During the surrealistic days following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, I made many failed attempts at contacting my close friend Val, who recently parted ways with her former New York-based rock band, Pist On to seek other ventures. Val is a native of New York, and a resident of Lower Manhattan. She and I have known each other for a few years now, and we often talk about things that friends normally do – but suddenly, nothing was normal anymore.
After finally finding some peace in the knowledge that she and her new kitten, and Val’s fiancee, Don, were all very shaken, but safe – I was able to ask a few delicate questions about the ways their lives have been affected by the recent strikes of terrorism. In the midst of so much chaos and wreckage, there are those rare moments of clarity when you are able to process some of what is happening. I was granted the words that came to her mind during one of those times…
Where were you when the attacks occurred?
Oddly enough, that morning I had left my place 15 minutes earlier for a doctor’s appointment. Normally, I leave at 8:40, which would have put me at the WTC train station stop at around 8:45 AM. My fiancee, Don, who would have been with me normally, was voting at One World Financial Center, directly across the street from the WTC. He saw the whole thing happen. We were separated and unable to reach one another for three hours after the tragedy occurred. It was a nightmare for all of us.
How did you find out about it?
Within minutes, everyone in the doctor’s office was talking about it. Then I walked outside and there were people everywhere in the streets talking. Then, I got down the the 15th Street area and SAW the entire thing. It was like a movie. No one could believe this was actually happening before our eyes. Then, the first tower collapsed…people were screaming and crying. I screamed. I couldn’t get to a working pay phone. Cell phones were all out. I ran all the way to my office. I thought my home and my family were lost…I had no concept of how many thousands of people were still in that building. It was all too surreal…
What was the course of events that took you out of your apartment?
I wasn’t there, but Don was. He ran for shelter after seeing the second plane hit, then, grabbed our kitten and went into the lobby of our building. The police were evacuating everyone into boats but, he had still not gotten in touch with me, so he refused to leave. After two hours of trying to reach the front desk, I finally got through and spoke to him. He was completely freaked out. He managed to convince the police to let him walk
up along the river to my office.
Trying to get BACK into our neighborhood has not been so easy, however. It’s over a week later and we still are not allowed back. We’ve been living at a hotel in Midtown since Sunday. 8,000 families have been displaced, because the entire area is still considered a crime scene. I’ve heard some gruesome stories about remains being found all over, so, I guess they’re trying to clean it up before it’s okay to return.
Describe the things you have seen.
I can’t, really. It all hasn’t sunken in for me. I was down there yesterday, serving food to the rescue workers and police and firemen. It was like a different place. My neighborhood is gone. It looks as if it’s a Universal Studios theme ride or something; burned out buildings; people’s clothing hanging from the trees; twisted, melted metal everywhere. Smoke and fires everywhere.
On the other hand, however, I did see some really beautiful things; the people of New York being kind, loving and respectful to one another. People doing anything and everything to help out those in need. Everyone at my office was incredibly generous to us throughout all of this. So, you know how they say New Yorkers have attitude and all that? Well, it’s true but, at least we know when to stop being that way and be really decent people. I love New York more than I ever have. I know we all feel the same way here.
Are you feeling more sorrowful or more angry?
More sorrowful, less angry. But, there’s no time to mourn right now. There’s still too much to do. People still need help, people are still getting their lives back together again. it’s gonna be awhile before everything’s normal, if ‘normal’ is even the word to use. I know that we are moving back to Brooklyn. We actually feel safer in Brooklyn at this point…how funny is that?
What are your thoughts about the plans to take action and the future of the U.S.?
All I can say is that I hope it’s well planned and not rash, but that it is SEVERE.
What things are you doing to bring yourself a sense of peace right now?
What can I say here? I’m trying to resume a “normal” life. trying to focus on my trip to Japan in three weeks, but, i can’t. No one at work can really focus. We’re all still freaked out. It’s so hard to have peace of mind in this city right now. I guess I find peace in knowing that:
1) I, and the people I am closest to are safe
2) That I was spared, for some reason, from this tragedy
3) That I have found people who really care about me in this world, and
4) That I helped in the relief effort, even though it was painful to do so.
That’s the great thing about NYC; you can knock us down, but, dammit, we get right back up again.
– Val, 9.20.01