“And no one dared disturb the sound of silence….” Paul Simon
Never in my life have I encountered a city in such solidarity of silence as I have in New York City on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. For a city of millions, constantly crowded with tourist there was no erroneous noise; no horns, no construction work, no one yelling or talking over top of each-other, in a city surrounded by millions, today one felt as if the city was deserted; one was truly only in the presence of stillness.
I took a cab downtown to the site of the 9/11 memorial, all roads to the main site of the memorial were blocked; family of the fallen were the only ones let onto the actual memorial grounds today. All other visitors were shepherded a block away to Church Street and the surrounding area. Streets were blockaded everywhere, traffic was only allowed to flow in one direction. Everyone was extremely polite and understanding with each-other, no one dared pick a fight or encroach on anyones space, this was New York on its day off. The mood was somber, sobering and heart breaking. I watched on the giant monitor in front of us as the family of the fallen read the deceased names from the master list; the readers were just around the corner, out of site, reading from within the grounds of the memorial. The reading I was told started at around seven or eight that morning; I arrived on the scene at about nine-thirty; they were only at last names starting with the letter “F” when I got there; by the time I had to head back to midtown at eleven-thirty the readers had only just started letter “M.” I must admit, I almost broke into tears more than once during the readings; no one particular thing bright this on, it was everything at once; the surrealism and honor of standing near this place on this day in history, living in this moment, a living part of our nations story and I was watching it unfold from the front lines. It made me reflect on where I was and what I was doing ten years ago when the towers fell, a time that was reminded to all of us in attendance by a blue cutaway shot on the monitor, this shot was displayed at the precise time of an event on this day ten years go, the bottom describing what event happened at that exact moment; 9:59, the south tower falls….ten years ago, I was eighteen, sitting in homeroom at school in Roanoke Virginia, eight hours away, now i’m twenty-eight, standing a block away, witnessing the resurrection of the site I watched destroyed, a work still in progress, only two years ago still filled with rubble.
The readers stopped only briefly between names while I was there, once for a song I could not place, being played on a flute and once for Paul Simon on his acoustic guitar; playing the most somber and quite rendition of “The Sound of Silence” in his career. Some quietly sang along, most took heed of his lyrics and listened to the sounds of a man playing tribute to a city and nation still in mourning; forever so on this day.