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New York Post


Don't Call It Closure

May 03, 2011

By Nicole Gelinas

Osama Bin Laden’s death, at the hands of Americans who were likely the last people he saw, is an achievement for America. But it’s also a jarringly quick reminder that nothing will wrap up that day into something in the past that makes sense.

Like everyone, I know the objective truths of 9/11: what’s known historical fact, and what’s still in dispute about who did what, when and why -- and how important this one exiled misfit was to the whole enterprise.

But, like many New Yorkers, my 9/11 is fragmentary, part of the impressionistic background of the last decade’s worth of adult life.

There’s OpSail 2000: Late one night that Fourth of July week, I went up into my husband’s office on the 79th floor of 1 World Trade, feeling the buildings sway as we pressed close to the narrow windows to see the line of tiny-looking tall ships come into New York Harbor below.

There’s Sept. 10, when I recall eating lunch on the plaza between the Twin Towers, finishing an article on Chile’s electricity industry and sneaking out early.

My first real reliable memory of 9/11 itself is seven weeks later: Halloween 2001. That crisp October day was the first time my co-workers and I were allowed back to 195 Broadway, with the badly damaged Millenium Hotel between our offices and the World Trade Center remnants.

We returned to new carpets and cubicle coverings, our desks and walls stripped bare and scrubbed clean. The cleaning crews had stored our personal effects, including dead plants, in sealed boxes. People who worked right by the windows put up signs asking co-workers not to linger, as it was distracting.

That evening after work, I went outside to the privileged view we had as office workers “behind” the frozen zone. I walked up to the last line of barriers and watched the ironworkers, their white-hot torches sharp amid the dusk, cutting down what was left of the Twin Towers’ distinctive façade, the Borders bookstore building and all the rest of it. Mist from the fire hoses still trained on the site carried the smell over.

The physical anger of that evening still scares me a bit.

I thought about the hijackers’ ashes buried in that pile, and then figured that it didn’t make sense to be angry at people who were dead. What could I do to them?

But bin Laden wasn’t dead. And he didn’t want to die. That was for his minions. We would get Osama -- and soon.

Time passed. Recovery workers stopped bringing nearly empty red body boards out of the pit. The ironworkers, the façade, the constant daylong beep-beep-beep sound of multiple trucks backing up . . . it all disappeared.

The pit became a construction-ready site where no construction happened. Anger dulled. I packed up my office and moved to Midtown for good in 2005, a little frustrated at not having gotten to see the new towers rise.

I got used to seeing nothing in the skyline on my weekly walks down the Hudson River Park to Battery Park . . . until one day, a giant tower was going up.

I’d read about it, written about it -- but seeing it was, and is, a surprise. Walking toward the rising 1 World Trade, it was easy to think: How does it now seem, sometimes, like it’s come too fast to take in?

Of course, it wasn’t too fast -- and bin Laden’s death didn’t come too fast, either.

Yes, he had receded in importance: One man alone didn’t cause 9/11; so much has changed in the Middle East . . .

I hadn’t thought about that Halloween evening in a long while.

But I felt the echo of that same anger Sunday night, seeing videos of him in his silly camouflage garb flash across the TV as we waited for President Obama to speak.

As more birthdays recede between us and 9/11’s dead, as the new World Trade towers go up, as fewer of us remember what it was like to have the run of the old World Trade Center in those years before 2001, I doubt I’m the only New Yorker who finally knows whether seeing bin Laden dead is “closure” for 9/11.

The death isn’t a bookend, but a page of a book -- one that’s especially thick with significance.

Now we’ll have to make our peace with being furious once in a while, perhaps against all reason, with a dead person.

Original Source:



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