In it, a group of carefree-appearing people bask in the sun on the Brooklyn waterfront while smoke from the World Trade Center billows in the Manhattan background. Apparently, this scene was very American, to be tacky and look carefree in the midst of a horrible tragedy.
One of the men in the photo has since disputed that appearance, saying that the photographed people were actually in a state of "shock and disbelief." Of course, his account seems entirely plausible, and who the hell is a photo to say what those people were actually feeling inside?
Almost a month ago, I lost a dear friend in a much-publicized, albeit much-smaller-scale, tragedy. My life, since then, has been one of Moving On With Life On The Outside while simultaneously existing in an inner state of sorrow and shock.
The sadness becomes less and less each day. And with the distance from that pain, come feelings of guilt. Which is why the photograph resonates with me, today. Of it, Jonathon Jones writes:
"The people in the foreground are us. We are the ones whose lives went on, touched yet untouched, separated from the heart of the tragedy by the blue water of time, which has got ever wider and more impossible to cross. A 10-year-old event belongs to history, not the present. To feel the full sorrow of it now you need to watch a documentary – and then you will switch to something lighter, either because it is painfully clear that too much blood has been spent around the world in the name of this disaster, or simply because changing channels is what humans do. The people in this photograph cannot help being alive, and showing it."
I find myself unable to fully let go of my sorrow, because letting go feels like seeing my friend, across the "blue water," growing smaller and smaller while I turn away and look onward.
It doesn't seem fair. But what else can we do?
Letting go is inevitable. Life goes on. Perhaps our hearts are big enough for us to become okay with that.