September 23, 2001 +
By Friday afternoon I was tired, one long week of disaster having turned into two. I spent the weekend consoling friends losing loved ones, and while I had a pleasant Rosh Hashanah holiday break, bad news and bad moods clouded my Thursday and Friday. Keeping one's chin up while the rest of the world frets is tough work.
Friday night Amy and I went out on the town, trying hard to shake the negative vibe off our collective psyche following ten days of aggravation and a needless fight that nearly wrecked our evening. We wound up seeing "Rat Race" at the Loews 19th and Broadway cinema, which restored our spirits; the dumb fun was just what we needed. Happiness returning, we headed for home.
On the walk we entered Union Square to see the World Trade Center tributes and instantly found ourselves facing a new, heartbreaking side of the disaster.
Candles were lit everywhere, mostly within floral arrangements, covering every available area, even the off-limits central grass. Chalk messages lovingly, temporarily defaced statues and sidewalks. The square glowed with love and sadness as pedestrians quietly observed the scene by candlelight.
Covering all the fences in the square were huge sheets of paper decorated by schoolchildren. All were dedicated to rescue workers lost in the line of duty. The sheets contained drawings of fire engines, tender tributes and prayers by youths who seemed to barely grasp what had happened downtown.
We made our way to the front of Union Square, by 14th Street near the subway entrances, and froze. Hundreds of candles were surrounded by thousands of flowers in an elaborate, impromptu tribute to the disaster victims. A lone bagpipe played solemn hymns as passers-by paid their respects and prayed. People spoke in hushed tones, as though everyone knew not to spoil the scene that had been created.
I stood in silence and finally lost control. Ten days of strength -- of consoling and supporting friends and family, of swallowing hard and blinking back tears at each new report and handcrafted banner -- were all I had.
In front of the flowers and candles, motionless, holding Amy for dear life, I wept. Several long minutes passed as I cried, tears filling my eyes and flowing down my cheeks. I found the pain that I had been suppressing, and in one grand sweep I let it overtake me. I made no effort to hide my pain; instead I shared my grief with the city, with the souls of those whose lives were lost and touched by loss.
Once my tears, and Amy's, had subsided, we slowly, quietly made our way out of Union Square toward her apartment. Amy peered up at me as we neared the street and apologized for fighting with me; I did the same. We kissed lovingly on the curb and went home, sadder than we hoped, but wiser and wealthier for our new understanding of the trauma we had endured.
September 20, 2001 +
My complete thoughts from last week on the World Trade Center disaster have been compiled here. Due to the nature of the subject, and the greater reach of the Ideapad, all Journal posts relating to the Trade Center are posted in the main Ideapad (some are cross-posted here as well).
September 11, 2001 +
The stories have started to come in. Ted works way up high and Mark is due in ten weeks. Lonny works on the 105th floor and his wife hasn't heard from him yet. On television, a woman told the news desk that her husband called to say the plane crash was lower than his floor and he thought he was trapped, and that tale, relayed over the phone, hurt just as bad as any.
As a networked New Yorker -- and, after all, every New Yorker is part of the network -- it is impossible to not feel the pain and the anguish in this city today. Around the country people are astonished, terrified, sorrowful, but the mood everywhere is one of mourning. Our collective jaw continues to drop at the next horrible account, as we wonder who we will hear about next, wonder whether there is a limit to the calamity.
All day we retreated, first from work to the TVs in our staff lounges, then into our telephones, then to coworkers stronger than we, then home to loved ones, slowly but surely. We got home long before the end of the work day and spent the afternoon glued to the news reports, trying to comprehend what had come to pass, blinking back tears at each new piece of television footage. We do not believe our eyes, our ears, our noses; we silently hope our senses betray us, that this is not real, that it can't be real. But we are not so fortunate.
We walked the streets today, or took the bus, for even when the subways started running again we feared for our safety in the dark unknown of the underground. Virtually every store below 42nd Street has been closed since late morning. Each block brought more dark shutters, gloomily displayed at midday. save for the pharmacies and grocery stores that awaited us, their shelves thinning but still plentiful, helping us prepare, preserving our sanity.
We head uptown to sleep under the thinly hopeful notion that we'll be farther away from the sirens, the smoke, the pain. Our apartments are quieter but our minds are not. Our hearts go out for those missing and those who love them. Today is a day for reflection and concern.
I am fortunate -- home with my loved one, my friends and family accounted for -- but not content. Today we all ache the same.
September 4, 2001 +
I need a vacation.
For better or worse, I'm starting to think like a writer -- everything I do or see or experience enters my head as an opportunity to compose, and I pause, thinking of the right written phrase to express the moment, things like, "Apparently, Livingston, N.J. is Where My Toothpaste Tubes Go to Die." (Mind you, some of my thoughts make for better subjects than others.)
I wrote a lot over the holiday weekend, the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. I feel reluctant to type them in and post them, however; somehow, I'm afraid of disliking what I wrote and throwing it away, or not wanting to share. I will at least put them into text files and stow them away on my server for posterity. I sense that I'm on the cusp of something bigger, and I don't want to misplace the origins.