Letter emailed on The Day:
Like alot of folk, I imagined I could walk downtown and have a look.
I got over to the river, joined the crowd standing still and silent, staring at the
thick single plume of black smoke.
I started walking downtown with others. We were stopped at Houston Street. People were trying to force their ways through the police barricade:
"I live down there!"
"My husband's waiting for me!"
Cops were fighting to keep people from crossing Houston... One cop screamed,
"Why don't you all just go the fuck home while you still have homes to go to!"
We were morbidly attracted, needing to go see and know with our own eyes, what's right here in our own backyard.
They have evacuated every building in midtown.
If only I could go tomorrow and do a normal day of work and get 'distracted.' But in this context, what is normal
about Penthouse magazine anyhow?
It is very, very peculiar not to be
able to ignore the bad news on the news.
When I first moved here I dreamed constantly of bombs hitting New York. I grew up in the 50s, every night listening for air-raid sirens, and in time packing a suitcase
full of my favorite toys, in order to efficiently
run to the bomb shelter with them.
So it did not seem so unusual, to my subconscious, under that repertoire to clean out
my bank account by 10:00 AM and make a dash
to Whole Foods for $300. worth of groceries... because they did close the store by 11 AM while I was checking out. I exited to a frantic crowd trying to get in...
And all access into the city is cut off. No bridges or tunnels are open.
We are indeed an island.
It is eerily quiet and calm in my neighbourhood, which
makes the thick plume rising from downtown
all the more nightmarish. Those are bodies burning down there.
Who can conceive of it.
And an enemy still nowhere in sight?
Diary September 12th, 2001 --
I fell asleep last night in a dead exhaustion
at around 9 PM on the floor in front of the television.
It is turning into alot of work to watch television, but *must get* all the details...
Woke up an hour later to yet more repeat images of the plane striking Tower 2,
the plane at a million miles an hour
screaming into the building. From this angle, that angle, no, here's still the better angle.
Though I felt like I was a thousand
years old, I made it to bed and passed out again.
When I woke up it was still dark and for a moment I forgot. I felt good, and well-rested.
Then I remembered.
When I realized it was 3 AM I knew I was in for a terrible time. The hours before dawn are anyhow the most anxious and nerve-wringing.
But there I was with my perfect 6 hours sleep, fully conscious. With a brain steeped in anxiety at its worst:
intellectual, psychic and physical anxiety all at once.
The sense of those structures
destroyed so nearby... I could feel the
gashing in my own body, I writhed at the absolute castrating.
After lying awhile vainly hoping to go off and sleep it through, I got up and started cleaning.
The television was still on. How had I forgotten to turn it off. Everything on television
is a part of me now, is why...
I vacuumed, I washed clothes, I scrubbed the bathroom, hearing the TV
describe how -- as the fires burned though the centres, at temperatures
twice as hot as that required to melt steel, the top tens of stories
came crashing down on the lower halves, thrusting the Towers into the ground.
Folks imagined the Towers would tip over, but no, they were designed to plunge straight down into ... granite?
The physics were inconceivable.
I realized I was bent over as if a weight was holding down my neck. I straightened up. I was myself embodying the feeling of tons of concrete and steel falling down... on a body.
This crashing crushing down caused a minor earthquake, a blip on the Richter scale at 2.4.
Apparently one reason I had yesterday
wandered in a trance state.
With a sense of strange calm
and purpose, travelling over half of downtown Manhattan, in crowds as equally
silent and calm. With no apparent concern for the state of my semi-crippled feet. I'd absorbed some of the crazy electromagnetic wavelengths
from the tremouring epicenter itself.
The heat was so intense from the burning that another building next to
the Towers crashed to the ground.
Two more buildings were so damaged they
were certain to fall. The violent heat had melted to spaghetti their steel internal structures, so they wavered in place... Huge structures cutting into the earth, straight down like knives into butter.
How could the authorities imagine they could dig out these pancaked hunks of concrete and steel, of wallboard, furniture,
papers and equipment, all of it burning not only above, but below ground: layered
with sizzling blood and flesh of human beings?
Tormented by the visceral image of this crushing, I waited for no-one to come out of it but an enemy. Many could not, clung to the dream of rescue, of their beloved ones still alive and waiting in the mille-feuille.
I lost no-one in the catastrophe. I don't even know anyone who knows someone who's lost someone.
Except my butcher. Whom I was standing in front of yesterday in Whole Foods, when a woman rushed up to us and told us "World Trade has collapsed."
I just thought she was crazy.
I watched my butcher wrap my meat, weigh it, then unwrap it, weigh it again, and wrap it, and unwrap it, and weigh it, and
finally gave it to me with the wrong price.
"My niece is in the World Trade," he whispered. I could not interrupt this thought.
As sophisticated as the building of these structures had been,
my television told of how there was just an old-fashioned shovel and bucket brigade taking it away.
By the end of the first 48 hours, this tireless
bunch of buckets removed 6,000 tons of ash and debris.
I had to stop cleaning my tiny pile of dust, start to dress,
get to the office as early as possible. Get my morbid fixations diluted by more
Dawn came up on the new and wretched day.
Was there going to be another attack?
Were they setting us up for a bomb?
What had really exploded in the planes?
What if a malignant bacteria had been unleashed?
I ate some of the masses of food I had purchased the day before.
My hunger seemed wrong.
I went out into the day and felt sick to see the sun.
No the sun didn't care if thousands of people were dead.
The earth beneath the Twin Towers pierced, violated and defiled.
But Nature is resistant and indifferent... Though perhaps peeved now.
I saw people with the New York Times, with the full-color dramatic explosion cover. I remembered on my television
it had said no New York Timeses could get trucked into the city; The Times is made in New Jersey and had to be boated over today.
I asked someone where he had gotten his.
"Inside Penn Station."
By the time I walked the five blocks to the Station I was tired and nervous and hot.
I followed two women in long green scrubs, rubber caps on their heads,
sheened grey with dust... to the escalator and down into the Station.
The crowds parted to give these women way.
The holy dust of the wreck upon them,
they were saluted by a hirsute black man in Army fatigues.
Between these two - the medical personnel and the soldier - the war had begun in miniature.
Between their upright forms writhed the nonentity crowd, en route to profane purpose.
The women's name tags were askew, they were obviously exhausted.
But not tired out like me, rent by the neurotic fantasy of what a personal annihilation meant.
They had seen actual dying people, real dead people, had saved and lost them to the very extremity of their ability.
I was but exercising, however fully, a heated intellectual fantasy.
(to be continued)