Every beautiful blue late summer sky reminds me of 9/11. Before 9/11 it just reminded me that fall was on the way. But I was born in New York, my parents, New Yorkers. Every New Yorker who left shares a strange feeling of exile, a deep longing for return, if only to see the skyline and taste a decent piece of pie again. For this exiled New Yorker, the beautiful blue September skies remind me of an empty moment in the time line of memory where there is now a "before" and an "after."
My memories of a New York childhood are particularly acute around 9/11. It's as if I need to reclaim an individual piece of the collective memory lost that day. Many of the victims were native New Yorkers. They were part of a regional generational experience - NY of the late 60s, 70s and 80s - that left a unique stamp on their memories. But those unique memories were lost on 9/11. The victims are no longer here to recall that trip to the beach, or getting lost in a crappy part of town, or the moment they met so-and-so at the mall. All of those little memories - that make up the collective memory -- have vanished, leaving small empty spaces for their friends and family left behind.
On September 12th, 2001, the New York Times editors noted that the previous day's events represented as "one of those moments in which history splits, and we define the world as 'before' and 'after.'" 9/11 altered everyone's continuity of memory, creating a Before and an After, seemingly out of the blue. One place where it is clearly evident is in the thousands of office cubicles that make up the Intelligence Community here in DC. When the question is asked of someone: how did you get here (CIA, FBI, etc)? The answer invariably begins something like, "Well, after 9/11…." It wasn't just a "split" for the nation, it was a split for the victim's families and for tens of thousands of Americans whose lives changed that day, either by chance or choice.
The New York metro area is where the After is experienced most acutely in the little nooks and crannies of daily life. It may be a local park dedicated to a firefighter who died that day or a collection of customer pictures tacked to the wall of a pizza place. However, when the sky turns blue, here in exile, I chose to recall memories of Before if only to remind me where I came from and why I do what I do.
Lou Reed discusses "the punk" at 7:36 (but the whole interview is funny)