The day after (September 12, 2001)

Though it feels like I’ve been talking to myself here lately, here goes again…though it’s hard to find the words this time.

Like many of you, probably, sleep was fitful for me last night. I’ve been watching CNN and Sky News since a friend called me yesterday afternoon and asked if I’d seen what was happening in New York. I flew out of JFK last Friday and returned to Slovenia the following day, where I slept for 15 hours straight. Just last Thursday I was in lower Manhattan, lunching with friends in a café on 11th St. and using the twin towers to the south as an orientation guide…walking past Washington Square Park and NYU, bustling and crazy as ever, beautiful day, secondhand paperbacks hawked on the sidewalks, lovers embracing on benches. Now, as everyone knows, it’s a war zone; I’ve watched various videos of that plane flying into the second tower and bursting into an orange fireball for what seems like a couple of hundred times now, and like everyone else, I still can’t believe what is happening. I grew up in New York, my family and many people I care about are there; I suppose I was back in that city for what turned out to be the last week of what will come to be remembered as a normality that won’t return for a long time.

If our generation was looking for its defining public event, it seems we’ve found it, a delayed Y2K bug come home to roost; whatever innocence we still had as Americans has been lost, and I hope to God this is not the opening bell of World War 3 but there’s going to be a lot of hysteria, irrationality and paranoia ahead. What kind of a war is it where you can’t even identify your enemy? Is this our karma biting us back, in a sense? We may
never know.

I have plenty to say about the things I did on my trip and my thoughts on our generation’s increasing maturity, but this doesn’t seem like the day to post them. I like to think of myself as an experienced optimist, but, as a friend once told me, if you have your eyes open to the world it is sometimes hard to be optimistic. Wish I could think of any appropriate quotable song lyrics to plug in at this point (even music seems an inadequate salve right now), but I just keep thinking of Bogie in Casablanca saying, “The problems of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” And also what Raymond Williams said: “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.” Which I wish I could find some comfort in.

Out of my window I can see a glass tower called the World Trade Center Ljubljana, small-scale but it’s standing there as ever, a symbol of Slovene pride. I don’t feel like joking about it anymore.

Vaya con Dios,

Wes

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