Posted a few days late

“Near ground zero, sightseers crowded among vendors and pickpockets. Though we were still a few blocks from the source, the two lights overwhelmed our sky like towering obelisks. When we looked closer we realized the lights were filled with movement. Countless birds raced in and out, meteoric paths cutting the sky. The must have been drawn by the light, pulled out of their nightly habits to enter this acrobatic flourish. As we walked closer the birds became more brilliant and numerous, a mass of charged, speeding particles. As each crossed into the light, suddenly it was branded white, turned into pure light …

“Never had I seen such a gathering, plumes of birds billowing upward, multiplying upon themselves until they appeared infinite, as thick as Milky Way stars. They reflected so much light that their individual features were erased. I guessed them to be terns, flycatchers, whip-poor-whills, nighthawks, jaegers, and crows, interrupted by swerving raptors. I picked out some by their flight patterns: seasgulls coasting back and forth, falcons plunging through flurries of swallows. None could resist the light.

This must upend everyone’s schedules, I thought. Daytime species would wake hungover in the morning, bewildered by the night’s new sun … Those that I saw, perhaps the majority, were migrating, and the lights had apparently pulled them off course. September is prime season for migrators, and many travel at night, relying on stars and moonlight for orientation. Now they were fixed solely on these two lights, the axis of their navigation fastened over lower Manhattan. Many would probably die because of this, their energy diverted, wings exhausted. We were killing them …

“… I thought these birds must be in some sort of ecstasy, thrust so willingly in and out of the light. I wondered whether the survivors wold remember this night off illumination, whether the small avian brain has a place to hold an unconformity of this magnitude. Then I thought there must be no need for memory among animals as swift and transfigured as these. This moment went beyond mere recollection.”

— Craig Childs, The Animal Dialogues (on visiting the memorial at Manhattan’s Ground Zero on September 11, 2002)

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