Here is what happened, then. Some children in a nearby school on that day had run from the blast, herded by their teachers. When asked later, several of the children said that the birds were on fire. Rumors among the children gained courage, as if the children expected to be told that they were correct, that they had divine imaginations. When told, no, your birds are not birds, some of them might have secretly concocted further strange and magical things made of wings and paper and fire. Monsters of air, ghosts of light and pressed metal. Anything with teeth and a heart could not live. I will make it on paper, the children said, and my fat yellow sun in the corner of the sheet will stay faceless.
But these were not birds, nor conglomerations of paper, steel, glass, bent at rigid constructions that defy the edgeless human form. They were people. They were men and women, clothes flaring out like vain, unfamiliar parachutes.
What happens at the moment of leaping? Can you still believe that everything happens in its proper time and place, and that time has brought you here to this conclusion? Do you curse the light? Or do you fall thankful for the light you have been granted all these days?
And those on the stairwells, in darkness, falling. And those on the planes in the bright blue Tuesday sky. The papers rained down like shorn birds deep into Brooklyn-calendars, promises, names, remnants. I touched the railings of my stoop and my fingers were printed with the dust of the dead. I had walked for miles in shoes long since discarded. I had seen the white flags shaken from the burning girders. I should never regret my life.
I want to think that they did not ask for mercy, but found something saved from bright days long ago. A day picking pears, stung by an errant bee that fed on the sweet pulp. A whistle across the fields, and the whisking tail of a dog at the door. Stumbling home barefoot that night drunk and in love. A newborn placed on your chest, its mouth and hands seeking, your hair slicked with sweat. A bowled and ancient sky by a lake, and the sound of a guitar, and laughter. Much beyond anything, love. You flew, you flew, you were born.
Remember us and all fine things and all good people who do so honor the dead.