On September 24, 2001, The New Yorker published a startling and evocative piece about 9/11 by film critic Anthony Lane, titled, “This is Not a Movie.” The takeaway from Lane’s sobering piece was Philip Larkin’s haunting words, “What will survive of us is love,” from Larkin’s beautiful, dark poem, “An Arundel Tomb.” These pointed words continue to resonate in my soul–at my core–and they remain true to one New Yorker’s 9-11 experience.
“We gazed upward, or at our TV screens, and we couldn’t believe our eyes; but maybe our eyes had been lied to for long enough,” Lane wrote in the final paragraph of his New Yorker piece, just thirteen days after the 9/11 attacks. “Thousands died on September 11th, and they died for real; but thousands died together, and therefore something lived. The most important, if distressing, images to emerge from those hours are not of the raging towers, or of the vacuum where they once stood; it is the shots of people falling from the ledges, and, in particular, of two people jumping in tandem. It is impossible to tell, from the blur, what age or sex these two are, nor does that matter. What matters is the one thing we can see for sure: they are falling hand in hand. Think of Philip Larkin’s poem about the stone figures carved on an English tomb, and the “sharp tender shock” of noticing that they are holding hands. The final line of the poem has become a celebrated condolence, and last Tuesday—in uncounted ways, in final phone calls, in the joined hands of that couple, in circumstances that Hollywood should no longer try to match—it was proved true all over again, and, in so doing, it calmly conquered the loathing and rage in which the crime was conceived. ‘What will survive of us is love’.”
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