I was thinking about the anniversary of 9/11 last night with some classmates, and felt overcome with emotion about my memory of that day and the many difficult days after, watching loved ones of the victims hold up photos in the streets. There were so many photos everywhere. The train stations were like living art installations. Mainly, I walk through life trying to forget how I felt in those days and weeks, but it slips back and I welcome it. I find that I need to forget what I witnessed, especially in this world of the recording, but that it’s so important that I don’t forget my personal memory in the face of so many others’ memories and recordings. I’ve posted this in previous anniversaries, but it seems like a thing to do…my own recording….my own shadow of the day….an e-mail that I tried to send as I was in the moment. The e-mail couldn’t ‘send’ as phones and Internet were down all over lower Manhattan, but I have it and ‘send’ it in remembrance…again.
From: Mike Plugh
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 11:47 AM
To: XXX XXX XXX
Subject: Sad day
As I entered the 23rd street office of this small marketing and promotions firm, my mind was cluttered with the lengthy commute, and the sardine can conditions of the subway car in which I had just spent over an hour.
My bagel was a dollar, and I squinted as I noticed the stingy amount of cream cheese that had been smeared onto it.
I prepared myself for another typical day at the office, turning on my computer and mumbling, “Morning,” to whoever passed my desk.
It was a few moments before 9am, and word rang out in the office that the World Trade Center had been bombed again. A quick correction indicated that a plane had struck one of the two towers. My heart sank, as I called up the photo on the front page of CNN.com. It was a sight that no one could prepare for. It was a horror.
The more frightening part of this tale was the reality that struck, as I made my way down the elevator and onto the corner of 23rd street and 5th avenue. A billowing black smoke poured into the Lower Manhattan sky as passers-by informed me that a second plane had struck the tower. A million disaster films raced through my memory in which Manhattan was destroyed by Hollywood imaginations. A tidal wave, or an alien attack would leave audiences thrilled, and on the edges of their respective seats.
This was no illusion, and there were no thrills, as normal blase’ New Yorkers gaped at the burning landmark of our city, something so easily taken for granted. The terrible scene was a spectacle so awesome that one was inclined to forget the many thousands of lives that must have been lost in the mix. Conjuring that part of the experience was a difficult emotional moment for me, and I can’t help but feel deeply saddened everytime I recall it.
Inside the mood was sullen, as employees scrambled for their cell phones. The land lines had been put out of commission, and it seemed as though everyone knew someone working in the Financial District. Some had family, and others like myself, friends. I still have no word from my best friend Cairo. I can only hope that lateness to work has spared him injury or worse.
The news in our boss’ office carried the saga of plane attacks and bombings. No real word from the president, the mayor, or the governor. Undoubtedly they are all hunkered in some bunker strategizing, while chaos reigns the streets. Many of my co-workers have gone out into those streets, walking their way home, or in caravan to friends’ homes. I may attempt a trip to Brooklyn via Queens and the 59th Street Bridge at some point, an apartment of boxes and half packed items awaiting me and my imminent move scheduled for week’s end.
Another part of me wants to be with my girlfriend Ari, safe in our empty new apartment. That’s a far longer trip, and one I’m not sure is even possible given the state of emergency that exists to this very moment. I’ll be making that decision shortly, but the mundane life that I pantomimed my way through this morning, has been shaken, and that lengthy commute would be a welcome bit of normalcy in this uncertain existence that awaits me from this point forward today.
I can’t seem to get the picture of those towers collapsing out of my head. Icons that I had so closely associated with my everyday are gone, and with them a feeling of security that we all shared until this terrible day.
Where do we go from here? How will our lives change as a result of this terror?
It may sound hackneyed and a bit rah rah, but we’re Americans, and I’m a New Yorker. I’d like to think that we are built tougher than to let this day linger. I’d like to think that those towers will be replaced by something so awesome that words cannot capture it. That’s the way we do things, and I have no reason to believe that anything will be different as the days and months go forward.
The rest of my day in unclear. I don’t know where I’ll end up tonight. I’ll be safe, and I’ll be strong. That’s all I know right now, and I guess when it all boils down to the very basic nature of our lives, that’s all we can really count on day to day anyway.
I’ll call you all when I get this mess figured out, and I love you very much.