September 11, 2003

Basic therapy

While I waited to park the car this morning, WQXR played Strauss's Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs). And you don't need a prescription.

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I had resolved to avoid media this morning. Not because I feel we need to "move on" from September 11, but because I felt the personal need for a more individual, less collective and more meditative reflection.

But real life interceded with impeccable timing. Our block was visited at memorial time by 4 (count 'em, four) NYFD companies, two engines and two ladders. Twenty minutes later, the same 4 companies returned. As I went out to move my car, I looked back as the big rig of the NYPD ESU arrived in front of my building. Finally, an ambulance and 3 police cruisers blocked our street and escorted someone to the hospital. The reasons for all these various runs remain mysterious, but ... of all days to be visited by New York's greatest.

Looking down on the fire crew in their turnout gear generated the usual lump in the throat. From the fifth floor, they looked at once so tough and so fragile, both larger and smaller than life itself. I imagine how they must have looked from 100 stories up two years ago, even smaller, even greater.

Today, on the FDNY web site there is a tribute by the Fire Commissioner that is worth reading:

For as long as there is a New York City Fire Department, September 11th will be a time to honor truly great people. Individuals, who confronted thousands of people at their moment of greatest need, looked into their own souls, risked the gravest danger, and went to the aid of those people. Theirs was the purest form of courage, the purest demonstration of love for oneís fellow man. In our nationís darkest hour, it made our Department a ray of light that cut through the darkness. That is why the FDNY has become a symbol for the world: not because so many were lost, but because so many were inspired. And so for as long as there is a New York City Fire Department, September 11th of every year will be a day to stop and remember.

{Here's the NYPD heroes page. And the Port Authority Police Department.}

I flash back to one early morning that September, when the city was still shut down to most traffic. I was driving up the West Side Highway on an errand. Ahead of me: a lone motorcyclist on a Harley. As I slowly overtook him, I spotted his NYFD jacket and I recognized that awful gray dust blowing off his boots. Just a guy, going home after a long night on the pile, the blue sky, the river, that intense loneliness ...

I'll remember.

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September 10, 2003

Edward Teller 1908-2003

Dr. Teller has died. Certainly one of the most controversial scientists ever, he also inspired this excellent piece of poetry by another physicist:

Perils of Modern Living
Harold P. Furth

Well up above the tropostrata
There is a region stark and stellar
Where, on a streak of anti-matter
Lived Dr. Edward Anti-Teller.

Remote from Fusion's origin,
He lived unguessed and unawares
With all his antikith and kin,
And kept macassars on his chairs.

One morning, idling by the sea,
He spied a tin of monstrous girth
That bore three letters: A. E. C.
Out stepped a visitor from Earth.

Then, shouting gladly o'er the sands,
Met two who in their alien ways
Were like as gentils. Their right hands
Clasped, and the rest was gamma rays.

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