Friday, September 9, 2011

Memories of 9/11 - In An Old Bangkok Cemetery

Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of what's became known as "9/11", a blanket euphemism slapped over the day's events in an attempt to cover wounds still very real for many a decade later. I knew a few who were lost that day; a couple peripherally, one intimately.  The link to that remembrance is here. Since we don't meet here on the weekends I figured I'd have my say on the upcoming anniversary by sharing a visit to a cemetery I made on  a September 11th a couple of years ago.

Many memorials had photos, like the one closest on the left

Adenium Obesum (aka a Desert Rose)
The belief in ghosts strongly held on a variety of levels by many Thais usually keep cemeteries pretty low on the list of destinations for a morning walk, but I'd seen the place several times from the Om Yim Lodge when I'd stayed there and had always meant to explore it, so since it was still early and I figured it would be cooler than in the mid-day sun I took the BTS to Chong Nonsi, made my way down the stairs and looked for someone to ask directions on how to get back there without going through someone's property.

The first woman I asked scrunched up her face as if to say "why would anyone want to go there?" but she pointed to the walkway that cut in off of Naratiwat Road, the same walkway that goes past the Sathorn Inn, a place I'd yet to try. Down the walkway I went, got to a junction that I felt was correct, turned right and came to the front of the cemetery.

Nobody was there. I mean nobody, and it appeared as though that had been the case for some time. Weeds and other vegetation grew freely among the monuments and head stones throughout the grounds, some appearing to be an arm of comfort draped over and around more than a few of them.

All of the writing I saw on the stones was in Chinese, so I'm going to make the guess that it was at least primarily a Chinese-Thai spot, but as there was a significant amount of water standing around the now slightly sunken memorials I didn't  climb up close enough to check all that many.  It was, after all, a resting place and not a theme park.

Being September 11th my thoughts naturally turned back to images broadcast that day; scenes astonishing and horrifying at the same time.  Images you don't want to see but are powerless to turn away from while being overwhelmed by their intensity.

The twin towers themselves took thousands down with them; many as young as the man who was pictured on one of the monuments I walked by.  He looked to be around the same age as the friend I lost, and I thought of Mark as I took a picture of the picture, here to the right.

There were still sashes tied to a couple of the sizable ficus trees on the grounds, leaving no doubt that this was a Buddhist cemetery, as you may have read about in the "tree wat" post. You can see some in the photo below, which also gives you an idea of how close the Chong Nonsi station is. It's visible in the upper right-hand corner of the photo.

Walking around and seeing the lush, wild growth throughout the area I thought of the field in Pennsylvania where the plane carrying my friend plummeted to the ground, and wondered if the land there had also healed and become green again, covering the blackened scar of fuel and fire. Having stopped by the tree above to sit and say a few words to my late friend - wherever his spirit may be now - I wandered back out through the front of the cemetery and went about the rest of my day.

For all of you who also lost a friend, relative, co-worker or lover on September 11, 2001 - may you find some comfort and serenity on Sunday when your thoughts will probably once again be torn out of your control and return - at least briefly - to that horrible day.  I hope you have managed to find closure for your loss in this past decade.  I know I have, but I still miss him.

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