The View From Silver Lake Park



200 Victory Blvd, Staten Island, NY

Neighborhood: Across the River, Letter From Abroad

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I need to walk. I walk and walk and end up at Silver Lake Park and when I turn around to take in my favorite view of the skyline, up high on the hill looking straight down Victory Boulevard, I half expect the towers to be there. I swear I can still see a faint outline of where they used to be, like when you take a picture down and there's a shadow left behind on the wall. But there is just a cloud of gray smoke.

By the time I get to the park, it's dusk. I walk around the reservoir. Stop to lay on the trunk of my favorite fallen cherry tree, watch the birds through the foliage and the gnarled branches. Walk some more. Sit on a bench. Watch some swallows skittering over the water, watch the young mallard ducks by the water's edge--some grooming themselves or airing their wings; some gliding along sipping the insects off the water's surface. I pick up a fallen apple and sniff it as I continue walking. It seems to me the sweetest smelling apple ever. Like perfume. By that time, the sun has almost set--and as I rest on bench, four perfectly synchronized geese fly across the orange sky.

I burst into tears.

After the horror of today, a day that seems to go on forever, Nature is the only thing that makes any sense. Each moment is so precious. There wasn't a damn thing I could do this morning as I stood watching in horror and disbelief as the towers burned in the distance before my eyes. But I could go to the park and feel the bark of a tree against my back, and sniff apples and watch birds and revel in how good it is to be alive; of how good it was to finally get through to friends who work downtown, to hear the voices of my friends and family and know that they are safe. I know that there are people who may not be as fortunate.»

It's around 10 pm now and I just heard from another friend who got home only a few minutes ago. He was sitting in a Starbucks on Chambers St. doing the NY Times Crossword puzzle and was stuck on a word when he felt the blast. His espresso spilled all over the table and a cop came in and told everyone they'd be better off staying there. Then the second blast came and all hell broke loose. He said he felt a rumble--but it was the rumble of a stampede of people running in the streets. He saw bodies falling from the building.

As my mind runs back to this morning--buying my morning coffee; rushing for the 9 o'clock ferry to my day job in lower Manhattan, I think: the arrogance of our routines! We take so much for granted. And I know that, chances are, in the coming days I will find out about people distantly connected to me who are gone. But tonight, I feel brimming with love for my own life and the people who are dear to me--and I know that I will never be the same.

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