The special treat/reminder/alarm that caps each weekday Shachrit service is a series of Shofar blasts. This morning I attended the daily minyan at my shul, Brooklyn's East Midwood Jewish Center, and couldn't help but flinch and smile at Joseph P's shofar work.
I attended shul this Friday morning, September 11, with a few things in mind: to hear the call of the shofar, to help make a minyan, and to memorialize 9/11/01.

I realize that everyone in some way was and is touched by the memory of the horrid, terrorist-fueled destruction of the World Trade Center, the Twin Towers, and the planes that crashed in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. But if you were in New York City that very day, or just across the river in New Jersey, you experienced the terrifying day in a way that no one else can quite understand. That very day, which was sunny and calm at first, I got into my car with my older daughter, who was two days shy of her first birthday. Then I turned on the radio I heard that there was a terrible accident at the World Trade Center, and I was baffled. I kept the news station tuned in as we drove to Jess's first day of playgroup in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene.

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Stopping for a red light at Atlantic Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue, I looked to my left, westward, and could not believe what I saw:     the Twin Towers in the distance, with bright orange flames and thick black smoke billowing out. People were walking in the street, shaking their heads, in shock and fear. It was unreal. And when we arrived at the playgroup, parents and guardians spoke in hushed tones, or wept, with bewilderment. We decided to leave early and start again two days later, on Thursday, September 13. There are many other frightful and nerve-wracking details that I remember of that day and those in its wake.


This year, for the first time, I decided to go into lower Manhattan and commemorate the unforgettable day. I went to St. Paul's Chapel and happened upon their "Service of Reconciliation." St. Paul's Chapel, which stands in the shadow of the destroyed WTC as well as the newly built Freedom Tower, served as a respite site and memorial space for 9/11. So I stayed for part of their service, even though it was conducted by Episcopalian clergy.

I sat with a few hundred other somber people, including many police officers but also tourists. The service commenced with classical music played by a brass quintet, mournful but intriguing. Then there was a brief religious exchange, and the singing of a hymn. It was the familiar Negro Spiritual "Down By the Riverside," partially based on quotes by the prophets Isaiah and Micah. A man read an English rendering of Isaiah 2:1-4 as well. Quietly I departed the service at this point, uncomfortable with the Christian aspects of the service but still fascinated and touched by the unfolding of prayer and music. Later I walked over to look at part of the 9/11 service, from across the street on Church Street.

Coming to terms with 9/11 is not at all easy. Coming to grips with the obligations and meaning of Elul is not easy. Each year I delve into these periods of time, and each year I feel intimidated by their weight, but also feel that I must deal with them. They are part of life. At shul I heard a shofar's blasts; in lower Manhattan, and later on the radio news, I heard "Taps" played by trumpet. They are the musical themes that remind us of life's challenges.

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