This week as we play and explore together, we are also thinking about our friends and family back home in Charlotte. We are especially aware during this week as we remember the life of our friend Khalil, who died on August 14, 2012. As we mark two years since his death, we walked and talked on Tuesday thinking about grief, about remembering, and about being guided by the Spirit in our grieving.
Following some discussions, we headed out to the World Trade Center memorial to continue reflecting on our own grieving, and to observe and connect with the elements of remembrance there. I (Greg) found the memorial site to be a very moving expression of the collective grief and of remembrance. The central features of the memorial are two enormous waterfalls. They are situated on the sites of the footprints of the two World Trade Center towers. Around all four sides of each waterfall are engraved the names of those who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Those names are placed with attention to where each may have been – in the north or the south tower – and who they may have been with at the time of their deaths. The waterfalls descend in small streams, like endless rivers of tears, into an abyss whose bottom cannot be seen.
The effect of this site was deep on our group, and also on all of the people who had gathered there. The pace of New York is famously frenetic. Getting to the site involved steering through fast-paced crowds and lots of noise. But once inside, the pace slowed a bit. The noise level dropped. The sound of crashing water was the primary sound – no horns, no construction noise, no shouting. We reflected later on the way the shape and depth of the space influenced the way people interacted with the environment there. The way the space had been set aside in simple, beautiful fashion influenced the way we remembered and the way we treated one another as we entered those grounds.
The World Trade Center site was created for a very particular reason, for the public grief of a very particular event. But that focus on the particularity of this event and the people directly involved in it made that space feel like it was big enough handle all of the rest of the grief brought to it. I brought some myself, as did the rest of our group. My mind was not on the events of September 11, 2001. My mind was on my friend Khalil, on our friend Keith who was killed in February 2012, and for our neighbors who are still grieving their deaths. My mind was on Khalil’s killer, now a part of the “justice” system that will seek to punish him rather than to restore and reconcile him to his community. My mind was on Keith’s killer, who still has not been identified. The tears pouring down into the abyss seemed to stand in for my tears, for our tears.
We will return in a few days to our homes, the place where we lost our friend to senseless violence. The corner that QC Family Tree inhabits in Enderly Park is a sacred corner for us in part because we lost one of our own there. We still remember him. We talked as a group about how we remember him daily, every time we walk past that corner. We were moved by the expression of grief that we saw today. We will continue to find creative, inviting ways to express our grief in our place, and to work for justice and peace in the hopes that we need no more memorials to friends and loved ones.