Jack Tame: Why New York gives me hope for my home

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A commemorative message is chalked on to the pavement. Photo / Supplied
A commemorative message is chalked on to the pavement. Photo / Supplied

Without wanting to be overly breathy, I've come to appreciate life a little more in the past few years. I appreciate it's short.

I appreciate it's complex and varied. Above all, I appreciate life is fickle and that things change fast.

Things certainly moved fast in downtown Manhattan. By the chicken wire fences at the World Trade Center, the world bustled by on footpaths too thin. Tourists aimed their phones, ambling three abreast and stumbling at the kerbs. Businessmen huffed and pushed and hurried past.

There was a hotdog stand; there's always a hotdog stand. And for half an hour on September 11, I leaned on a wall and watched it all go by.

There was a crazy, of course. A crazy, yelling and screaming at everyone and apparently undeterred by the lack of attention he received in return. He had a sign declaring, "The truth exists", and clothes that were ill-fitting at best.

"Watch it! Watch the video. And. Tell. Me. How?" he punctuated. "Those towers fell faster than the speed of gravity itself! How is that possible? It's time to wake up people!"

The conspiracy theorists always forget the human element, don't they?

If a Navy Seal who shot Osama bin Laden won't keep his mouth shut and his book unwritten, it seems unlikely to me a government could successfully cover up a much larger inside job.

"9/11 Inside Job," read the ominous black leaflet that theorists had stuck on a phone box.

A man in a brown suit with a sharp leather briefcase snatched it off and scrunched it up as he charged by.

He didn't litter, though I'm sure he briefly considered it. He wanted to be certain it ended in a bin.

On the ground nearby was a simple chalk sketch. Few noticed it, few stopped.

"Always on our Minds, Forever in our Hearts" it read, with an image of the two towers that used to stand before it.

I focused on it for a bit, counting every big footstep that stamped down from above.

At 10.28am people whispered for a few seconds and the footsteps all stopped.

A couple of tourists crept out of the nearby subway entrance. A church nearby sounded its bell.

People turned towards the chicken wire fences and the construction zone beyond it. A child whispered to his mother, confused.

After a while we heard a microphone beyond the fences murmur back into sound, and the footpaths murmured back into movement.

It was the final moment of silence, for the moment the second tower collapsed.

Beyond the fences, family members of those nearly 3000 killed continued reading out the victims' names.

They surrounded massive memorial waterfalls, each a gaping black abyss. It's as though a city block had simply inverted and turned itself inside out. As though the twin towers stretch down into the ground as deep as they once were tall.

A stiletto punctured the chalk sketch. The woman had a big Starbucks coffee and a copy of the New York Times. She was hustling to an appointment.

Her newspaper's front page carried no reference to the anniversary, no photos, nothing.

On the 11th anniversary in a city that burned, it was a remarkably unremarkable day.

Everything continued in New York. Life continued.

It paused briefly and appropriately, families reflected and grieved, but from monumental destruction 11 years ago, it was a little reminder of just how quickly things change.

I looked at the magnificent gleaming tower rising where two others had fallen.

I thought of my home. I thought of my city. I thought of Christchurch, and I felt optimistic indeed.

- Herald on Sunday

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