The sunrise yesterday was immense and memorable.
Exactly 18 years ago, yesterday, here in Munich, it was a mirror image on that fateful day, with a cool morning followed by a warm, sunny afternoon. Brilliant sun and sky. In 2011, I was on my way to work. On one stretch of Tagernseer-Landstrasse where my destination lie, it was very hot, as the massive length of the factory’s west facade reflected the just past midday sun down on me. I was to give an English lesson at AGFA, a company which at that time was one of the top three companies in the world on camera film quality.
I’d just begun my first real semester teaching, getting ever closer to a full schedule, and started the lesson at 2:30, or 14:30 for the Germans. It was nearly 3:05 (15:05) when in walked Frank Bauer, a gregarious Bavarian of 50 or 55 years old. He usually came at 2:45 (14:45) because he had to attend a meeting every Tuesday until 2:30. He was wearing his Birkenstocks and socks.
I refrained from commenting on his tardiness. You never tell a German that they are late. Not because he’d poke you in the nose, but because they are never frigging late.
“An airplane crashed into the World Trade Center,” he said. “I heard it on the radio.”
The other three students and I just sort of looked at Frank. The lesson finished at four.
Those eight words from Frank were all I had, and those I had soon whittled down to five. Plane. Crash. World. Trade. Center. Planes crash every few years, but never into skyscrapers. It seemed odd.
That’s all I knew until I got home later that afternoon, around five, and I cannot tell you how the weather was on the way home. If it was like yesterday back in 2001, there was a chill with the clouds. They come in often at that time in early September and you notice them just as soon as the sun is not shining directly on you.
My girlfriend and I at the time did not have a TV. She never watched it and I couldn’t (still can’t) understand enough German to even care. It was all Goethe to me. But we listened to the radio, classical mostly, and later that evening she said that “there had been four plane crashes in the US–all by hijackers. And that was the first I heard.
The next day I found an FM radio station which carried NPR. It was on every morning, afternoon, and many evenings because my girlfriend was German and she worked almost every evening like most white-collared Germans do.
Yesterday I went to the city center of Munich, spent my time mostly at Viktaulienmarkt, and it was absolutely blowing up. It was around 2:30. It seemed as if most of Munich was there, or at least those who lived in, worked in, or frequented that particular quarter. Everything was open. Sausages sizzled, juicers juiced, and international and local shoppers looked at the largest and widest selection of everything edible in Munich. There’s a butcher who specializes in horse meat. There’s a potato stand with no fewer than 30 types of spuds in 5 amazing colors. There is also a beer garden surrounded by big, shady chestnut trees and lots of food of a mostly carnivorous variety. That’s the soul of Viktaulienmarkt.
The thought of beer and sausages in Munich in early autumn when the sky is at its deepest blue without a wisp of a cloud coupled with the chatter of people sitting and mingling in a beer garden is an extremely powerful one. I thought of which type of sandwich I should get, strangely, it was a baked fish sandwich, and I began to move towards the fish sandwich stand when I stopped. Actually, it felt like I had been stopped. Stopped by the 2:45 chimes from “Old Peter”, the oldest Catholic Church in Munich at approximately 900 years old. Nine-eleven. I had almost forgotten in the sunshine.
The debate began. Are you allowed to have a beer and a sandwich at exactly the anniversary of the moment that the lives of every American were changed negatively? Is that right? Or, perhaps isn’t drinking a beer and eating a delicious sandwich on 9/11 exactly what all of those victims who died then, and are still dying today, would want you to do?
I decided to skip the sandwich and beer. I don’t think it was because of the debate, I simply think it was just this idea that I should do something for my long-term gain rather than my short-term kept pounding away at me. How all of those innocents who died on 9/11 would love to be able to think about their long-term life and would never have the chance. So, with that on my mind, I went jogging.
I thought about a lot, jogging, listening to tribal and trance music from the early 1990s and looking down on the path covered in white granite pebbles in the sumptuous gardens of Nymphenburg Palace. These thoughts included 9/11 but were not limited to them. I thought often and deeply about my friends in Orlando, who I miss now greatly because I had just seen them a week and a half ago while visiting Mom. I thought about people I’d seen saw a few weeks ago at my 35th high school reunion, some of them I hadn’t seen since 1984. I thought about reconnecting this past trip with old friends from West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Florida.
Then it hit me, the sun. It was back to burning bright, and I looked up and saw it sitting in what I thought was an outstretched hand. It was actually the mirror of Aphrodite, or Venus if you prefer the Roman variant, and then it hit me again. Life is for the living. Grieve yes, but do not stop yourself from enjoying what life offers for the dead. I had made the right choice to exercise and not to eat a sausage, to drink a couple of beers (two only—for the beer and the sausages, and I’m sticking to that version of my story) and then look for a quiet nap which would’ve been easy to arrange.
Yesterday, I felt like the 2,977 spirits of 18 years ago wanted to watch me run in return for a look at Aphrodite. I spied Aphrodite, the goddess of so much, including love.
Love will triumph over hate.