On the the blessings of living in the megalopolis of the DC to NYC corridor is the possibility of visiting beautiful sites mere hours of days apart. On Christmas, the opportunity presented to visit Calatrava’s Oculuson the World Trade Center site and just days later, the Best’s Temple for Burning Man at the Renwick. While I didn’t seek out each site for any sort of spiritual experience, both left me with pause given we are working through the season of rebirth, renewal — and new beginnings.
The Temple as well as the Oculus honor those that we mourn and desire and the eyes are naturally drawn skyward — which for the Oculus brings a rush and multitude of layered memory. Calatrava’s soaring design is meant to embody just that — a bird flying from the hand of a child. The innocence of that image is felt — and the color in the evening, resembles the sky on that day most of us remember clearly — a day that started like most other fall days. The bird metaphor embodied in the design, one can hope is that the spirits of those lost are now free and while evil struck, a return to innocence is possible.
For the Temple, the fresh and fragrant smell of balsa wood also elludes to hope, while reverent lighting provides a moment of heavenly breath. Visitors’ messages to loved ones link the Temple to the site of the Oculus where messages were left for days and months after the fall of the Towers — perhaps it is the written word that provides a moment of renewal in our belief that those we love are not truly gone from our grasp — that memories are closer than we think.
While the Temple is set to come down on January 5, there are still a few days left to experience the installation but the Oculus offers a permanent destination for reflection.
I’m rolling into the Baltimore station yet again, and since my last trip north on the exact same train, in the quite car again, where I sat just two months ago when our train struck a human on the tracks. Since we pulled out of the last station, I’ve been head down in my book, hoping for the best — we’re cruising through Baltimore’s tunnels now and should hopefully arrive at the station without incident. For weeks after the accident, I scanned the news for mention of the poor soul that was struck – that poor woman whose life will never be the same. For now, it seems that we’re cruising slowly, and peacefully into the station.
Several questions have dogged me since that train ride in March, and all of those questions revolve around trauma. May is Mental Health Awareness month and since today is the last of the month, I find myself really pondering how we as a society can emphasize the importance of mental health check-ups. Part of the marketing campaign for the month revolves around the phrase “breaking the stigma” — which I completely support; part of breaking the stigma is turning things from oddities into routines.
For a woman to find herself on a set of train tracks — most certainly involved trauma, not just the accident, but whatever brought her to that place. Because news coverage is so weak, it is impossible to know her circumstance before or after the accident; but no one finds themselves near train tracks on a well-known busy commuter corridor in a major metropolitan area without having lived through some trauma. And what of the train driver and other staff that saw the accident yet could not prevent it? What of the first responders — who must see accidents like this on a regular basis? Trauma is all around us, yet our American culture remains steadfast in its neglect of the fact that the eyes cannot un-see, the brain cannot un-learn and the flesh cannot un-feel.
We must do more.