Mar 13, 2014
9/11 and the Damage Done
Posted on Sep 7, 2011
In the days after 9/11, I did indeed connect with my mother. She was in awe of the fact that her neighborhood muralist, Chico, had apparently painted a mural moments after the planes had gone into the towers. She knew that because she had gone outside after the impact and the mural was there, freshly completed, depicting the entire scenario. Refusing to this day to visit Ground Zero, she is a hard-core New Yorker who knows exactly what happened, shattered by the memory of the photographs that remained posted around the city for weeks after the incident, reminders of all of the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and cousins and friends who were forever gone.
A few days after 9/11, my sister and I met up and headed over to the impact zone. Or at least as close as we could get; there were barricades all around as hundreds of yards away and beyond our view, search crews continued their grim task and metal workers had begun to dismantle and remove the wreckage. It was dark and smoky down there, even though we had arrived in the middle of another bright and sunny day. First responders from all over the country were on the scene—New York state troopers from up near the Canadian border and firemen from California—mourning their brothers and sisters who had perished in the towers and pitching in where needed. We peeked around a barricade and past some buildings on Wall Street. Everything was covered in ashes, like Pompeii, and strange gray columns of after burn swirled through the crash site and all around lower Manhattan. After a while we walked on, heading back uptown and away from the smoldering wound.
On the night of Sept. 11, my friend Pamela had a dream that would change her life. Her great-grandmother, a Creek Indian, appeared and posed a question. “What are you doing on an island?” she asked. “There’s no good hunting on an island. Follow the river north,” she continued, “so your children can follow you. Find yourself a good wood lot, a fresh-flowing brook, a good roof and chimney and you’ll be OK.” Several months later, Pamela sold her apartment and packed up, moving to a forest in Massachusetts.
As for me, I was already living in Los Angeles. I returned when the airports reopened and commercial flight resumed. But before I left, I had another strange encounter. I was having a drink with my agent, Bill Contardi, at a bar near his office, somewhere around 55th Street and Sixth Avenue. We had decided to go ahead with a planned meeting because, we figured, we might never see each other again and why not hoist a couple before the entire ship went down? Normally a hangout for media and entertainment folk who worked in the area, the bar had become a crossroads for all manner of postapocalypse wanderers. As we chatted about the state of things, a crew of weary ironworkers from Ground Zero entered, having walked uptown covered in dust, looking for a drink as their shifts were changing. They ordered a round and we all raised our glasses, to what exactly we did not know.
“God bless America,” he crooned, “land that I love. … ”
It was so weird and so right, and to this day, with the country still reeling from the body blow of 9/11, I often think of that moment.
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