11 Sept 01 plus 4

I am on this listserv of Methodist clergy and laity. (I’m not a Methodist anymore, but what the hey.) They discussed weeks ago the fact that September 11 was going to be on a Sunday this year for the first time since the attacks. “What are you going to preach on?” “How are you going to deal with it during the service?” A potpourri of responses, but I saw no one who wasn’t going to acknowledge it in some significant way.

I’ve got a lot of thought about what’s gone on in the country over the past four years, how I don’t feel safer but rather the opposite, that our response to an emergency fills me with dread rather than confidence, how certain parties (think the 23rd letter) will attempt to exploit this day for political gain (again), and justify the Iraqi invasion (again). But I’m not going to get into it right now.

Maybe it’s because I’m a little under the weather. Maybe it’s Katrina Fatigue. (Am I even ALLOWED to admit to that?) I haven’t even finished the series of Katrina-related stories in this week’s Metroland, but I do recommend the “Cracks in the Spin” links.

I’m not even going to share my own recollections of the day four years ago – maybe next year, on the fifth anniversary. Today, I’m just going to share tales of a couple friends of mine:

An Albany friend of mine took a train to NYC that morning. She had an appointment in one of the outer boroughs. But when she heard about the attacks, she didn’t even bother to try to call the client; she probably wouldn’t have gotten through, in any case. Instead, she took the very next train back to Albany at 9:30, just before the authorities decided to stop rail transportation out of the city. That proved to be a very sage decision, since it was likely the LAST train to leave the city for several days.
Subject: Where is your office?
Are you OK?

Hi. It’s Thursday morning. I was about to board a Jet Blue plane at JFK when I called my friend. Her father had died Monday night after a long hospiitalization and while we were on the phone at 8:45 she saw the hit on tv and conveyed it to me. I informed the people around me what she was telling me. They had us board the plane and another person informed us of the 2nd hit as we were boarding. After 5 minutes on the plane they cancelled our flight and asked us to disembark.

I got out of the airport as quickly as possible at about 9:30 expecting to stand in an impossibly long taxi line. I remarkably was only 5th in line and got a cab right away. We took choked local streets back to my house in Brooklyn, saw the horror of the towers in flames, watched the first one go down and heard on the radio that the Pentagon was also hit and that #2 WTC went down.

Once we entered my neighborhood at about 10:45AM, the once clear blue sky turned to a white and grey cloud of falling ash. It looked like a snowy winter day for a couple of hours as the debris descended and again later in the day when #7 WTC fell. The toxic acrid smell in the air is undescribable. I hesitate to think that the ash that fell from the sky could have been cremated human remains and the odor in the air like that of a crematorium.

My building is directly south of Governor’s Island, one block from Pier 7 and as the crow flies, probably a mile from what was the WTC. I used to be able to see the top of the WTC that had the tv antennas on it from my apartment windows. Needless to say I was relieved and grateful to be home and that I hadn’t been en route to my office in Manhattan when usually at 9:15-9:30AM, I would have been on a subway that goes underneath WTC. It was difficult getting out word of my safety to my family because of the choked phone lines.

I haven’t slept well (nothing new there) and in my walks through Brooklyn yesterday and on 9/11, I witness skittish people.
They just closed the subways south of 42nd because of the damage potential of the rumbling vibrations to the crash site. I guess I’ll be staying put again today. I’ve been purposefully trying not to get on-line or on the phone because the phone infrastructure is clogged enough and needs to be free for critical communication. Thanks for checking in.

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