My imagination makes me human
and makes me a fool;
it gives me all the world
and exiles me from it.
--Ursula K. Le Guin
The PembrokeUnion Avenue
An Urban Journal Exploring Place,
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and This Time

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September 2001

September 11 - Sitting here at midnight, the television still on in the adjoining bedroom, still broadcasting reports on the terrorist attack this morning on New York City, I look out on the intersection of Henley and Summit Hill, expecting the streets to be silent. Traffic is light but no different than on any average Tuesday. Below, the parking lot of Chesapeake's is empty; an hour ago I watched two white-apronned kitchen workers toss the day's garbage into the dumpster. As happens at least once every night, the firestation beyond sounds its clanging fire alarm. A voice on the loudspeaker gives directions, and a fire engine, lights flashing and siren going, moves slowly thru the intersection. My cat sleeps on her imitation fur pad beside the computer monitor, her face twitching as she dreams. The night sky is clear. The world seems calm, unchanged, but it is an illusion that cannot hold.

Tomorrow the worst of today's tragedy will begin to unfold: the stories and personal histories of the victims will begin to dominate the news; photographs will fill the TV screen, survivors will begin to bear witness. Of all I have heard and read today, only these words by German philosopher, Walter Benjamin, in his "Theses on the Philosophy of History" seem to speak truthfully to today's unspeakable events:

    A Klee painting named ĎAngelus Novusí shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.