September, marks the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. A few days later, Lynn and I were staying with friends in Ojai, California when, in their garden, I read an account of the aftermath in the New York Times.
Here, all around me, lies a landscape
begging to be painted.
Beyond a redbrick terrace
blue and purple plants crowd in,
species that I’ve never seen before,
drifts of giant sage, lucantha,
and here and there a common rose.
Beyond all this stand orange trees and limes and lemons. Further out, beyond the reach of water pipes and hoses, are arid places with clusters of spiky succulents, and part-dismembered, unattended cacti.
Above the borders, bees dart
among cascades of flowering herbs,
while butterflies, like shreds of tissue paper, swirl and rise and fall.
The scene is mute and motionless.
No foreign sound, no breeze, no barking dog, no distant drone of planes or traffic, nor the laughter of playing children.
But now look down. Here, open on my lap, the Sunday paper shows an anguished and chaotic scene two thousand miles away.
A photo shows the silhouetted, crisscross lattice of the shattered towers’ remains.
A devil-made design that could,
were it left unsalvaged where it stands, become a starker and more telling monument than any man-made memorial.
And on another page, portraits of two dozen wanted men, their faces grave and troubled, even shameful,
as though they’d had some premonition of their act’s outcome.
Two pages on – the tragic flip-side of the assault – are fifteen portraits of dead and missing victims, their faces smiling, or in repose. Each bears some eulogistic paragraph: the scoutmaster; a man called Yang, who earned ten bucks an hour; Katherine who loved the stage; Ruben, the Michael Jordan fan who lived for sport.
Reflect. How different did these gentle faces look in their last fear-frozen moments?
Meanwhile, the nation reels,
vowing not to turn the other cheek,
speaking of revenge, and war.
And after this carnage, dare I demand: where was God, all-knowing, just and merciful?