feel tremendous pain. But as for the rest of us, the attacks are no longer the
Given the constant media drumbeat — there are several 9/11
least impolite, to suggest that things might be more or less back to normal.
But I argue the opposite: Normalcy is good, and needed. The press of life makes
demands of us, a vital one of which is that we survive and carry on. It also
permits us our peculiarities, and among those, surely, is the truth that all of
us heal in our own ways. One man remarries three months after his wife dies;
another mourns for five years. The latter is no nobler than the former. It's
just that they came out of the womb with different emotional equipment, which
they put to use as best they can.
So it has been in New York this past year. At first, the
attacks represented a single, shared tragedy; a great civic cataclysm. But as
time has passed, it has come to feel as though New Yorkers have reacted to the
event more personally; now, there is not so much one overarching narrative as
there are 8 million individual ones. Which means two things. First, that we
have, on some level, gotten back to normal, and second, that there is no
consensus yet about how the attacks affected us (evidence for this can be found
in the robust arguments over what to build — or not — on the World Trade Center
are all too familiar, which is itself a sign of normalcy).
I still think, occasionally, of that ash on my arms, or my old
friends' phone calls that day. And when I see an airplane over the skyline, I
tend to watch it for five or six seconds, just to make sure it seems to be
doing what airplanes are supposed to do. But otherwise, I enjoy this
remarkable, strange, stressful, beautiful place, and I believe that enjoying it
is the best thing all of us, New Yorkers and visitors, can do for it.
Morgantown native Michael Tomasky is a columnist for New York