Tuesday, September 13, 2011

10 Years Later

A moving and inspiring poem is eternal, no matter its subject, especially when it lends the power to reflect on our own circumstances. Yonina Creditor has been kind enough to allow me to publish her reflections on the 10th anniversary of September 11, which I do with appreciation.

Ms. Creditor served as an EMT in NYC during and following the September 11 attacks. She later enrolled in the Jewish Theological Seminary to become a rabbi. Shaped by her experiences, Creditor has decided to become a Navy chaplain when she completes her studies in May 2013. 

Hopefully she will also continue to pursue her talent for writing. 

10 Years Later

Would you believe me if I told you that I was envious of Job - how there are similarities  between my life and his.

Job loved God and shunned evil and through a bet between God and the Adversary, Job is tested through loss.

Job's Despair, 1805  - William Blake

His children die tragically and all his possessions are destroyed or taken.
His friends and wife are no comfort to him.
Eventually Job cries out to God for answer and he is given one. He is told that he does not need to understand why things happen in the world.
God restores Job's wealth and children and lives to be 140.

We have both lost in traumatic fashion. He lost his children, and I lost fellow EMTs and firefighters in New York City who were like family.

We both know that we did nothing wrong and regardless of how many times we tell ourselves this, it does not lessen the burden of summering and feeling the guilt of having survived.

I do not envy Job with friends who did not support him. I at least had support from fellow unit members and family. But both of us still sit with all this pain that we can not seem to set aside.

And despite all of this, I envy Job.

I am envious because though he had experienced total loss, God returned everything to him.
I have lost friends who are irreplaceable.
I have lost a part of myself.
I am not the person I was before 9/11.
That person is gone and never coming back.

I envy Job most of all because after all his suffering, he got an answer.
It does not matter to me whether the answer was enough - he got one.
I am still waiting.
I want to know that their deaths had meaning, that they served a greater purpose.

Victims of the September 11, 2011 attacks - US Government

I envy a man who was made whole again.
Because after 10 years, I know that I am not.

I wonder if he looks at his grandchildren and sees the echos of the children he lost.
A look, a laugh, a gesture.
Does he see ghosts like I do, walking around the streets of Manhattan?

Do his ghosts disturb his sleep like mine?

Does he feel like he has lived his life remembering and honoring his dead children?
Does he carry the burden like me, that I should live my life because others died in my place?

Does he look back and realize he's changed and misses who he once was?
Does he laugh less like me?

Does he commemorate the day with others or does the overwhelming pain choke him into silence?
Does he feel guilty that it has become easier to mark the day and feels like that alone is doing his children a disservice?

Did he ever explain to the new children about where their names came from?

We both have one day that we mark to remember publicly with private moments throughout the year.
As time passes, it feels different and uncomfortably comforting.

We set this time aside to remember, to not forget the sacrifices of those we have lost.
We rely on the strength of those around us to carry us when we have not the strength to commemorate alone.

We give ourselves permission to share our grief today with you.
We allow ourselves to feel the pain this day, rather than hide behind the armor of numbness with which we walk around all year.

We remember them today and always.
Through us, their brave spirits carry on.
Through this moment of sharing, they live on through you now too.

Yonina Creditor
NYS EMT 1999 - 2009
JTS Rabbinical School 2012

Tribute in Light, September 11, 2011 - David Shankbone

Thank you to Rabbi Menachem Creditor for the permission to republish this poem from his blog.

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