9/11 After Thoughts

My daughter was born on September 11.

My father died on September 11, from terminal cancer.

9/11, and 32 miles from NYC, the air was rank for days after the towers fell. I worked in those towers in my early twenties, as a waitress at Windows on the World. It was my first waitressing job. Some of the kitchen staff I had worked with died on the day of the attacks.

I was driving to teach at Stony Brook University when I heard about the planes flying into the Trade Towers. The news was on NPR and I heard it on my commute to work. Stunned, I arrived on campus, went to my class; my very shell-shocked students all wanted to go home and contact loved ones. I dismissed the class and told them to be careful. I then drove back home to my family.

It was my daughter's 4th birthday. We didn't know what to say to her--we had the TV on briefly, but didn't want to scare and scar her, so we turned off the news and said, "Some buildings in New York City are on fire." That's all she knew for years.

Her preschool was at a Jewish temple, and her class met in the afternoon. I had made cupcakes to take to the class to celebrate her birth. There were few cars on the street and when we arrived at the temple, we saw a number of police guarding the parking lot. They anticipated attacks at synagogues (which seems odd to think of now).

Her teacher met us at the door and said, "Say nothing. These are babies. They don't need to know what just happened. They cannot possibly understand." What a strange birthday it was; I felt removed from the celebrations; the little ones didn't seem to notice.

But this is our world today. Violence, terrorism, school shootings. As a parent I feel this inner division--the desire to pretend everything is safe and 'normal' and the terrible knowledge that nothing is normal. There have been so many violent incidents and scares throughout my daughter's childhood--weeks and weeks of black outs, two major hurricanes, multiple local terrorist attacks, and on and on.

There has always been some shame for us on this birthday. Wanting to celebrate; she was a miracle post-cancer chemo baby for me; yet knowing others are suffering. Wanting to honor my child. Wanting to respect others. Wanting to honor those who grieve.

I still remember the stench in the air from 9/11, 32 miles from NYC.

Talking to Josh Fox and a Review of How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change

“Can a person stop a wave? Could you stand on the shore and stop a wave from crashing? What are the things that climate change can’t destroy? What are those parts of us that are so deep that no storm can take them away?”

—Josh Fox

How to Let Go of the World opens with Josh Fox dancing to the Beatles--joyously celebrating the banning of hydraulic fracturing in New York State. Fox and thousands of fellow "frackativists" had just successfully pushed through the ban on 'fracking' in New York (2014). 

Fox's first environmental film, Gasland (2010), brought national attention to the negative environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.  

So, Fox had good reason to celebrate the New York State 'fracking' ban, and yet...

Fox soon recognized that while the banning of 'fracking' in New York State was a big win, there was and is much more to be concerned about in the environmental battle.

Namely: global Climate Change.

How to Let Go of the World next takes the viewer on Fox’s journey of environmental despair (a condition I deeply identify with and talk about in my TEDX talk "ECO-GRIEF").

Fox returns to his family home in the woods that inspired the making of Gasland, only to discover that a favorite childhood tree is infested with parasitic insects (induced by Climate Change).  The infested tree is a living symbol of the changed world we now inhabit--a world gravely altered by the ravages of fossil fuel extraction.  

Fox is thrown into a state of hopelessness.

Yet Fox determines to, “find the people who’d found this place, this place of despair, and gotten back up.”

The film then takes the viewer all over the globe. We follow Fox as he seeks to understand how others cope with environmental grief.

We observe the negative environmental, health and social impacts of Hurricane Sandy in New York, sea-level rise in the Marshall Islands, deforestation and oil spills in the Amazon, and the wanton burning of fossil fuels in smog-laden China, among others.  

Along the way, Fox has heart-to-heart conversations with prominent Climate Change authors Bill Mckibben, Elizabeth Kolbert, and climate scientist, Michael E. Mann. He also speaks with the activist and "civil disobedient" Tim DeChristopher, who went to jail for 21 months for protesting a Bureau of Land Management lease auction to the fossil fuel industry in Utah. 

Fox introduces the audience to climate warriors everywhere who will not give up on hope or love—even in the face of disaster.

One fierce Marshall Island community chants: 'We are not drowning, we are fighting!'

At the close of the showing of How to Let Go of the World at Manhattanville College, New York, where I viewed the film--amidst a sea of New York environmental activists, students, parents, grandparents, artists, actors, politicians, and musicians--Fox was present.  He called on each of us to come together as a community—to do all in our power protect this earth and our loved ones.

Fox called on us to dance.

And so we did. 

The film airs on HBO, June 27th.  Don't miss it.  Join your community and dance.                                          

Watch interviews (below) with Josh Fox right before the showing of How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change and on my show, Coffee with Hx2: