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Guest Thinkers


That anniversary again

I had a neighbor years ago, a nice woman in a happy second marriage with two adult kids and two elderly parents. Devoted to Martha Stewart’s algorithms for a gracious life.

The last time I spoke to her she was painting her front door yet again because she wasn’t satisfied with the color from two weeks before. Paper towels were neatly spread on the shiny polyurethaned wood floor and her top, though white, had no paint stains. Neither did the towels. She was the kind of meticulous person people like, the one who just wants everything to be right for everyone.

She died in Tower 1 on September 11 eight years ago.

In the Iliad somewhere there’s a line more or less like: “He died, and with him perished his father’s knowledge of making intricate things.” As this anniversary becomes an emotional fossil — a symbol, a bit of rhetoric, a ceremonial obligation — I try to remember what came before all that: the raw experience that begins to fade the moment we clothe it in interpretation. She enjoyed the work. The door looked good.


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