tuesday a.m. | the smoke, the mayor | tuesday p.m. | emails | terrible feelings | pictures

Starting at 9:25 Tuesday morning, I began to get emails from people on the west coast, people in the south, a friend in Thailand. Like the reflex of a hand covering a shocked face and the unanimous use of words like “surreal” and “horrifying,” the phrasing in these emails was all the same: “I hope that you and yours are all ok.” (“You and yours” is suddenly as popular as “salacious” became during the Lewinsky thing.) Amanda called from Michigan. Wednesday morning, Sean finally got through from London. He’d been trying for half a day.

There isn’t an adequate way to describe how embraced I feel knowing that people want to know I’m okay. I’ve always had a small-scale complex that, when it comes to Jed, out of sight is out of mind. Thank you for showing me that it’s not true.

I’ve heard so many secondhand stories of people who were supposed to be at WTC who weren’t. A sprained ankle kept someone home. Another person arrives early and decides to go to the gym first. Eric and Shirin only saw the smoke because they stopped for coffee instead of getting right on the subway. My Dad’s friend Rick worked in the building until four weeks ago. And yet all of these happy coincidences are eclipsed by the scale of the loss. I heard secondhand that they were ferrying bodies off of lower Manhattan to New Jersey …

Watching the devastation on TV, I felt a strange guilt that I was in Brooklyn. As if I was supposed to be closer to what was happening to my home town. I’ve come to love Brooklyn, but when I say “the City” I mean Manhattan and I always will. Kelly said she felt it too, the guilt. And my friend who just moved to Thailand was thinking about going back to San Francisco, after only a week abroad, for the same reason. Did anyone else feel this? An almost irrational wish to be here.

My colleagues at Web Lab have been exchanging email about our disorientation—not knowing how to feel. One of them wrote the following; she was trying to cover her daughter’s ears as the sirens went by:

… the first few times she thought it was a game and then soon after, she started to scream in terror every time they went by. … she started to crawl that day, tuesday, doing fast tight circles on the floor. sorta strange. like she wanted to get out but couldn’t.

being in the “below 14th zone” was strange, and under other circumstances, would be appealing. deserted except for your neighbors, no cars, no planes above, just people on bikes, walking, rollerblading, skateboards. just the localish restaurants were open, everyone hanging out outside, dazed, wondering where to get a newspaper. …

when the cloud arrived yesterday, that was it. i had had enough. enough being alone, enough sirens. the bits of paper and ash in the air and the acrid smell of chemicals were really alarming. i felt beseiged in my own home and protective of my baby. i quickly closed all the windows, but one big one by the kitchen was stuck. i frantically tried to tape it with garbage bags while she wailed on the floor below. she picks up everything i feel and all my body language of course. here i am trying to protect her from these elements and i just add to her alarm …



Soldiers killed in the Civil War:
ca. 500,000
U.S. Soliders killed in Vietnam:
ca. 60,000
Victims of PanAm Flt. 103 bombing:
Victims of Oklahoma City bombing:
Estimated casualties at WTC:

There’s no question that grabbing the camera in those first few minutes, and helping sign in volunteers at the hospital, and writing this now have been ways of dealing and avoiding thinking too much about the meaning of these events for me.

With the good fortune to be safe and have my family and circle of friends intact, the thing I feel most strongly is grief that my durable, timeless city got hurt so terribly. Outside a pub on Court Street, I watched the crowd drinking and talking loudly on Thursday afternoon. On the TV, CNN was showing live pictures of the Capitol being evacuated, while the jukebox played “Bad Moon Rising” over the din.

All week since Tuesday, Brooklyn has been busy with pedestrian traffic, people eating, walking, hanging out in the beautiful weather that feels undeserved. It’s been three days and I feel powerless and angry with myself. Angry that I didn’t immediately go and start picking up debris somewhere downtown. Angry and sad because my ambitions feel trivial, and my unhappiness about it all feels even more so.

I hope it’s helpful or interesting to hear what it’s been like from this single perspective. Take care of yourself and the people around you. Talk to you soon.

JM, 9/14/01

We all live here together in peace and mutual respect.
That is the ultimate rebuke to what they did.
— Former President Bill Clinton
New York City, 9/13/2001