I can't wholly explain my emotions as this anniversary approached. The intensity of them is a surprise to me. Pity is certainly part of it, for all the small minds who decide to live their lives full of hatred. Sympathy for thousands of friends and strangers who were lost and whose lives changed forever. Confusion, as I remain lost at an intersection between peace and vengeance, wondering why there isn't another road to choose. Disconnected, as I still have yet to be back in New York City to experience the differences in sights, attitudes and emotions that have been so readily reported.
One year ago, I wanted nothing but to go home, as if being there amongst the suffering, and suffering myself, would make it better somehow. But Homer is home now, and the real purpose of writing this letter, amidst the emotions of the day, is to acknowledge some of the incidents of the last year that helped me to better appreciate my new home.
Last 9-11, after witnessing the early morning horror show being broadcast everywhere, I tried to put a face on and focus on my job at the visitors center. I didn't last very long working, but just being there with the director, the staff and the volunteers was extremely comforting. Although the number of visitors to the center had already begun to wane, the few that did come were now stranded here and came in looking for help, information or simply a diversion. The only thing that came easy for me to tell them was that they could not be stuck in a better, more beautiful place. Words I needed to hear myself, as well.
Other acquaintances, many of whom I had only fleeting contact with, surprised me by remembering that I was from New York and making it a point to inquire about my family and friends at home. One woman in particular, dear Nelda, who I had briefly met at work a few weeks earlier when she relocated from Oklahoma (somewhat ironically, when I think of it now), called to inquire about my well-being and then came by a few days layer with a hug and a prayer; this virtual stranger acting as my guardian angel.
Another stranger, a young woman in a gray sweatshirt who I'd never seen before or after that day, quite literally held me up as I fell apart during the mournful, bewildered and enraged sentiments expressed during the vigil in the park. Another angel.
Others, some even unknowingly, raised questions which would actually offer new perspectives, forcing me to see this immense situation through different eyes. "Exactly how big were those buildings?" Dan had asked. I could barely find the words to make him understand as I had always taken them for granted, but I did my best since my authority on the subject would lend to his perspective as well.
Other than the tragedies reported to me by my loved ones, Jen's was the first first-hand observation I heard once she and Dave managed to return to Homer from their NYC visit. Instead of a story filled with terror and turmoil, she alluded only to the energy and spirit of the people and the wonders of the city itself. Whether her report was her true experience (which I find easy to believe), or whether it was swayed by her sensitivity and intuition, it was nothing but positive -- a hard position to take at the time, and I liked hearing it.
And my friend Thom, who was instrumental in me moving to Homer in the first place, immediately and mindfully offered his support with his first words to me after not seeing each other in months. Enough time had passed for it all to slip his mind, but it had not.
It is not by luck that I am in Homer. I knew when I left NYC that I was coming to somewhere spiritual and fantastic. In fact, there are even some similarities in the two places: both are vast and sprawling, the people and their experiences offer a special diversity, there is a very high level of creativity and expression. Equally awesome are the feats of engineering and nature and, figuratively put, in either place it's easy to get lost.
The thing that I have here, however, that I didn't have in NY (and didn't even know I was missing), is the element of community. I could have defined it in the dictionary sense, and I witnessed it around me once I got here. But it was not until I needed it, however, that this community enveloped me and I started to understand exactly what it means.
I followed my heart here to the beach this morning, although my original intention was to attend the 'Requiem' at the high school. Where I needed to do what felt right to me, I also have to recognize how worldly and in tune this little hamlet is by participating in such a universal and peaceful show of support. Again, a solid offering of collaboration, strength, encouragement and community.
Although my roots run deep and for thousands of miles east into the concrete, I am grateful to be here.