Five Years

Five years now since the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and, for me, the distance from the event has left me even more at a loss for what to say than before. Time hasn’t clarified much of it at all, good or bad, right or left, right or wrong, at least not much more than what I knew in the days after those planes hit those towers. Whatever the final judgment of history might be on the way the twenty-first century opened for us, it’s my suspicion that we’re not close to knowing it yet. In certain spells — by myself, in crowds, walking around downtown — I feel like we’re almost further from knowing how future generations will regard us — any of us — than we were four years and three hundred, sixty-four days ago.

So I hadn’t planned on writing anything here on this anniversary. But, after walking around lower Manhattan yesterday evening with my dog and feeling that unavoidable, lingering sense of loss, my brain unexpectedly started turning over the lyrics for David Bowie’s “Five Years.” I’ve been listening to this song forever, it seems, and I’ve never known why Bowie wrote it in the first place, what the story behind it was. None of it seems to matter for today, though, because on this date it seems appropriate in a frightening, open-ended way.

“Five Years,” by David Bowie