11 years ago today, the NYC skyline and all of our lives were forever altered. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a bright, clear, brisk morning. Just like today actually. I was exuberant about the prospects of a meeting I was to have at 10am next door to the downtown Century 21 located mere blocks away from the World Trade Center. I was rushing out of my apartment to vote in the primary before I hopped on the subway when my phone rang. It was my friend, and at the time, co-worker, Todd. “A plane crashed into the World Trade,” he tells me almost immediately after I answer with ‘good morning.’ I had not heard and was momentarily stunned, but I was on a mission. I told him I thought that it was tragic, but that I also had a meeting to make and I’ll see him later in the office. He asked me not to leave home yet. Even though he never mentioned terrorism, I guess he had a feeling. I know quite a few people who thought that immediately. I was not one of them. Honestly, at the time, I had no idea why Todd was so bent on me not going downtown, but after his second request to sit tight for 20 minutes, I cooled my heels and agreed to wait a bit. Ten minutes later United Airlines Flight 175 hit the second tower. I knew then I wasn’t going anywhere. I was terrified, shocked and confused. I was also alone. In this moment and throughout that week, I started writing short entries in my diary. This morning, like every 9-11 morn, I went back to those entries and re-read my words. It was a very eerie time in NYC. Folks were lost– some physically, some spiritually and most emotionally. It was also a time that required us to shake off the dust, to be brave, to try and find hope and to recognize the strength, courage and resilience of those who not only lost their lives, but of those of us still standing. It was not easy. Anyway I thought I’d open up my diary and share those words with you here, today. Peace.
Sept. 11th: It’s a beautiful, sunny morning and for some strange reason I have to hear Steel Pulse’s True Democracy CD. After a crazy, almost reckless 30-minute search, I am jamming to their song, Chant A Psalm: “So blow away your bluesy feeling…” An hour later I turn on the radio and hear that a plane has flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center. I turn on the TV. I can’t believe what I am seeing and hearing, so I head for the roof. Up there I see clouds of black smoke burn through the sunny New York Skyline. There’s only one tower standing. I am somewhere in between screaming and moaning and passing out, knowing nothing will ever be the same.
Sept.12th: The eerie silence of the previous night was traumatizing. I heard someone sneeze. It was a man on the corner…one block away. I only slept one hour. This morning the wind has shifted and the smell of burning tires fills my apartment. I light incense and talk to friends that I haven’t spoken to in years. I cry and tell them I am alright. I think.
Sept.13th: I meet my girlfriend for dinner and drinks. The bartender buys everyone a round of shots called Red, White and Blues. By the time I throw back the blue shot, everyone is chanting, “USA, USA, USA.” The liquor is way more intoxicating than this abrupt display of patriotism. I bite into my barbecue chicken and stare silently at the muted CNN coverage.
Sept.14th: There are 99-cent Bodega candles everywhere. I see them in Harlem in front of the local Laundromat; in Washington Square Park against the wire fence; and even surrounding the fountain in Columbus Circle. Everywhere there are white, blue, yellow and red splotches of melted wax coloring the concrete sidewalks, creating pools of rainbows on the ground. Directly above, hundreds of flyers each with a photo and the word “MISSING” wave desperately in the wind.
Sept. 17th: I start reading a comic book— Astro City. Reading about superheroes that are ‘here to save the day’ keeps me distracted, if only for an hour. In these pages I dream. In that hour I fly.
Sept. 22nd: My mother calls to see if I’m okay. She is going to send me a face mask… just in case. I put True Democracy on, open my comic and listen to David Hinds wail, “Rejoice, Rejoice/ Good tidings I bring you/ Blow away your bluesy feeling/…and take the world off your shoulder.”