Friday, September 11, 2009

Nine Eleven

Two words which changed our lives, this region, as well as the country, this family, my livelihood.

That day many neighbors, friends, clients, died. And many children of friends, kids in their 20s in their first real downtown job, on the 92nd floor of the Towers. Funerals for remains went on for over a year here. Obituaries daily for months and months as remains were found and identified. Widows of the airline heroes live here, one a neighbor.

Our post office was the one attacked by anthrax, our postal workers terribly ill from handling anthrax laden mail, our local mayor going to bat to get the proper antibiotic for the other workers, our mail incinerated in the attempt to clean it, post office closed for two years, our railroad parking lots full of cars whose owners would never return from the city, our neighbors coming home days later, filthy, in rags, barefoot, city clothes unrecognizable, having walked miles out of the city to be eventually ferried home by volunteers, there being no trains nor buses running, our vets going to attend to the rescue dogs on the site, our firefighters all taking off en masse to the city to be available, our EMTs dropping everything and just going to do what they could. Our skies totally empty and silent as the airlines stopped dead.

My business gone overnight, since it depended on corporate travel, and that was gone for many months, and clients died in the attack.

And yet, in all this tragedy and fear I can hardly describe -- if you're within an hour of this kind of devastation, and can actually smell it, I knew what that smell was, told me people had been incinerated, you don't know when the attack is over. We are surrounded by great targets, the chemical industry very big here, major rail lines connecting the big cities. We simply didn't know when we could exhale -- amid this terrible day, good things did come.

Emails from friends all over the world who knew how close I lived to this attack, anxiously wanting news. Blessed nephew D., instant email to check on HS and me. Clients checking from all over the world, too, to ask me if I needed them to come home immediately to free me up in case I had family involved in the attack. Clients calling to say oh dear, we are stranded in Alaska, no way home are you okay?

HP, who was then not in my life at all, ran to the phone when he saw the attack on tv, to call me and stop me from seeing the devastation on the television news without warning -- too late, as it happened, I was on the way to hang an exhibit, had stopped at a client's house, and saw it there -- and that was when we both realized that life was too short not to be together for the rest of it. I got him and HS to my house that evening to eat pizza and be together. And we became a family again after decades of being divorced and apart. Never enemies, but not together.

Several more years before we joined our households, which I did because HP simply became too disabled to run the townhouse alone, but we were together again all the time from 9.11 on.

And I'm proud to say that the art exhibit went on, all the artists in the group show agreeing that dammit, no terrorist was going to stop art from happening.

And the day after the attack a lot of people went out to the Preserve, just to walk and be with nature, and cry and talk to strangers. Amazing time, when total strangers walked up to each other, said would you like a hug? are you okay? and not a word of bitterness or revenge heard anywhere in my world, not a word, just sorrow.

Today, it's blessedly raining and cool, not like that perfect weather when the attack happened. Most years this day is beautiful, clear, sunny, and permanently scarred by that memory, but today is easier to deal with, partly because of the passage of years, partly because the weather is not a reminder.

So my pictures are peaceful, early Fall garden, gentle rain falling.


  1. You are the person I know who was most affected by the attacks. I thought of you a lot yesterday.


  2. Lovely pics. It rained here too, last night, and today is sort of a "gentle English day," California style.

    I found your piece very affecting to read yesterday and keep wishing there was a blog award that I could nominate you for. It's a vulgar idea maybe, but I find your writing and pictures so wonderfully good together. So I do think about that.

  3. I had no idea you lived so close in so many ways. A beautiful post affecting me deeply.

  4. Peace to you, Liz.


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