Wednesday, September 12, 2001
The day after the events in N.Y.C.
A rough night, though not as rough as some other folks had it. This morning I attempted to carry on as I would on a more or less normal day. Went to El Corte Inglés (the major deptartment store chain here) down in la Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, did the first major grocery shop for the new flat.
A grocery purchase worth 15 mil pesetas or more (15 thousand pesetas, about $85 American) gets free delivery -- if the total from your purchases reaches the magic number as you're being checked out, they take care of everything from there. Literally -- nothing gets bagged, they ask for your address, let you know about when the groceries will show up, tell you nicely to go away.
Went to a nearby internet joint before returning home. Somewhere along the way, I managed to shake off the cloud from last night's events.
I will not get into my spiritual beliefs here, but I will say two things that became clearer to me this morning:
(a) I do no one any good if I'm not feeling clear and connected to what I will call my Source. Trust me on this one -- I spent many years in my own personal darkness and I contribute far more to the world if I'm happy, with a clear heart.
(b) Among their other goals, the perpetrators of terrorist acts want to intimidate through fear and disruption. If I let them do that to me, then they've succeeded. Fuck that.
A day in which one can smile easily at others, find things to appreciate about one's existence, and savor the sheer pleasure of being alive is a day in which life and the spirit have prevailed.
That's all I'll say about that.
May we as a planet find the way to appreciate the beauty in our great variety and allow others to live as they want without threat. May we realize that we have far more similarities than differences, and that every minute of this life is precious.
Thursday, September 13, 2001
A note sent to a friend in Ireland today:
Dermot, forgive my lack of reply to your note of two days ago. I've been working on dealing with this event in my own way and have needed time."
Below is a note I received late last night from an old friend who lives on 23rd Street in Manhattan and works down around 11th Street. Do not read it if an eyewitness account will bring you down:
>Tuesday as I walked to work at 8:45 A.M. I heard the sound
>of a jet plane. It was right above me, a huge passenger jet
>going down University Place. Can you imagine? A
>commercial jet so close above your head that the sound
>was all-encompassing. I thought at first it was a
>commercial pilot in trouble and saw my life pass before my
>eyes. I thought the pilot would crash into Dean and
>DeLuca, so I prayed and prepared to die. What else can
>one do? But I soon realized that the plane was not out of
>control as it raised itself in altitude. I can't explain it except
>that I just knew at that moment what wasgoing to happen.
>I started to sob uncontrollably, yelling Oh my God all those
>people. But nothing had actually happened yet and so I
>looked like a crazy person. But within seconds the insanity
>was not me, but what we saw straightahead of us. I and
>others watched as it flew into the first World Trade Center
>The camaraderie in New York has been amazing. Blood
>donations, food, supplies, volunteers, etc. I almost fainted
>carrying acase of Gatorade to Chelsea Piers today. That's
>the place which has become a triage center and makeshift
>This is a city in mourning. Send prayers.
So send prayers and keep asking others to send prayers -- not only for N.Y.C., but for everyone involved, on whichever side. And pray for the Palestinians and Israelis, who have lived in a state of war for months and months now, and for people living with war, poverty, sickness and deprivation all over the world.
Lots of love --
Friday, September 14, 2001
Sleep has not come easily these last days. Both Wednesday and Thursday morning found me awake in the wee hours, unable to fall back to sleep due to repeated showings in the little screening room up in my head of images from the World Trade Center nightmare that fools in television news had been thoughtful enough to show over and over and over and over and over. This is part of the reason I rarely watch TV news: they have a ever-more-excessive tendency to batter the viewer with horrible shit and bizarre, ridiculous punditry. [Note to the television media: meditate upon the phrase 'less is more.' Really. Speaking for this viewer, you'd get more of my time if you would cut the sensationalist horseshit.]
Last night: fitful, restless sleep. Once I finally gave up, rousted myself and got the morning underway, I became aware of strange sounds from down in the street, gradually realized it must be the City of Madrid crew, here once again to strip the posters from the wall across from this building. The process: a city truck appears, the narrow street gets blocked off to other traffic, a complement of workers scrapes the wall as clean as they can manage before clearing off the rest with high-pressure sprayed water. By late morning, the wall was somewhat clean. Mostly clean. No complete posters remained. (Posters, pre-stripping: a picture of the Mariah Carey Rolling Stone Spanish edition cover -- one of the cover stories: 'Lo Más Salvaje Del Otoño' (The Wildest of the Autumn); Sauna Men (featuring a photo of a taut, muscular male upper torso); New Order, nuevo disco a la venta (new disc on sale); Telefónica presenta Julio Iglesias en Concierto, Giro 2001 (Telefónica presents blahblahblah in concert, Tour 2001).
And as the day progressed I became aware that the flow of normal life seemed to hold a sense of unreality. Or a sense of deeper reality. Post-9/11 stuff.
I picked up a couple of newspapers and the new Guía del Ocio (Leisure Guide -- listings for the arts, restaurants, etc.). There are four main daily newspapers here in Madrid -- two off to the right side of the political spectrum (ABC and La Razón -- literally, The Reason), a center-right paper, El Mundo (The World), and a left-wing paper, El País (The Country). I stick to El Mundo and El País.
At home, I went through them with my dictionary at hand. Some days are better than others that way -- today featured plenty of heavy vocabulary, the dictionary saw a bunch of action. I found myself wading through articles on heavy subjects with a pretty fair sense of detachment. Columns of words and sentences to be read and comprehended -- an academic exercise, more or less. Maybe not an unhealthy thing, considering the text content. But strange.
Worked on writing after that, headed out to a film later in the day. And as I walked the several blocks to the Metro station at Tribunal, I seemed to be seeing the world around me differently. Or experiencing it differently. Or if not differently, more deeply. Or more something -- the right words don't seem to be volunteering themselves here.
Here's how it all seemed: Everyone was precious. Every individual carrying on their own little life, with their own little concerns, had a luminous quality, a depth and worth that shone out in its quiet way everywhere I looked. And somewhere in that, our essential oneness showed itself clearly. (It may be that it always does, that today I simply saw it more readily, with a touch more clarity, than normal.) I can't describe it any better than that, will not attempt to.
Spent some time at la Plaza de España, one of the city's several crossroads -- this one over on the west side, a bit to the north of the Palace. (A fine place to watch people.) Then went to a film.
When I returned home around 6:30, someone was already at work with a bucket and brush hanging new posters on the wall across the street.
Life -- it just rolls right on.
Saturday, September 15, 2001
An e-mail received from a buddy in Dublin this morning:
>I needed to relate this experience with my friends, all of whom I
>care deeply about, and all of whom I know will be dealing with
>this terrible event in their own heartfelt ways.
>Without being bigheaded, if you think it may help to pass this on
>to others, especially in the U.S., where I have heard that coverage
>of non-U.S. events has been limited, please feel free.
>Yesterday (Friday) was declared a National Day Of Mourning
>here by the Irish government, in addition to the three minutes
>of silence held across Europe. Every business, school, pub,
>cinema - everywhere - closed all day. Even gas stations closed.
>It was weird driving around with everywhere shut down like
>that. Hundreds of masses and memorial services from all
>denominations were held all over the country, and many
>thousands attended in deep grief.
>Last night, at about 10.10 p.m., I drove to the American
>Embassy in Dublin. Since Wednesday morning, many thousands
>of people have been showing up there to pay their respects and to
>sign the Books Of Condolence to the American people, and
>particularly to those who have lost their lives and loved ones in
>this tragedy. By the way, other Books are being signed all over
>Ireland, and probably the world.
>I had watched the evening news earlier at a friend's house, and
>saw that the queue to sign the Books at the Embassy was over
>two and a half hours long, at about 6 p.m. on Friday evening.
>And that was in addition to the long queues at other venues in
>Dublin. As of this morning, over 40,000 people have left very
>personal messages in the Books. There are so many people
>going there that the Embassy has placed 10 Books at a time
>under a temporary gazebo, to help reduce the waiting time.
>As you queue up around the block (and even at this hour it
>took me over 30 minutes), and the nearer you get to the signing
>area, bouquets of flowers, teddy bears, clothing and other
>personal items are piled up along the walls and railings of the
>Embassy. Literally thousands of them. It is like a river of
>flowers. And every single one of them has a very personal
>message attached from the people who left it there, often
>from whole families and groups of friends together. As we
>queued up, we read some of these messages, with tears
>appearing in many eyes, mine included. They are from
>people right across the spectrum, from desolate and angry
>Americans, and many Americans who want forgiveness, too,
>from pensioners to young children, sports teams, and groups
>of other nationalities, too. There were very many messages
>and tributes that just yanked at the heart strings, but I wish
>to relate these two to you, as they were the ones that
>affected me most.
>The first was from an unidentified commercial airline pilot.
>They had left a huge bouquet of flowers, and in the middle
>of it he/she had placed a list of the names of all the flight
>crews of the crashed planes, with the simple message
>underneath: You will never be forgotten. Taped to the
>note was his/her captain's shoulder stripes.
>The second had me in floods of tears, and they are
>returning now as I write this. It was a simple bunch of
>handpicked garden flowers taped to an old well-worn,
>and obviously well-loved, teddy bear. Attached to the
>hands of the teddy was a note written in pencil, in shaky
>writing. To the best of my recollection it said, "To all
>the little children whose Mummys and Daddys have
>died in New York, they are now with the angels, and we
>are praying for you every day." It was signed by Sinead,
>age 4, and Laura, age 6.
>I cannot describe the level of emotion being felt here,
>either by the nation as a whole or by myself. The mixed
>feelings are there too, ranging from a huge desire for
>revenge and retribution, and on the other hand feeling there
>must be another way to deal with this. And of course,
>just a simple inability to comprehend the whole tragedy.
>A numbness, in fact.
>Last night, on the way home from the Embassy, I found
>myself hoping and praying that the people who have been
>entrusted to act in this situation will appreciate the support
>that is coming from the whole world, even from the likes of
>China, Pakistan, Russia and the Middle East. The most
>enduring image for me from this whole tragedy is not from
>New York, or in fact anywhere in the U.S. It is a TV image
>of a frail-looking Yasser Arafat on a stretcher donating
>I have many other views about what should happen from here,
>most of them conflicting, and am very grateful not to have to
>decide what to do. That must be an awful place to be right
>now. Suffice it to say, the ordinary people of Dublin, Ireland,
>Europe and the world, are praying and grieving for the people
>of New York, Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh, and the entire
>U.S., like never before.
>Love and peace to all,
Thursday, September 20, 2001
A large gathering took place earlier this evening in La Plaza de la Puerta del Sol in the heart of Madrid -- 'for peace and against terrorism' -- carried by Channel 1, one of the two government stations. The gist of the event was mourning for those killed in the attacks on 9/11, along with a call for careful reprisal, to seek justice in accord with international law. It included a minute of silence -- total enough to be a bit startling given where it took place (except for Channel 1's commentator, who couldn't seem to quiet herself down).
Spain is a country that has suffered through many, many terrorist attacks over the last 20 years -- bombings and assassinations. Their response comes from the heart.
Today's headlines from two Spanish newspapers:
From El Mundo:
"U.S. Prepares the War Sending Another 100 Planes to the Persian Gulf"
"Afghan Refugees -- The Khyber Pass: Flight Without Escape"
"'U.S. Asks Our Support -- We Must Defend The Just Cause' -- The President of Pakistan Prepares His People to Aid Washington While Popular Discontent Grows"
"The Taliban Announce Today If They Hand Over Bin Laden"
"The World Leaders Alert Bush Against the Effects of An Attack"
"The European Commision Approves Two Initiatives Against Terrorism"
"Gorbachov Believes A War Will Worsen the Situation"
From El País:
"U.S. Deploys 100 Warplanes In the Persian Gulf"
"Boeing Aggravates the Crisis in the Aero Sector With the Elimination of 30,000 Employees"
"U.S. Launches Operation Infinite Justice"
"Pakistan Cedes Its Air Space to U.S. At The Risk of Islamic Rebellion"
"Iran Asks for 'Severe Punishment' for the Instigator of the Attacks"
"Sudan Affirms That U.S. Has An Antiterrorist Group In Its Territory"
"Israeli Military Intelligence Accuses Iraq of Sponsoring the Attacks Against the U.S."
"The European Union Wants to Extend A Bridge to the Arab Countries In Their Extraordinary Summit"