Cloud City, this year’s rooftop installation at the Met
Thoughts on education, startups, and storytelling.
I have a couple of education posts in the hopper at Rock the Boat, but before publishing them, I wanted to revisit an article I wrote in 2004 about the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero.
I’ve been thinking about that article all this week after noticing that the MTA has added signs with directions to the memorial at the subway stations around Ground Zero, near where I work. New York has been my home for over five years, but at the time of 9/11 I had visited only once. Leading up to the 10-year anniversary I watched the news coverage, I read the letters from family members to lost loved ones, I listened to the eerie recordings of FAA and military officials trying to make sense of the planes’ trajectories. I also re-read Don DeLillo’s short story, “Still-Life,” published in the New Yorker several years ago.
“Still-Life” captures 9/11’s physicality in a way that is too often forgotten. Here are the opening lines:
When he appeared at the door, it was not possible, a man come out of an ash storm, all blood and slag, reeking of burned matter, with pinpoint glints of slivered glass in his face. He looked immense, in the doorway, with a gaze that had no distance in it. He carried a briefcase and stood slowly nodding.
When we watch a tragedy unfold on TV, it’s so easy to forget that smoke and ash and water and mold have taste and smell and weight. Sure, we all “experienced” 9/11. But not like that. Not like DeLillo’s character, who in a later scene chats with a doctor about “organic shrapnel” while the glass fragments are removed from his face.