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Wednesday, September 11, 2002

That Day, Part III: Trampled by Angels

On Sunday, September 16, I went up to the US consulate, to be consoled. There was supposed to be some sort of memorial there, spontaneously placed. I'd never had reason to go there before, and wasn't sure where it was, just that it was in Martin Place. So I went there, and couldn't find it! On a winter Sunday evening, Martin place looked grim---dark old buildings on a cobblestone plaza, with some faded flags flapping in the breeze. After a while, feeling very foolish, I turned to find the bus for home.

When I first approached Martin Place, I had noticed a very tall building, bristling with antennae and dishes. "Ha ha!" I joked to myself, "That's probably our consulate." As you might guess, it was. Now as I approached it on my way home I saw a knot of people, which was surprising for a Sunday evening in Sydney, where things close down at 5pm. Then I realized I'd reached my goal.

The entrance to the building is up an escalator (which meant, I realized, it can be easily defended). To either side of the escalator is a steep slick bank of stone. On this bank were laid heaps of flowers, signs, balloons, and flags. Some were from Americans. (One of these said "Revenge is slow to come but it is worth waiting for.") Some were from Australians who had loved ones missing. Some were from people from neither country, like the group of Chileans expressing sorrow for "what happened to our big cousins". There was a sign reading:

Ever so strong
As One

I don't think Americans put that up.

I am one of the last people on earth to go gushy over "the children", but the signs from children were particularly affecting. Children do not deal in the circumspection and ambiguity adults feel necessary: "Dear America, We're sorry the buildings fell down."

After a while it looked as if there was going to be some sort of ceremony. A woman passed out candles and the words to "Give Peace a Chance". After a bit, a man, an Australian, began to say a few brief, appropriate words. Then the candle woman, an American or Canadian, got up and yakked on and on until I was ready to tell her to shut up. Finally she did, and then I was nearly trampled by angels.

Yes. Several people, some of them looking distinctly uncomfortable, showed up, wearing white robes and beautiful angels' wings, made of real feathers. They stood near the two speakers and led the crowd in peace songs. I did not join in, but figured there was no harm in it until we were asked to sing "God Bless America", except substitue "the world" for "America". I turned on my heel and left, only able to stomach so much peace.