The Week After

Five writers remember 9/11. Here's Tim Kreider:

It wasn’t until I actually went to New York City a week after the attacks that I understood how empty and inappropriate an emotion anger was to bring to the circumstances; it was like picking fights at a wake. New Yorkers, who had been so profoundly wounded, hadn’t given in to rage; what they were, mostly, was sad.

I hesitate to say this, but that was not only a ghastly time; it was also it was a beautiful time, in the same way that a friend’s funeral can be beautiful.

New Yorkers seemed to have had their shells torn off, the gelid stuff of their inner selves exposed and flinching at the air. Jealously tended hierarchies temporarily evaporated, and the worthless currency of human decency reacquired street value. Strangers made eye contact and got too choked up to speak. I heard about a wave of tender and desperate spontaneous sex it would be the opposite of the truth to call it “casual.” Graffiti appeared that actually spoke instead of just marking territory, like the overheard murmurs of a city talking to itself or fitfully dreaming. I saw a spray-painted message that would’ve seemed trite or sentimental a week before: YOU ARE ALIVE.