Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seven Years Ago Today ... Not so Cool

I'm exhausted, but I figured I had better pop my head up here ... just in case anyone is checking in.

The chances of that are better today than last week.

Tuesday I sent out a blast email to 165 addresses ... the initial venture in what I hope will be a newsletter. The blast email announced to those I know - well, some, and barely - that my first novel will be published by Kregel Publications in the spring:

The Sacred Cipher
History's Greatest Secret May Be Tomorrow's Greatest Threat
Of course, at the bottom of each of those 165 emails was my contact information, including my blog address.
I think I've gotten about 70 responses to the blast email thus far. That's 70 people who may have been curious enough to check out this blog site, only to find out that I haven't been here for the past couple of weeks. Not good.
So, for anybody who's checking in - here I am!
Now, do I have anything to say? That is always the question.
Try this on for size.
My wife and I live on the Lower East Side of New York City, in a wildly popular and trendy neighborhood nicknamed NoLita (North of Little Italy). It's a cool place. We don't live in a cool place. We live in The Bowery Mission, which clothes and feeds and rescues the homeless and addicted. A wonderful place ... a place of miracles ... but not always a 'cool' place to live.
(As an aside, and just to give you a glimpse of how cool this neighborhood has become, a building two blocks away was just gut renovated. Five story, pretty old brick building that was derelict for the entire 11 years I've been here - until now. Sits on the corner of Spring and Elizabeth Streets. The owner has converted the building into six, full-floor condos ... perhaps 2,000 square feet each - maybe more. The price? Starting at $6 million each! That's how cool .)
Anyway, back to the point.
I was coming home the other night ... may have been Monday ... and as I crossed Bowery and walked toward the entrance to The Mission, my attention was caught by something to my right. I turned. And looked into the sky.
Up into the darkness of the night were two shafts of light.
My throat got thick. My heart skipped, stopped, then tripped along. For just a moment ... a fleeting, unexamined moment ... I thought I might break. And I stood on the sidewalk and stared.
The beams of light were most likely two of those special-event spotlights that some businesses will shine up into the sky to attract attention. They certainly got mine.
The lights were aimed at about a 40 degree angle, running upward from south to north ... from downtown to uptown. So unlike their predecessors, when you come to think of it. But who stops to think when there are two shafts of light piercing the sky of downtown Manhattan.
It was seven years ago when it last happened. Seven years ago today (now that it's 12:39 a.m.).
The lights didn't shine seven years ago today. Someone had the bright idea for the lights to shine as a way to commemorate what happened seven years ago today. There were two, huge, powerful shafts of light launched from the now-famous "Ground Zero". Nothing will ever replace The Towers, but the light shafts gave a sense that something was there again. They rose high into the night sky, their lumens lessening until they were just wisps of grey fading into dark.
For some reason, for many of us who lived through those awful days when Manhattan became a ghost town, the shafts of light brought comfort. And hope.
Monday night, someone was throwing a party and hired a couple of spotlights.
They weren't pointed in the right direction, but those arbitrary shafts of light brought a memory, resurrected a fear, rekindled a hurt. For a moment. For a moment, time stopped.
New York City wasn't so cool when Lower Manhattan was off limits - barricaded from 14th Street South. When there were armed soldiers stationed on every street corner. When there was no traffic. No ... there was NO traffic. No cabs, no buses, no trucks, no cars. Anywhere. Just soldiers, jeeps, and a couple of million people scared to breathe the air or think about what was coming next. Not so cool when every breeze carried the smell of burning. Not so cool when every public square was wallpapered with the leaflets of the grieving, uselessly searching for the dead.
No, not such a cool place, then.
You probably could have gotten one of those apartments for a buck-fifty a month. Who'd want to live here, anyway?
Seven years.
The City has been reborn. The buzz and the money have returned.
The grief has never left. All it takes is two shafts of light to pierce the darkness. And memory returns.