Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fire and Light

A detached sense of dismay turned to a sickenly familiar feeling of sadness when I learned that the two firefighters who died in a fire yesterday at the toxic Deutsche Bank building were from Engine 24 and Ladder 5 of Battalion 2 -- the fire station just up the street half a block from my apartment building. This morning there were no fewer than six news trucks with their antennaes rising to two stories and my brief glimpse at a gathering of people outside revealed the hunched shoulders and lowered heads of the grieving.

I'll never forget, of course, walking by there after 9/11: the ever-regenerating piles of flowers, the firehouse's purple bunting, and later the plaque and glowing acrylic tribute poster commemorating the 11 (!) men who died that day at Ground Zero. The sadness and shock were palpable then. And now two more.

I work kitty-corner from the shrouded, doomed Deutsche Bank building and have been watching it from my cubicle over the months. It shrinks imperceptably day by day and has now dipped below my vantage point when sitting. Good. Let it be gone as soon as possible.

* * *

A week from now I'll be surrounded by the green of southern coastal Maine, my family, and that slow, lazy, poignant feeling of late August. The only thing missing, I assume, will be the fireflies that lit up the night lawn last month. On one moonless night, we noticed that the usual flickerings of little light sources had suddenly bloomed into thousands, blinking in the grass, the air, festooning the stone wall, and up into the trees. It was a firefly convention! Magical.

Speaking of dark nights, there's a remarkable article by far-flung correspondent David Owen called "The Dark Side" in last week's New Yorker magazine decrying the lamentable phenomenon of light pollution. You can't access it online, unfortunately, but you can view some animated New Yorker cartoons. How very cool is that. I particularly love the one with the cat. The cat with the gun.


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