Sunday, September 11, 2005

Dear New York City

It was a day just like today has been.

One of those early September days that feel like a reward for having sweltered through another July and August in Manhattan. Miles of blue sky as far as the eye could see, a light, sweet morning breeze.

But then it all went wrong.

On the train to work, the radio signal on my Walkman vanished (the station’s broadcast antenna was on the first tower to be hit) and at first we heard it was an accident. A small aircraft.

But after scrolling to another station I heard the drivetime DJ say “Oh my God, a plane just hit the second tower!”

And by the time I was out of the subway and walking to my office, you could see the smoke pouring from those ugly, unimaginative Kit-Kat-shaped towers that none of us liked, but that, we’d realize later, were vital landmarks for anyone navigating around downtown for a night out or Sunday brunch.

We had only radio in the office, no TV, and CNN and the New York Times websites were crippled from so many hits. I heard about the first tower coming down while chatting online with someone thousands of miles away.

Four years later, I still forget they’re gone sometimes and am even now surprised by the emptiness in the skyline.

Every anniversary we get the phantom blue lights instead. It’s a clear night tonight and you can see them easily from here.

Published on the Op-Ed page of today’s Times:

Dear New York City...

Spalding Gray, the actor and monologuist, died in 2004. The following letter, which he wrote in the aftermath of 9/11, will appear in "Life Interrupted," a published version of the monologue he was working on at the time of his death.

For 34 years I lived with you and came to love you. I came to you because I loved theater and found theater everywhere I looked. I fled New England and came to Manhattan, that island off the coast of America, where human nature was king and everyone exuded character and had big attitude. You gave me a sense of humor because you are so absurd.

When we were kids, my mom hung a poster over our bed. It had a picture of a bumblebee, and under the picture the caption read:

"According to all aerodynamic laws, the bumblebee cannot fly because its body weight is not in the right proportion to its wingspan. But ignoring these laws, the bee flies anyway."

That is still New York City for me.


Blogger arzan said...

Nice post Olinda

I was in the WTC the friday before they went down. We were designing the offices of Lehmann Brothers. Funnily I was scheduled to be there later that day on Tuesday at noon.

However the meeting was never ever to be !!

I saw the second plane hit the towers and then each tower coming down.

I will never ever forget the images. They are etched in my mind and those of countless others who saw it forever.

We were on the roof of our office building at 6th and 19th, and even though it is a good 35 blocks away, it felt as if we could somehow touch and hold the buildings together.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Olinda said...

Thanks Arzan.

It's amazing how even not having been on site there when it happened, the attack still has such an impact.

PBS had a program on Sunday talking about 9/11 and the question of faith, how some people lost their faith, how others held on to it even stronger, and it ended with several people speaking eloquently about the man and the woman who held hands as they jumped from one tower and plunged to their deaths.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Sakshi said...

I know its amazing how the city moves on inspite of such disasters...In India we go thru it every second it in Kashmir, Gujrat or Mumbai.

The Mumbai Bombings...were the worst in my opinion...and it will simply astonishing to see people go back to work the very next day...and a banner hung outside the Mumbai Stock Exchange building stating 'We are Open for business'.

6:07 AM  
Blogger Olinda said...

You're right Sakshi. I guess it's part defiance of the people affected and part coping mechanism, to return to normal as soon as possible.

That's why I'm sure that New Orleans will start rebuilding as soon as they possibly can. Well, that, and the fact that they seem to be rather particulars birds in temperament and character, and they want their home back.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Sujatha said...

Hi Olinda,

Came here through Sonia's blog and saw your 9/11 post. I'd written one too around that time. Around mid-September, it's as if there is a remote control button in our brains that triggers memories - memories that stay fresh even as the years roll by. You're right, it's strange to see the empty skyline, now especially in the movies, and to watch old movies and still see the towers is so sad...

9:38 PM  
Blogger Olinda said...

It's true for me too, Sujatha, something jumps inside me when I see them in a pre-2001 movie. The towers are like phantom limbs.

9:56 PM  

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