all the way gone

September 15, 2010

The other night I watched Man On Wire, the documentary about Phillipe Petit, the Frenchman who strung a high wire between the twin towers and then danced across the sky, as they say. It wasn’t as great a film as I’d heard it was, but it was magical. And while I hadn’t planned to commemorate 9/11, it seemed as fitting a way to do so as any. As you can imagine there was lots and lots of footage of the towers. Quite a bit of it was of the towers being constructed, which looking back seems like such an optimistic act. And a joyful one too, which I hadn’t expected. But those buildings seemed to have captured some of exuberance of America in the early 70’s. I suppose that’s obvious, but I’d never thought of it before. I think I liked best the lack of irony in the towers. They were massive structures and straight forward about the statement they made. No nonsense in their macho stance. I was surprised to find myself smiling at the scenes of the construction workers and cranes putting all that steel and glass into place up to a quarter mile above ground. There was also a fair amount of interior footage. Shots of the revolving doors at the entrance to the lobby of the towers, the lobby itself and the bank of escalators that rose up from there – all full of people going to work. Busy. Crowded. Alive. All things we will never see or experience in those buildings ever again. Never. Ever. Which feels a little silly to say because that fact has been obvious since 9/11. I don’t know why but something hit me in watching that footage that made me mournful in a way I’ve not been mournful before about 9/11. It was like a wake up call to remember something else about tower’s besides their destruction, the images of which seemed to have wiped out any other pictures of the towers I’d previously stored in my mind. Seeing the footage of the towers being built and full of people and knowing what’s happened since that footage was shot reminded me of all the stuff we lost on 9/11 and how we can’t get back so much of it. The permanence of absence is an awful and amazing thing. When things get all the way gone, their nonexistence is intractable. I don’t think I’d understood on a deeper level just how much does not exist anymore.

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