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Manhattan - A Reflection by Chris McDonnell



image by Rainer Ganahl

It was ten to two, just after lunch on an Autumn day in September. I had parked my car at the local hospital for an appointment and sat listening to the radio for a few minutes as I was early. It was then that I heard the first reports that told of an aircraft crashing into the World Trade Centre in New York City. There it was ten to nine in the morning, a brilliant blue sky over the city as the work day began. I had to leave the car before the further report came through of a second aircraft hitting the Towers. While waiting in the hospital, the television was relaying the first images to go world wide of what has become known simply by the date, "9/11"

Where are we thirteen years on? In a very dangerous and uncertain world I would suggest. In the intervening years many lives have been lost in conflict in different parts of the world. Not just military combatants but innocent men, women and children caught up in conflict but with no part in the argument. The Cold War, for all its risks, was a clearer experience, basically the democracies of the West confronting the communist states of the East, living in the state that was called MAD- Mutually Assured Destruction.

Now it is difficult to know who to negotiate with, who has the ability to make assurances that might be trusted.

As I write this posting, there are ceasefires holding in the Ukraine and in the Gaza strip, uneasy, tentative but  ceasefires none the less.
With the emergence of the so called Islamic Republic it is a different matter with many thousands made homeless out of fear whilst others have been killed for refusing to accept demands to convert or to accept domination by this group. Both Christian and Muslim communities have suffered grievously in this way. 

Peace, peace will come, let it begin with me.

The words that follow, Manhattan, were written in October 2001, just days after the 9/11 attack. The clearing of the site was underway, a process that would take many months.

Mary Chapin Carpenter's haunting song "Grand Central Station" written just after the first anniversary, captures the pain and emotion of those days. It starts with these words:

Got my work clothes on for love, sweat and dirt.All this Holy dust upon my face an' shirt.Headin' uptown now, just as the shifts are changin',To Grand Central Station. 

I got my lunch box, got my hard hat in my hand.I ain't no hero, mister, just a workin' man.An' all these voices keep on askin' me to take them,To Grand Central Station.Grand Central Station.

The song can be heard at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fZG0fa7-nM

Let us be hopeful in difficult times.


Tears, white 
flecked fears, peeling paper-shreds, fragments of floors, dust under a sunlit sky early that Tuesday, this September,  on a mid-Manhattan Morning.  Grey, dusted figures drift, stunned, under this shattered Autumn-skied space, figures stumble through down-town streets,  in wordless silence. 

North and 
then, carrying early morning coffee cups, greeting friends  with idle chat from lift doors and lobbies, across a paperpile, stacked here and there, still under yesterday's desk, till howling siren-scream, as explosion then implosion, took out first this floor, then those above and many beneath. 

South where 
orange glow and scattered fragments filled wide windows, open spaces  where, in stunned amazement, people stood. The grey-haired banker, the brash-young stock broker, the imaginative engineer, the young sharp-eyed carpenter, staring speechless, unable fully to understand, secure still
within their personal space, beyond an expanding fireball. 

Final impact 
on South,  a faint line of hope gone,  as Mothers of young ones,  the Father of four, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, lovers, friends and families, the casual workers, those city consultants, the cluster of company directors, their frantic fingers on mobile phones,  tapping out numbers and only cold voiced answering machines responding.   Final  call. 

Ground zero.               
October  2001, New York City   Manhattan 9/11


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