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It is a testament to the physical world that the towers could be so terrifyingly beautiful in their collapse. The plume of smoke and dust.  The bloom mid-collapse, the front shearing off with such grave magnificence.  The shattering of the windows gleaming out into the sky.  The way the dust instantly made monuments out of whatever structure it covered:  an escalator, a fruit cart, the double monument of the dusted cemetery.  Our response to what we see is so conditioned by what we know.  If we could somehow witness that without any knowledge of what the collapse represented, what would the response be?  And knowing what was happening in those buildings as they collapsed, how far is horror from the response to beauty?  Bacon:  “There is no beauty that hath not some degree of strangeness.”    The dramatic act of disappearance.  Have we ever seen so much disappear at once?  If being present as one person takes her last breath could be so transformative, what is the effect of witnessing so much steep transition at once?

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The bodies in desperate flight. (when people spoke of this, they almost always said “bodies” instead of “people” as if it made it just ever so slightly more possible to bear.  Even saying “flight” wants to mask what happened)What an incredible act of discrimination these people made between two sudden and almost certain dooms: to choose the one that has some degree of agency over  yielding to smoke and flame.

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We talk of the first tower now, and the second tower.  Now they are identified by their order of collapse.  The lost are identified by their floor:  “He was ‘on 104.’”  not “on the 104th floor.”  Language’s inexorable movement toward economy… also, the way the higher numbers communicated the greater likelihood of their having perished…

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“He rode the building down,” a newscaster said of a policeman.  He had been on the 86th floor when the building collapsed  and he survived.

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The uneasy relationship to verb tense in the people speaking of their missing in those days when no one wanted to give up hope:  “he could always make a whole room laugh.” then shifting to “when he enters a room, I always cut up.”  She let her guard drop for a moment in the first sentence and then brought him back in the second by switching back to the present tense.  He’s “missing” not “lost,” a woman corrected a newscaster.  The refuge that language provides.

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On the first days, when we were being acquainted with the fierce loyalties of the firefighters, someone asked a firefighter “don’t you want to go home and sleep for a little bit?,” and he said, “Our brothers and sisters are in there.”  He didn’t say they are like brothers and sisters.  And then for a few days the newscasters on the major stations followed suit, saying “they go back, they keep looking, hoping to find their brothers and sisters.”  The newscasters gave them that slight inaccuracy, as if saying “like” would not show proper deference to the connection the firefighters feel.

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A rescue worker working with his dog said of their work, “We work for two hours, then we take a nap, then we go back out on the piles.”  I was so moved by the simplicity of “then we go back out on the piles.”  Partly because of the way he built himself a shelter in the generic lexical level of his phrasing.  But also, isn’t that just how a dog would phrase it?

Someone told me that when the search dogs go out on training missions, the trainers will lie on the ground so the dogs can find a living person if they have found too many dead people in a row.  The dogs get demoralized if they go too long without finding a living person.

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We have entered a wicked pass in the vale of soulmaking.  As I try to negotiate the terrain here, I look for teachers.  One of the first places I look is within the body, with its tremendous capacity for healing.  I think of the loud snap of my achilles tendon in a ballet class 5 years ago.  The tendon ruptured and the top band rolled up the back of my leg.   With the support of a cast holding it in place with my foot in a pointed position, the fibers found their way back to each other and reconnected.  I think of New York this way, with this rupture of unimaginable scale and almost instantly the circulatory system sends help down the arteries of the island, and the hundreds of thousands of small gestures of connection that were performed.  the way the tendon is now a strong cable.  How when it ruptured, the doctor said that to perform surgery on it would be like sewing two paintbrushes together, but that it had the capacity within itself to heal.

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The steel face  of the towers rise over the wreckage like a cathedral

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In Hans’ yoga class last sunday morning, every movement of my body was suffused with some aspect of the building’s collapse.  Hinging at the pelvis letting my arms rise up, forward, and down, I felt like the building with its front section shearing off.  It seemed like something my consciousness came up with to disperse the impact of it.

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I think of the Buddhist parable of Manibhadra and the shattered vessel.  When her awakening comes at the moment the vessel she’s been carefully carrying shatters.

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Last spring after several experiences of Stanley’s capacity to locate the poem in the draft,  I imagined him to be like a rescue worker or search dog who could find the person lost under the rubble, who could hear or sense the faint vibrations.

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All evening I’ve been writing these notes and packing to go NY.

packing and unpacking.

Tonight our tower is lit in red white and blue lights.