Published on : 09/13/2017
By : Arista Asmawati
What are the most appropriate ways to observe, commemorate, make meaning of the horrors of September 11, 2001? People have various ways of dealing with this. Many honor the day as a Day of Service, doing volunteer work. Some attend memorials, including those who go to readings of the names of victims.
As a New Yorker who does indeed remember that horrible day in vivid detail, I chose to start my day by going to the morning minyan at my synagogue, the East Midwood Jewish Center. During the Shachrit service, I had in mind the weight of this day, and thought a bit about a woman named Lisa, a member of this congregation who had perished in the Twin Towers collapse. She and I had actually known each other since our days in Girl Scouts, Young Judaea, junior high school and high school. The last time I ever spoke to her was at a blood drive held at the synagogue.
A few weeks ago my younger daughter and I visited the National 9/11 Museum, the first time for both of us. I had not felt comfortable visiting this place previously, but I visited because I then wrote about it for a local Jewish magazine. It was not an easy for me, but my daughter (who was born after the terrible event) and I discussed many aspects and items of the collection. It was eye-opening for us both.
I had wanted to do a mitzvah on September 11 this year, but the mitzvah I chose was one that I actually did the day after. The afternoon of September 11, 2017 I ended up going kayaking with my old friend Yak (Yakov). He phoned me and asked if I was available in the afternoon and wanted to go kayaking in nearby Gerritsen Creek. And I said yes, because it was probably one of the last times this year that I could swing it. I had not kayaked at all this year, and we both have fun doing this.
We took a two-person kayak and boated for over two and a half hours. It was fun, a lot of work, and very peaceful. We talked about all different things. (We have known each other since we were teenagers,, so we always have lots to chat about.) When we were floating somewhere between southern Brooklyn and the Rockaways, in Jamaica Bay, we were able to see the Freedom Tower.
We were quiet for a few minutes, looking at the complex way off in the distance. Then Yak said something about how he really didn't want to talk about 9/11 at the moment; we have in the past. I respected his choice. And then we paddled back to Marine Park.
In the evening, when it became dark outside, I stood on my back porch and gazed at the annual Tribute in Light, which is stirring. I tried to take a cell phone photo but it did not come out well. So I just looked on. And then I asked my daughters and my husband to look at the lights, which they did.
I donated blood the next day.