Sunday, September 23, 2001

Over the Bridge

Over the Bridge

This morning, for the first time since the 11th, my dog and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. An important occasion for me, it brought me back to the grandest view in the world of human creations. Certainly, it is the grandest in terms of modern structures. Not only can you see the Brooklyn Bridge's own beauty, but in sight are three other great bridges, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the Woolworth Building. You can also see the end of Wall St, the South Street Seaport and its sailing ship, the Pier 17 mall (where a hospital ship was docked today), and dozens of other landmarks, all part of what makes New York the greatest city on Earth.

The spot where the towers stood was hard to locate exactly from the bridge, even to one who has walked toward them a hundred times. Other buildings shield ground zero from prying eyes and the smoke has cleared. I knew about where they had been, of course, but there's no gaping hole in the view from the bridge, just an oppressive awareness that something is missing, something is wrong.

Over the bridge, by City Hall, I began to smell the residue of the explosions and fires. The police presence grew stronger, and I felt as though I were intruding. I walked down to where I could see parts of the cranes working and a corner of the blackened stump of one of the towers, but I went no further.

Signs of the gargantuan resuce effort were everywhere. In front of Trinity Church were rows of porta-johns. One trailor had a hasty sign on it: "If you need to make a call, stop here." Huge coffee urns were stashed in various corners.

It has been almost two weeks, but the people I saw were subdued. Though I did see occasional smiles and laughter, they did not come from the workers. The police, in particular, looked tired and mournful. One I passed stood with his head bowed, his eyes closed. Another stared straight ahead, tears in his eyes.

It's going to take time for us to recover, but New York continues.

Saturday, September 22, 2001

Memories of WTC

Memories of WTC

Last spring, while I was buying an Italian ice on the corner of Chambers and Greenwich, a woman walked up to me and asked, "Where is the World Trade Center?" Instead of answering, I turned my head and slowly looked up. And up.

"Oh." She'd followed my gaze.

During the winter an eight-year-old friend and I bought ice cream at the new Ben & Jerry's in the mall under WTC. We wandered, looking in the stores. Our cones done, we wanted to throw away our trash--but there were no trash containers. The kid finally took our rubbish into a fast-food place and gave it to a worker there, who told him that there were no trash cans for fear of bombs that could be placed in them.

That same eight-year-old and I liked to sit and watch the fountain in the outdoor courtyard at WTC. It was great: low, with spreading water falling gently over a circular, dark, probably marble, two-foot edge.

The last time I went to the observation deck was with the kid, too. We saw the replica of Captain Cooke's ship Endeavor anchored just a short walk away. Down we went, and over to the ship, where we looked up, back to where we had been.

The first time I went up in the building was thirty years ago, when people were first being allowed to visit. The interiors of the floors I visited were still empty, just floors, windows, and ceilings, and electrical boxes sitting here and there where interior walls would be installed. The view was tremendous, but I did not care for the building.

Now I miss it.

A Goodbye

A Goodbye

Shortly after we opened Shakespeare’s Sister, a brother and sister opened a restaurant, Kalio, a few doors down from us. I never really got to know GA, who stayed in the kitchen and who always seemed a little shy. His sister Jackie, however, would stop in once a week or so, to buy candles and candleholders for the restaurant, or just to say hello.

A couple of years ago, she left the restaurant to take a job as a banquet manager at Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center. I didn’t see much of her after that, just a nod or two a month.

This morning, I attended a memorial service for her, for Jackie Sayegh Duggan.

The church overflowed. Though I knew few there, I did see other neighborhood businesspeople, as well as Kalio regulars and employees. We mourned Jackie together and, by extension, the more than six-thousand who died with her.

Though Catholic, Jackie’s family has Arabic roots. The Sayegh’s are part of the dynamic melding keeping America vibrant.

They are part of something no terrorist can destroy.

We miss you, Jackie. May the legacy of your death be not more death, not vengeance but justice, and a move toward peace, acceptance, and understanding. May the future be a credit to your life and dreams, and to those of your family.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

In Memoriam

In Memoriam

As I walked from teaching in Brooklyn Heights this morning, someone said that one of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed. We had heard the sirens in class; a couple of students discovered through their cell phones that planes had hit the towers, so I knew that a tragedy was in progress. But I refused to believe that either of the towers could collapse.

I walked to the promenade over the East River where it joins the Hudson, where one normally sees a magnificent panorama centering on lower Manhattan. I wanted to prove to myself that both towers still stood.

Others were doing the same. All silent. No one walking fast.

As I walked down Remsen Street, I could see the water but, half a mile over it, the view was obliterated by smoke. Smoke filled with sparkles, like house lights through a fog.

From the promenade, I found all of lower Manhattan obscured. Nothing could be seen but the smoke--and its little sparkles.

The smoke, the sparkles, were heading our way, slowly spreading over the water. Unable to see anything, finally aware of the immensity of the tragedy, I turned to walk to Shakespeare's Sister.

The smoke caught me, swept around me, leaving bits of particulate in my nose and throat.

I thought, then, about the sparkles I had seen over the water. Maybe they were bits of asbestos, as one person suggested. Maybe bits of metal from the explosions reflecting the sunlight. Or the bits of paper that soon showered down on us. I don't know.

To me, they were also something more. They were the spirits of the lives snuffed out, sparkling one last goodbye.