I was not planning to attend any of the memorials or activities offered to "remember" or "honor" September 11, 2001. That day has been used in so many ways that it is almost meaningless. When I think about how much worse off we are now than we were then, it infuriates me. The gap between the rich and the poor has exploded. The Republicans (and yes, I blame them 100%) used Sept. 11 as a way to divide our nation rather than unite it. As the New York Times wrote two days ago:

"Richard D. Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in an interview that the planned ceremony only proved that New York was the “epicenter of secularism,” out of step with the rest of America.

New Yorkers, you see, aren't real Americans. Real Americans, it seems, embrace religion - their own religion, of course - above everyone else and have no respect for the beliefs of others. And yes, that is exactly what so many elected officials are pushing these days. Well fuck it. If that's what a real American is, then I am proud not to be one.

So, no, I wasn't planning anything special today. But when I went outside this morning to go to the gym, there was a patch of super blue sky sticking out of the clouds when I looked north up Amsterdam Ave. The first thing I always think about whenever I think about that day ten years ago was how amazing the sky was. It was the truest of sky blue skies. When I looked at that piece of super blue sky, I thought about walking home from work that morning, next to a freakishly quiet West Side Highway, with no traffic save for the occasional emergency vehicles.

Then, as I approached the gym, I heard bagpipes and drums. Under even regular circumstances, bagpipes are about the most mournful sounding instruments on the planet. These bagpipes seemed to be coming from 77th Street, where I knew there was a firehouse. The bagpipes took control of my legs, and I walked past the gym and up the block, following the sound. The street was blocked off and a small crowd had assembled. The firemen were outside in their dress uniforms. As I approached, the music had quieted and they began ringing a bell and reading names. I am pretty sure they were the names of the fireman who died from that station.

I stood on the pavement with an assortment of Upper West Siders, listening. Some of us were in gym clothes, some on bikes, some with dogs. Tourists from the hotel across the street from the firehouse spilled out of the hotel. We listened. I watched the firemen as they struggled to maintain composure. Two women near me, in heels and classy dresses, cried. My throat became itchy with my own unreleased tears.

The names were read - a blessedly short, but tragic, list - and the bagpipes played "Amazing Grace." The firemen dissipated, shaking hands and embracing one another. The small crowd broke apart, too, and we went back to our regular lives. I headed to the gym, two people stopped into the fancy cupcake bakery that did not exist ten years ago, and the dog walkers walked their dogs.

Ten years ago, our lives were supposed to have changed. We take a few seconds to comment on it, and then we go about our business. Life, for better or worse, goes on in the city - a city that I am proud to call home, and one that, to me, represents the best of what America has to offer people from every walk of life, even if it is not perfect.