Last October, I drove my very pregnant wife to Connecticut for a medical appointment. As we reached the middle of the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, traffic slowed to a stop, as it frequently does. So we’re sitting in traffic, the bridge bouncing slightly under us, as suspension bridges do under load, when a passenger jet crossed from east to west, moving right to left across my field of vision.
For the life of me, I couldn’t remember if that plane was supposed to be there or if my family had pinned itself to a bulls-eye.
When I got my pulse under control, I realized that the plane was making a final approach to LaGuardia Airport. I’ve been on a ton of planes making that very approach, but I can’t say that I was ever particularly aware of it. Since The Eleventh, I find that I want to know fairly urgently that any aircraft I see in the sky is supposed to be where it is.
I don’t always get satisfaction. Last night, at around 9 pm, we heard a long low roar from a flyover. It sounded more like what I’d imagine a B-52 would sound like than an F-16, but that’s utterly uninformed. And at 8:55 this morning, in the midst of memorial vigil on the Brooklyn Promenade, a big military helicopter flew in from the south, swung east and banked over the Brooklyn shore, then swung back west and landed at the Wall Street Heliport. I thought the timing for low-flying aircraft in that part of the world might have been better.
The Promenade was crowded today. The morning prayers of Congregation B’nai Abraham, scheduled to end at the moment the first plane hit, attracted more people than I’d thought it would — and drew about a half-dozen photographers (many of whom were shooting digitally). One young man was davening not from a siddur but from a Palm 100. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy…
I wrote the other day about the appropriateness of blowing the shofar to mark the moments of impact. I was wrong; it was perfect. The blasts were not the stylized 1-3-7-1 of the holidays. The blasts were visceral, mournful, angry — like the best of Judaism, a call both to memory and to action.