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Forum Post: Some Honesty: Reflections on 9/11, #S11, and #S17

Posted 10 months ago on Sept. 12, 2013, 2:35 p.m. EST by OccupyRhetoric (0)
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A year ago yesterday, right around dusk, I witnessed for the first time the World Trade Center lights from an old warehouse in Brooklyn. It was, without hesitancy or doubt, one of the most poignant memories I have of New York and of Occupy, in general. It wasn't that the lights were all that outstanding, independently, by themselves—in fact, from where we were, the twin blue beams were almost hard to make out, fuzzy around the edges—but seeing them that night MEANT something to me, even as a non-native (and new) resident of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York. The lights meant something because I had witnessed them in the company of those who knew what it meant to clean up after a mess left behind, inadvertently or not. And I knew that they knew this because they were there—they’d shown up—not because they were told to (lest they asked) but because it had to get done and they knew they were needed.

09/11/2012. The day had been spent sweeping up/mopping up/cleaning up the dust, debris, and oil that had accumulated on (and become encrusted to) the floor of an old automotive storage warehouse. There was about a dozen of us, give or take—a mix of Occupiers and a church figure-head—who had located and been granted use of a place/space that would eventually shelter more than a hundred occupiers over the weekend of #S17: the one-year anniversary of #OWS/Occupy Wall Street. While great detail could be given about the configuration of the warehouse or the state of decomposition that the building’s foundation was in or the kinds of wires that ran though the place, this was all secondary—tertiary, really—to what it was like to BE in that space with others who were demonstrating what it means to “make space” for others. Even if making space meant getting holes in your shoes and tears in your pockets and willingly working yourself to the brink of starvation because there were faces to meet and caravans to greet and there was no way of knowing if today was the day. If the space we made would find/provide shelter for those we knew we might never get to see or hear or meet or meet again.

09/11/2012. I remember the dust and the dirt. Sweeping them into piles. Working/playing with the flow and the feeling of broom handle to brush, intently focused on sectors and spaces and the movements within it. The way the dust rose and fell with and against the wind into crevices and crosshairs. The way the paint stripped from it’s foundation with that shovel, at that angle, with that degree of solvency or force. And then I saw something I didn’t expect—that always seemed to happen those days—which set into motion a series of pitter-patters and titter-tatters that still remain active to this day. I don’t know how or why. Or if it makes a difference either way. But there was honesty in that moment. Truth in the unexpectedness of its encounter. Enough of which would make it remiss not to mention that there are still days, like today, when I wonder if that’s what this is really all about: those moments of honesty, brutal as they may sometimes be, innocent as they are all the same. Like children in a schoolyard. Like making phone calls on a stoop. Like watching two lights stretch upwards against a backlit sky, each pillar suspended in the gravity of what it all means to stand, alone and together, on that night, by their being there.

A year ago yesterday, right around dusk, as the sun crept lower into the Manhattan/City skyline, I ventured outside in my grey hoodie and tattered jeans to listen in on a call. To plan for an event. In doing so, I saw for the first time the World Trade Center lights from a cobbled-stone street running parallel to the harbor. And on nights like last night, on the anniversary of making space for the hundreds and thousands that would appear in Liberty Plaza less than a week from today, I am reminded of the countless New Yorkers who gave their lives on that day to save others. I consider it no small blessing to have seen those lights that night, with those others I am fortunate to have met and to have known, so as to stop and pause and take in—for a moment or a few—the is-ness of that sacred space when we experience what it is for time to stand still and our speech to be frozen.

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