My heart has been pretty heavy since the news hit about yet another massacre in the States. I have been quiet and reflective; not sure I was going to say much of anything publicly. After all, I did not know any of the victims and we all already know that it’s a horrible tragedy.
However, I reconsidered that because there is no part of my life that isn’t touched by this. I live in the bay area of California, where Harvey Milk served when he became the first openly gay politician before he himself was massacred. There has never been a single time in my life that I have not had at least one gay friend. At various points throughout the last couple of decades, I have worked at nightclubs – both gay and straight. My sometimes boss was (is) a flamboyant and wonderful gay man. Last year I took my six-year-old faery goddaughter to the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco right after gay marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court so she could witness a happy moment in history. A little over a month ago I attended a lesbian wedding. Last week I spent time talking to a friend about whether or not she wanted to explore a same-sex relationship. And last night my heart broke as I held up a candle, raised my voice in song and marched with thousands of others through the streets of San Francisco.
It’s been over five years since the first time I stood at Ground Zero. Back then it was a pit full of cranes and heavy equipment. I stood there at the beginning of September, in the heat and the sweat and watched men work on beams so high that they looked like toys. They still wore masks as they beat metal into submission, trying to reach the sky with the bones of another building. I remember the emotional toll it took on me and how it felt to be there but not much about the area itself because the whole place was still off limits and under construction. I remember standing in front of the fire station, sobbing uncontrollably and clutching the wall. I remember looking over at the church and being angry at the idea that people viewed its unscathed structure as a miracle and proof of their god, when so much around it had been destroyed. I wondered how they could still believe in anything at all. It seemed that no one was paying attention to the space – and I was horribly offended by that idea. How could the world not stop? How did people walk next to the construction zone every day without breaking? How could things just go on?
When I was a little girl my best friend was a boy named Clarence. We played together every day and I still remember the smoky, warm cadence of his mother’s voice as she read to us. I also remember being told that my friendship with Clarence was going to change once we started school because he was black and I was white. I doubt either one of us would have noticed that fact for years if not for that conversation, as it was simply not something we recognized. As children, we were colorblind. I will never forget the confusion and anger I felt, not understanding why anything had to change at all. I remember the defiance I felt – feeling sure that Clarence and I would be best friends until we grew up and got married. I was 4. I was too young for anyone to steal my naivety and I was angry that anyone doubted our love. In retrospect, it was probably the first moment in my life that truly shaped who I have become.
Yesterday I wrote a long historical piece about Anne Devlin, a tragic hero that is often overlooked in Irish history. I posted it then even though the anniversary of her death is today, due to the Scottish vote news that would overshadow her. She has been dwarfed and dismissed by many historically and I just couldn’t do that since I have wanted to tell her story for so very long.
If you’re interested in that kind of thing, she can be found here. And if you’re anywhere near Glasnevin Cemetery, take an extra flower and sit with her awhile for me, would you?
It’s been 3 years since the first time I stood at Ground Zero. I remember the emotional toll it took on me and how it felt to be there but not much about the area itself. I had known I would sob. I knew I would mourn E. there. I was not prepared for my initial outburst of tears to have less to do with him and more to do with the sheer overwhelming feeling of heartbreak for every person who lost their lives there and for those who they left behind.
This year I stood there again and was totally bewildered and offended as tourists posed for pictures at the new site. I moved them back from the fountain rails in the new gardens to find the name I was looking for. I walked through the monstrosity that is the “museum” which sells “Never Forget” trinkets like thieves in the temple. I was angry and upset at the world where these things can happen and horrified that such a beautiful place was one that marked such an awful tragedy. This time, my emotions were hot and angry and I wasn’t sure what would happen when I found his name.