Wednesday, September 13, 2006


This year I was in New York for the commemoration of September 11.

After class on Monday -- well, class and some other things -- I headed into The City to look at the Twin Towers of Light. You know, the blue lights that shine up into the sky where the World Trade towers once stood. (Although it turned out they were actually not on the actual actual spot of the where the towers stood, but it looks like it in the skyline from a distance.)

There were of course various things happening all day noting the event. In the morning, after my clock radio alarm woke me, I actually just lay there listening to the reading of the names for quite a while. Survivors, mostly widows, would read a group of 5 or 10 names and then end with their husband/fiance/father before passing it on to the next reader...I'm sure you've seen this on TV over the past four years, but maybe you've blown it off just like I did.

Hofstra Law School had a noontime remembrance ceremony; three law school alumni lost their lives at the World Trade Center that day. At night I ventured into Manhattan. We wandered around the area -- I don't really know what to call it these days; it's not 'Ground Zero' anymore -- noting the flowers, pictures, poems, gathered throng, firefighter tributes, protester with a sign calling for investigation (I hear ya brother!), people taking pictures, U.S. flags, peace sign in a window across the street...

The thing that struck me the most were the little kids. Earlier in the evening I had spoken briefly with my sister on the phone, which of course meant my nigh on 3-year-old nephew was in the background, and my sister was telling him, "Aunt Linda's in a place called New York!" I was like, put on your TV tonight and you can show him where I am. That got me started thinking. Then, as I looked at the children wandering around the sidewalk and displays I just kept thinking, "They weren't born." I don't know why it hit me so strongly in that moment, or why it hadn't before, but suddenly it seemed totally bizarre that there could be functioning little human beings in the world with thoughts and ideas and sentences and personalities who did not exist on that September 11.

The tall blue beams of light go so far up into the sky you can't see the end of them. When they hit the clouds, so bright, it looks like the moon is behind the clouds. I love blue things anyway, but it looked amazing.

In my Torts class, we study all sorts of cases of negligence, battery, false imprisonment, and other wrongs that people do each other. A tort is a harm. A lot of people in the so-called general public have in mind torts when they think about "frivolous law suits" and our "overly litigious society." It's not criminal court. The torts system is about compensation for injury, not punishment. What's it not, or I should say what's it not necessarily, is about getting ridiculous revenge. You have to prove a harm, and damages are awarded to compensate for the harm. A line in my text really struck me, that the torts system offers a non-violent alternative to fighting back when someone hits you, assaults you, or commits some other intentional or negligent wrongdoing.

I was thinking what a nicer world it would be if instead of terrorism and war people always turned to the common law of torts to be justly compensated for harms and wrongs done to them.

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