.
I never paused to calculate the immense human loss if all thepeople, who worked in those towers, ever became the victims of some attack or calamity. Even with rescue efforts underway today, we still have no way of comprehending just what the toll will be in human loss and pain.
As I look back over the years, I recall that in the first building, Building One, there was a restaurant on the 107th floor called Windows on the World. My wife and I would often go there, bringing friends and family members from outside of the city and state. Sometimes we would enjoy special celebrations there. We would look from the south, we would look from the north, we would look from the east, we would look from the west, and see extraordinary views. We felt as if we were seeing the entire world.
Those twin towers were the symbol of American free enterprise. They were a symbol of New York and a symbol for all of the United States. They were important symbols, like the Titanic. But the Titanic has sunkagain and with it, thousands of lives have been lost. It's a strange feeling now, coming down Fifth Avenue and not seeing those towers there. I'm still numb. I'm stunned. Where do we look for meaning and answers when we've lost such an important symbol and when people we knew and loved are never going to return?
We can go to the wisdom of the ages, the Scriptures, the wisdom of theuniverse, the word of God. In the 46th Psalm we read: "God is in the midst of the city. The city will not be moved. God will help it when the morning dawns."
God is. God has been. God will be. Nobody can destroy the city when God is in the midst of it. We depend on the presence of almighty God. We believe in it and have faith in it. It is an unchangeable, immovable presence.
What else do we do? What must we do for ourselves? Primary, and important--and many people are not likely to do this, but it's essential for our mental health, the health of our communities, the health of the nation--we must take time to mourn and express our grief and our anguish. We must get deeply in touch with our feelings--the feelings of sadness, the feelings of terror, the feelings of fear, the feelings of anxiety. We need to get in touch with our anger. It is important that we get in touch with our feelings, and hold them up and honor them. We need to respect them and give them time and space to do their work. It's important to go deep and get in touch with them.
That is why, on Friday morning, I went to see a therapist.
"Arthur, how are you?" he said. "How are you handling yourself?"
"I'm fine." I said. But I knew inside that I wasn't, and he knew that too. And then I told him how I had built a protective wall around my emotions. I had allowed none of the pain or anguish to get in. I had kept it all outside. I was protecting myself from hurt, from pain and from feeling.
"No, not really," I said. "There were a couple of times when I started to, but I stopped it right away."
"Tell me about them," he said. "And as you do, cry."
And I said, "I got a call from out of state, from somebody very important to me, in whom I've invested so much of myself. We had become estranged. This person had even refused to take my calls. But that person called after the disaster and when I heard that voice--'Arthur, are you all right?'--I started to cry. But I cut it off."
"Cry now," he said. And I did.
"What was the other instance?" he asked.
"This was a strange one for me," I said, "but when I heard that two of the terrorists rented a car in my hometown of Portland, Maine, drove to Boston and came and did that dastardly thing, that got to me. There are two places that I feel that I belong, that I am passionately in love with--New York City and the coast of Maine--and both were involved, and somehow that got to me."
And I cried in his office. I learned years ago that it's one thing to cry by yourself, but it's very healing to cry in the presence of a significant other person.
"How are you feeling now?" he asked.
"I feel sad, overwhelming sadness," I answered.
And he began to help me explore the sadness, and the other avenues andtributaries of my life where sadness exists. I began to discover why these two incidents got to me.
And he said, "Arthur, I hope you can stay in this place of sadness." And I have. The sadness is still with me, but identifying the feeling and talking it out has relieved some pressure.
Some of you may be feeling sadness. Others of you may be feeling something different. Many of you are feeling intense anger. You're enraged. That's a legitimate feeling. Let it be, and honor it. Only share it with a thoughtful person so that it doesn't get solidified and eventually become destructive.