In the 15 years since the Towers fell, and over 3,000 people from around the World perished, I’m still there to a certain extent. Traveling under Fulton St on the 4 express to Bowling Green retriggered my then in-remission asthma. So, the day & it’s aftermath will always be part of me.
I wrote this one week after the Towers fell, and I was able to get off of Staten Island via the Ferry:
In the World of the Discordian, I would hazard that as of 9/11/01, we have left the Age of Bureaucracy, and entered the Age of Aftermath…
Sept 18, 2001 (Rosh HaShanah) I wrote:
A week ago, while trying to capture the remnants of Dreams, the phone rang. “Kelly, it’s Carl. the World Trade Center collapsed.” and with those words, everything changed. I turned on the radio and listened. Carl and I talked about what happened, about the safety of his family when he said: “The other Tower just collapsed. I gotta go.” He had watched it all from his office.
Over the next few days, I climbed out onto the fire escape to view the skyline. We had entered the Underworld, and New York Harbor had become the River Styx with Charon at the helm of the Ferries that ran between South Ferry and Staten Island, I emailed friends and family to let them know I was ok, helped a friend whose Mother was Missing Never to be Recovered, volunteered at the Red Cross Emergency Center at the just opened Staten Island Yankees Ballpark….
(written on the Ferry going towards Lower Manhattan) I am now beginning my own Journey to the Underworld. I am no Orpheus, but, perhaps I am. The city is shrouded. The forlorn tolling of a buoy bell. Is that fog? or, is it smoke from the still smoldering ruins? It’s a cynic’s question. Journalist on deck. from Japan. from somewhere in the U.S.
I can feel the Pain. Smell the Dead. The Ferry is arriving and I step in the Domain of Hades and Hekate.
I chose to ride a bus. An M15 Local. Not much choice. It’s the only running. Lower Manhattan was ghostly in its emptiness. as the bus turned off Water St, it started to become surreal – from the closed stores and the empty Sea Port. people walking to – where? As the bus moved uptown, Life returned in slow motion. the smoke. the smell receded to be replaced by traffic. The traffic grew heavier as and then came the pictures. Walls of pictures. no picture covering another, and one woman looking at each one in its turn that had been posted on a wall of a deli. the bus first passed by Beth Israel, then Bellevue and NYU. the next wall of pictures was taped to a construction barrier at, I believe, Bellevue. and the bus continued up 1st Ave. We passed a playground where the adults seemed to outnumber the children and none were at play. Getting off the bus at 50th St., in the shadow of the UN, I walked down to 48th St. and began to walk west towards Broadway. As I walked, I was struck by the Silence. No talking. no cell phones. no music. no car horns. Silence. I walked past a silent and empty Rockefeller Center, and I stopped to look at the FOX-TV News zipper and once more was stunned: bin Laden had achieved what no one could. A unilateral cease-fire betwixt Palestinians and Israelis. Maybe they finally realized that ‘tit for tat’ would bring ruin to both sides.
Later in the day, I walked over to Engine 54 in the Heart of the Theater District, just four blocks from the theater I used to manage. It was overwhelming. The Letters and flowers.Candles and Prayers. I cried. for the Missing Never to be Recovered, the Dead, the Living, but mostly for the children. I wished that they had missed this performance, along with the rest of the 5000+. It was one curtain that never should have gone up.
It’s weird. I’m sitting at Starbucks and the music is this “happy-Doo-Wop” version of “muzak” It was unreal looking out the window, traffic flowing down 9th Ave. as though nothing is amiss…I considered attending Rosh Hashanah services, but somehow, I felt empty by the consideration. so, I traveled back down to South Ferry, riding the 4 Express to Bowling Green. As the train approached Fulton Street Station, smoke was evident in the tunnel, you could smell flesh. My sinuses reacted immediately and I knew my voice would be affected as well.
What I didn’t plan on was becoming violently ill a few hours after I got home.
Coda: I revisit this post every year. I still smell the flesh in the tunnel under Fulton Street, and I still carry the dust of those who died within me. For them, I am strong.