Given the horrendous tragedy touching our nation we would like to provide a place for people to communicate their losses and reflections. Please feel free to send us your feelings about this tragedy and we will do our best to post all appropriate responses. We have posted a few below with the hope and the desire for us to all heal together.


• On The Plaza 9/11, 8:43am
• Bombing Afghanistan?
• In Park Slope
• Reflections from Greenpoint  
• Nothing is ever going to be the same
Rescue Worker Survivors - Real Audio
• Pax Humana
From the Editor
* A Petition for Moderation
* In Defense of Freedom
* A Refreshing Perspective
* List of Banned Radio Songs
* Artists Respond to Terrorism
* Mr. Beller's Neighborhood

On The Plaza 9/11 8:43am


Lighting candles in remembrance
at Sunday's Waterfront Memorial

I worked on the 54th Floor World Trade Center 2. On Tuesday 9/11, I was on the plaza of the World Trade Center when I saw the first plane hit WTC 1. It was 8:43 am.

Since Labor Day we had been very busy at work and the entire office had been arriving very early for work. On Monday 9/10 I worked until 8:00pm. I was in touch with many people in building that night. But yesterday was primary day in New York and I decided to vote, even though I was late leaving for work. Due to confusion at the voting center it took longer than normal.

I arrived in Lower Manhattan at about 8:38. Walking up Dey Street I decided to stop for coffee and walked across Church Street onto the Plaza of the World Trade Center. I called my father on my cell phone and we were talking which kept me from entering the building. I was on a bench right in front of the WTC 1 and turned slowly for no real reason and saw the entire plane hit the tower. I saw the wing extended from the building on the south side and a large explosion. Then smoke. Then everything was frozen, very still, with a perfect New York blue sky framing the backdrop of explosions. I ran when the glass and metal begin to fall from the sky hitting all around me. Only moments before there were many people around on the plaza like myself, but while I ran I saw nothing, no person, and no car. I made it back across to Dey Street and into the loading dock of Century 21 building (the TV photos of this building show it to be demolished).

I don't remember from there when I made it to Broadway (about a half block east). On Broadway people were collapsing and crying. Much of this time is a slow motion blur. I remember a man screaming, "Fuck this, I've been to war for this country, not here." From this position on Broadway I witnessed the first wave of people jumping from WTC 1. It is the most horrible thing I have ever seen. A doctor next to a group I was with fell to his knees, his stethoscope hitting the ground. Everyone seemed frozen and in shook. From there I heard but did not see the second plane hit WTC 2. The sound was of a nuclear bomb. My cell phone was 9:03AM.

At that point I began running north. I get to East 4th Street completely dazed. On Houston St. I saw the WTC 1's needle crumble to the ground and heard on blasting radios that both of the towers had fallen. From there I made my way to the Williamsburg Bridge and made my way back home. Tens of thousands of people were walking across the bridge, a surreal exodus no one was quite prepared to cope with.

Now on Thursday afternoon I have made my way back to the city. I have seen co-workers and friends. The company I work for has been extraordinarily courteous and compassionate with helping all of the employees. The relief of seeing faces of others on my floor was a real blessing. I have done very mundane activities like going to the bank, going shopping that seem very important in order to move past the events of Tuesday. So many people where just minutes from the building, everyone trying to reclaim some sense of reality by describing how they got out.

I never thought I would work in the World Trade Center. But I enjoyed my work there. Like all artists, I needed the money, but I also made many friends and learned a good deal about other parts of life, other skills that I never knew I possessed. Sometimes during lunch, I would finish my writings. Some of those writings emanating out of the tower found there way onto funky websites all around New York.

The views of the harbor were magnificent and inspirational. I remember ending long days by looking out the windows and feeling so very refreshed and glad to be in such a beautiful city like New York.

But that view is gone and so much has changed. Though I have felt such anger and frustration, more that ever in my life, I know I will survive. I made it out alive for a reason.

Those I email with daily always used to get my emails where I signed off "Your Man in the Tower". Though nothing of the tower is still there, there is still the power of thought and doing something to change this world for the better that will float in the air forever. All we need to do is reach up and find it.

God bless to all,
CW


hi FREEwmsburg--

thanks for both your coverage of the WTC tragedy, and you coverage of our neighborhood in general—my story is not particularly noteworthy—i had a 9am class at parsons on tues, and was late, so in the subway when the attacks happened—-i got up on 6th av, and saw people standing around, and thought there was a car crash on 6th av—didn't event look up at that point—it wasn't until i got up in the classroom floor, which had a wall of windows looking out onto the WTC, that i realized the horror of what had happened...

the good to come out of this tragedy has been a.) the realization of the extreme courageousness of the fire, police and rescue units, and b.) the millions of acts of kindness and help, large and small, in the wake of the catastrophe. I was especially low last Fri. night, until I went to Union Square, where the display of humanity, reason, and empathy helped restore my faith in humanity. It is especially important that we all understand and appreciate the beauty and fragility of the tenuous web of humanity, which has been demonstated time and again in the past few days.

in closing, i am attaching a file (see below) that i hope you could post as a reminder for thought and compassion as our nation moves from recovery into revenge—this isn't as much for us who live here as for our relatives and friends who live around the country—please read and pass on, so that we don't help bin Laden achieve his goals by following blindly down his path of hatred and intolerance... thanks, and keep on keepin' on, peace always,

-David

The Note:
Yesterday I heard a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage," and he asked, "What else can we do? What is your suggestion?" Minutes later I heard a TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done." And I thought about these issues especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's been going on over there. So I want to share a few thoughts with anyone who will listen. I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I fervently wish to see those monsters punished.

But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who captured Afghanistan in 1997 and have been holding the country in bondage ever since. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a master plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would love for someone to eliminate the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of international thugs holed up in their country. I guarantee it.

Some say, if that's the case, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban themselves? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, damaged, and incapacitated. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan--a country with no economy, no food. Millions of Afghans are widows of the approximately two million men killed during the war with the Soviets. And the Taliban has been executing these women for being women and have buried some of their opponents alive in mass graves. The soil of Afghanistan is littered with land mines and almost all the farms have been destroyed. The Afghan people have tried to overthrow the Taliban. They haven't been able to.

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble with that scheme is, it's already been done.

The Soviets took care of it . Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? There is no infrastructure. Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.

New bombs would only land in the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. (They have already, I hear.) Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would be making common cause with the Taliban--by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time.

So what else can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. I think that when people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done" many of them are thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. They are thinking about overcoming moral qualms about killing innocent people. But it's the belly to die not kill that's actually on the table. Americans will die in a land war to get Bin Laden. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that, folks. To get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. The invasion approach is a flirtation with global war between Islam and the West.

And that is Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants and why he did this thing. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right there. At the moment, of course, "Islam" as such does not exist. There are Muslims and there are Muslim countries, but no such political entity as Islam. Bin Laden believes that if he can get a war started, he can constitute this entity and he'd be running it. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the West wreaks a holocaust in Muslim lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, even better from Bin Laden's point of view.

He's probably wrong about winning, in the end the west would probably overcome--whatever that would mean in such a war; but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden yes, but anyone else? I don't have a solution. But I do believe that suffering and poverty are the soil in which terrorism grows. Bin Laden and his cohorts want to bait us into creating more such soil, so they and their kind can flourish. We can't let him do that. That's my humble opinion.

Tamim Ansary


The phone started ringing at around 10am, which is really early in my house.

It has to be telemarketers, I thought. Telemarketers who call again, and again. I lay in bed looking out the window. The sky was especially blue, except for one patch of very white cloud, which seemed to blend seamlessly into the blue behind it. It was a kind of cloud I didn't usually see, and I wanted to look at it for a while. The phone kept ringing, and I kept ignoring it. Even if it wasn't telemarketers, it had to be for my roommate, who had probably just gone to bed.

Then a voicemail notification appeared on my cell phone.

It was a message from my mother: "I'm calling because you work in Manhattan, and I want to make sure you're OK."

What the hell does that mean? I turned on the computer and saw that two planes had crashed into the World Trade center. There was actually a smoking hole in one of the towers, or so the posting on Slashdot said.

I turned on the TV and got a blue screen. Wow, that plane crash must have knocked out some of the broadcast antennas on top of the towers! This was a serious wreck! I wondered if anyone on the plane had survived, and if anyone in the towers had been badly hurt. I changed the channel and got another blue screen. Then another, and another. Finally I found a working station. The footage was being shot from an odd angle, so that it looked like the two towers were actually one tower. There was more smoke and flame than I expected. A lot more. I couldn't understand how a plane crash could have done this much damage. Then I saw footage of the crash and understood that it was a terrorist attack. Then I realized that one tower had collapsed entirely.

We're at war. I get sick to my stomach. I think about leaving the city but my girlfriend's teaching in New Jersey and I can't get to her. I can't even call her because this is a new job and I don't know the phone number.

I wake up my roommate and we watch the second tower collapse. At first we're just watching the live feed, listening to the anchors recap events. Then smoke starts billowing out of the tower much faster than before, and then the anchors see it too and begin talking over each other, then it goes down, just disintegrates, not even falling over but just falling apart completely and crumbling, dropping rubble all over the surrounding buildings. I feel like I'm going to throw up but I don't. Then I just feel afraid. We decide to go to the grocery store, partly because there might be a run on water, but also to have something to do.

Outside white ash was falling heavily, like acrid snow. People were wearing dust masks and everything stank of burnt plastic. One woman was sobbing as she walked down the street. My eyes were tearing and my mouth was full of little particles. It was impossible to believe that bits of the World Trade Center were falling out of the sky, blanketing the cars and the sidewalks like ash from a volcano. Halfway up the block my eyes and throat were burning. The particles in the air felt like fiberglass insulation. We turned and went back into the apartment.

Once inside, we closed the windows. On TV, more footage of the towers being hit by planes. The same shots over and over again, the local news anchors sounding broken up, stuttering, stopping mid-sentence to correct themselves as new reports reached them.

We were still getting just one television channel. Video of the Pentagon in flames. Calls for blood donors. Asking people not to use the telephone except in emergencies. Some new footage from downtown: white ash everywhere. And planes hitting the Twin Towers, the same footage over and over.

Washington, where I grew up and where my family still lives (in the Maryland Suburbs, not the District), had also been hit. There were fires on Capitol Hill, and at the Washington Monument, and at the Pentagon. A passenger jet had crashed in Pennsylvania. US airspace was closed and all planes were being grounded, but four other possibly hijacked planes were still in the air. International flights were being rerouted to Canada.

I started calling people to let them know I was OK. My office is less than half a mile from World Trade, and most people just know that I work somewhere in the financial district, so there was good reason to be worried about me, and I wanted to reassure everybody. But my cell phone didn't work. Apparently, neither did anyone else's. I could make local calls, just not to cell phones. Pretty useless in New York! Finally I managed to get through to the voicemail on my own cell and change my message, so that at least anyone calling me would know that I was OK.

I sent email to coworkers and my family and friends, trying to find out if anyone was lost or had lost someone. Slashdot was covering the story. The New York Times and CNN were just white pages with logos at the top and links to stories about the attacks. I signed off and turned on the radio. Static on NPR. I flipped to Hot97 and got a news feed. The AM stations were mostly working as well, but nobody seemed to know anything more. Frustrated, we decided to try the supermarket again.

The ash had stopped falling and the day was bright and beautiful, and everyone was outside. It felt like a parade or a celebration, except for all the dust masks. Some people were crying, some people were unconcerned and others, like us, looked and felt completely confused. We saw a UPS driver telling off someone who had tried to hitch a ride out of town with him: "I give you ride -- if something happens I'm gonna get sued! Forget it!"

At the supermarket, people were calm, though everyone was discussing the attack. The local guy who talks like a two-year-old kid was standing at the deli counter with me. I felt glad to see him. I was also glad to see the market staff and the guys hanging around on the corner across the street. I was glad to see everybody, and everybody looked good. And alive. Very, very alive.

Nobody seemed to be making a run on food or water, so we bought breakfast and went back to the house. The next three hours was spent going from the TV to the radio to the Web. Emails and voicemails started to filter in. Reports that Capitol Hill and the Monument had been attacked turned out to be false. Reports about the four planes still in the air suddenly ceased. Everyone in my department at work seemed to be OK. All of my friends who I thought might have been in the area seemed to be accounted for, though no one could get in touch with anyone from my previous job; a staging outfit based in the World Financial Center, at the foot of the Twin Towers.

At five o'clock I had to get out of the house. I carried my bike downstairs and rode along Fifth Avenue, toward downtown Brooklyn and the lower tip of Manhattan. There was a plume of smoke in the sky that stretched from Lower Manhattan all the way across to almost below the crest of the Slope behind me. The pretty cloud I had been looking at that morning in bed had been the leading edge of the smoke plume. A few blocks and debris was falling again, though very lightly. I could still smell burning plastic, though when the wind was blowing. All of downtown Brooklyn smelled like fire.

I ran into a friend as I was riding down to the waterfront. She was taking pictures, as were many, many other people. She said I was the fourth or fifth person she knew that she had run into. That's something I love about cities like New York and Chicago-- when something goes wrong, people go out in the street.

I rode down the highway that runs along the river, people were stopping their cars and getting out to look at the damage. Smoke, and white ash and the smell of burning plastic. The wind shifted and the air was filled with dust that burned my eyes and irritated my skin. I stopped and tied a rag around my face and then it wasn't so bad, though I wished I had brought goggles to keep crap out of my eyes.

At the promenade at the foot of the Brooklyn bridge there were people of all ages and races, many of them with cameras, nobody crying, everyone composed, shaking their heads, looking silently at the smoke and taking pictures. I thought: these are all New Yorkers. Speaking Chinese and German, Hebrew and English, Spanish, and that's just what I heard in the half hour I sat on the promenade. I looked at the city for maybe half an hour. It is beyond belief. Even looking straight at it, I couldn't really accept what had happened. I remembered an interview I had heard earlier that day, the poet laureate saying that the absence of the World Trade towers itself would be a monument to the thousands who died in Manhattan today.

On the other side of the bridge, the highway and approach were completely empty except for occasional emergency vehicles. I could see red, white and blue strobe lights flashing all along the water on the Manhattan side. At one point three buses drove away from lower Manhattan, so much white dust blowing off of their roofs that it looked like they were on fire. The river was full of tugs and ferries, and I thought I could make out an aircraft carrier through the smoke.

Riding back, the approach to the Brooklyn bridge was swarming with cops, the Manhattan side closed off with police tape, no one going through but cars with flashing lights. On Atlantic Avenue I saw a parade of Sanitation vehicles headed for Manhattan: backhoes and bulldozers, the kinds of machines you normally never see on the street, as well as dumptrucks. The caravan took almost five minutes to pass.

I also saw a lot of really normal stuff as well. Parents yelling at kids, pot smoke drifting through the air, more people than usual standing out on the street talking, but a lot of people also walking around and going in and out of stores and houses as if nothing were different today, though I'm sure if I'd stopped and asked them they would have had something to say about it. Coming back, kids were playing on my block, yelling across the street : "I'm not allowed to cross the street!", dust masks around their necks.

Guliani went on TV and asked everyone to continue working, not to shut the city down, not to "give in to terror." He's right. My building was closed today, and probably will be closed tomorrow, since it's so close to World Trade, but I can't wait to get back to work, and back to Manhattan. This city is the first place that ever felt like home to me as an adult, and no one's going to take that away.


Care of Suburban Angst

9/13/01 [Care of Rumproast]

Nothing is funny right now. Occasionally the air in Brooklyn turns sour from the dust, debris, and smoke floating over from Manhattan. I used to see the World Trade Center when I walked down the street, across the East River. I used to see it from my bedroom window when the tree in our backyard lost all of its leaves. A mighty landmark is gone along with several thousand of the people who worked in it. New York City seems so small now. The world seems so small now.

Fortunately all of my fellow Roasters (Dan and Noah) and friends who worked in the area have been accounted for and are safe. One of my pals actually worked in the WTC 4 but was late for work. Another friend worked in the World Financial Center next door and was on the street, a short distance from his office, when the first airplane struck. He thought it was a missile. He ducked inside the nearest store, called his father, and found out what had happened. He waited for things to calm down and ran north, turning to see people jumping from windows ninety-stories up. Then the second plane struck. He said time stood still. The concussion was so powerful he could see the air molecules move in front of him. He didn't stop running until he got to the Manhattan Bridge, many blocks away, being careful to make sure that there were buildings between him and the towers as he zig-zagged to the north east.

Tuesday, the day of the attacks, was surreal and oddly comforting. Friends and family were frantically calling to make sure that my wife and I were okay. People in the neighborhood stopped by to exchange thoughts and monitor activities on television. Fourteen hours of continuous (bad) news, but plenty of friends to share in our disbelief. A couple of trips to the roof to view the smoking hole where the towers once stood didn't accomplish much of anything. The level of bewilderment wasn't compounded by the sight or relieved. Just sustained.

The magnitude of what had happened didn't hit me until Wednesday morning. I walked down the street, looked to my right to see New York's new shallow skyline, and then went into the grocery store. It was so quiet. Normally I'd cherish the solitude, but at that moment it splashed reality all over my numbed disbelief. Everyone looked like they were moving in slow motion—emotionally drained from the carnage they'd witnessed the day before. You could see the life had been sucked out of the stock clerks, the cashiers, and the customers. I wept quietly in aisle six. It all came home to me, figuratively and literally.

As I write this there are still people alive in the rubble. Occassionally we get good news about survivors, but mostly the silence of the rescue workers is deafening. My thoughts and best wishes go out to the policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses, volunteers, and, mostly, the friends and families of all of the victims of this senseless tragedy. Also, I'd like to encourage everyone to control their anger and refrain from directing it at people whose ethnicity or religious beliefs are alien to you or apparently indicative of nonexistent alliances. Please don't be as uncivilized, thoughtless, and cruel as the monsters who committed these senseless acts.

The world seems so small now. Let's do our best to build it back up again.

Tooney Reed


from our home in williamsburg, peter and i have a pretty stunning view of the manhattan skyline, including where the world trade center was (that still feels weird to use the past tense). tuesday morning my friend liza called me and said her phone wasn't working right but maybe we should reschedule our date to get together at 10am. then gina called me and asked if i was watching TV. she told me 2 planes had crashed into the world trade center and that it was on fire. i pulled aside our blinds and could see that the south tower was completely gone and the north tower was in flames visible even from brooklyn. peter and i rushed to the roof with cameras in tow and spoke to neighbors who had just witnessed the second plane take out the south tower. as we listened to the radio reports in a complete state of shock, the north tower also imploded. at that moment, i felt like i would throw up. several women on the roof began to sob. a massive cloud of dust and smoke stretched over the east river.

As military planes appeared in the sky over new york city, i became convinced that we might be staring down the barrel of world war III. having lived in Tel Aviv and in LA during the riots has made me a little jumpy. i started filling all available containers with clean water. Peter and i made tentative forays into our neighborhood for canned goods and cat food. everyone was walking around in a daze, as sad and shocked and scared as we were. we spoke with a guy buying gatorade that had walked from wall street to the 59th street bridge and crossed by foot into queens and down to Brooklyn thousands of people were streaming across the williamsburg bridge. mark was at parsons on 13th street during the crash and showed us some moving pictures he took of this impromptu exodus.

if you are not familiar with new York city, it may be hard to imagine the sheer visual impact of the twin towers. they were large enough to be seen from neighboring states. when walking around downtown, it was easy to orient oneself by searching the skyline for the towers. it's weirdly bracing to look at the space where these massive structures were only a few days ago. the tranformers and relays which support cellphone and television broadcast for Brooklyn and Manhattan were atop the north tower so we had no phone and no television until late Tuesday afternoon.

We have still have limited phone service. everything from canal street down is covered with dust and debris. a massive cloud of dust and smoke was still drifting over Brooklyn from downtown until the rain started late last night.

yesterday, a few friends and i ventured into Manhattan i felt like watching the television was keeping me at an abstract remove from the actual events. i was overwhelmed by the spontaneous memorial at union square. We walked right past unconcerned police officers at 14th and university and ventured into part of the cordoned-off area. The village was ghost-like, a few students and residents drifting around with dustmasks on. As we approached houston, the dust and desolation became more apparent. massive convoys of dumptrucks and generators lined major streets. construction and rescue workers wandered off the site covered with foul-smelling dust. no traffic below 14th street. We walked straight up the middle of broadway. a profound depression began to set in for me as i have slowly begun to realise nothing is ever going to be the same.


Monday September 17, 2001

It has almost been a full week since the attack on the World Trade Center. The events of the past six days are unlike any other events in my life. The outpouring of love and support for the City of New York is unprecedented. Personally have received hundreds of email and calls from friends and family to just to send prayers and thoughts. No one can prepare for this type of tragedy. But let our hindsight allow us to prepare for the future, hopefully a much less violent world than we have been living in for many years.

Until Friday I was still in shock. I did not fully realize the power of shock and stress on body and the mind. Going to work on Thursday was good. It was so important to actually see my work colleagues physically. But the stress of actually being back on the subway and back into the bowels of the city was enormous. Finally out of the train and on the street, my cell phone was still plagued with problems. This only increased my anxiety.

In the minutes and hours after the bombing, I held my dead cell phone like a lifeline tethered precariously to nothing, and yet my only means of hopefully communicating with anyone in the outside world.

On Friday September 14, I worked at the family assistance center that our company had set up for family members of the missing. The rain fell all night and again I slept without sleeping. I awoke and felt like I had to pretend everything was normal. I bathed and shaved like any other business day and made my way to the hotel in Mid-town were the assistance center was located. Because our group worked in the World Trade Center I had very limited contact with the personnel in the main offices in Mid-town, so immediately I was inundated with unknown faces filled with grief.

My job on Friday was to help create ID badges and register families and employees. It was hectic and very sobering work. I took hundreds of pictures of family members of missing people. I was on my feet all day. The set-up at the hotel was ad hoc and decisions were made spontaneously as to how business should be conducted. All day I was thinking of how to make this operation work better. I kept saying to myself, "We should just send a courier downtown to the Trade Center to get our equipment and then we could do this job faster." I think this was the beginning of my flashbacks, subtle hallucinations and overwhelming disbelief.

After leaving work on Friday evening the rain had abated, but these flashbacks became increasingly vivid. I remembered entire self-conversations I had on Tuesday after the bombing.

I had read extensively about the new World Trade Center lease deal with Silverstein Properties. While I was running out of lower Manhattan I was bombarded with facts I recalled with such clarity about how Silverstein had such finesse in brokering the deal with the Port Authority. I remembered square footage and other details.
Then I remembered seeing the new signs on the buildings, the installation of exterior signage that was in the process of being erected. I also remember the new passion for cleaning the area. Every morning when I went to work across the plaza there would be dozens of workers power cleaning the tile work, planting flowers and cleaning the beautiful fountain situated in the middle of the plaza which was now probably ground zero zero.


All of this flooded my mind again after the bombing and again on Friday. For days since the bombing and still today I am concerned about the employees who help me with my job everyday. The print shop guys who just last Monday were working on overtime to finish an enormous amount of work. The mailrooms staff that our office depended on so heavily to facilitate our projects. Where were these people? I had seen none of them.

I was also having flashbacks to the moment of impact. I am beginning to understand the problems of surviving. The people in the building were envious of my position because I had actually seen the planes. And I was envious of being in the building because then I feel like I could have seen people's faces, helped them out of the building and known for sure that there were safe with my own eyes. Surviving is excruciatingly physical.

The next flashback was of my desk. I kept trying to imagine what our floor looked like as it slipped into the oblivion of the World Trade Center. What did it look like, what did it feel like? I lost things at my desk. I begin to wonder where that had gone had it been incinerated in the fireball? Why these thoughts, where is it coming from? I was beating myself up for even thinking about such ridiculous things, but you cannot help what you think during these times.

Memory is the most powerful part of the psyche. It works in non-linear fashion at lightening speed. I have the feeling that I was flashing forward and backward simultaneously.

I was stuck trying to remember the people around me on the plaza at the time the first plane hit. There seemed to be hundreds of people around and yet when I ran from the plaza I have no memory of anyone. No one followed me into the shelter. Where they killed immediately from falling debris? Did they take cover in the building thinking it was only a fire? This seems possible because if you did not see the plane hit all you saw was smoke. Also the first impact was almost silent. Because of the great distance between the top of the World Trace Center and the plaza level pieces that seemed like dust in the air became huge boulders of glass and steel. I do remember the sound of glass impacting and shattering. But still, where were the people? Where was the woman sitting on the bench across from me, where were the people behind me, all around me during this time? I do not know if I will ever be able to answer these questions.

Flashing forward I remember Jessica, my cube mate on the54th floor, who was on the 36th Floor stairwell in WTC 2 when the second plane hit. She and I talked on Monday night about how we would have long martini lunches at the end of the week. We laughed about finally getting some quiet time in the office. I have already described how busy we had been at work recently.

We had all been working over-time trying to get our meetings together and production coordinated for last week. But we also saw the light and knew that by Thursday we would be in the clear, all of the meetings we were working on would be in operation. Before the attack on Tuesday, we were all exhausted from work. Early in and late out was typical.

For those who do not live in New York it is hard to fathom the speed in which work gets done in the city. Anything seems possible and the resources are incredible. Same day delivery is no problem in New York. The city works on a constant flow of services between businesses. Often, projects for the next day would not get started until 5:30pm, when most of America is going home, New York is getting revived up for more work. Order in some delivery food, put on another pot of coffee and just keep cranking. Then polish the job; express overnight delivery and boom, back to work the next morning. It has truly amazed me what a small team of people can produce in this city when work needs to get done. I think it is this spirit that is keeping New York alive during this crisis.

All of this was in my head as I wondered home on the subway on Friday evening. Every face was sullen and ashen. People were quiet, a rarity in the city, and my thoughts were scattered.

Friday evening, my girlfriend Janis and I went to the memorial candle light service in Union Square. After days of horrific pictures and mad political rhetoric, suddenly we were back in the middle of the New York we both knew and loved. Immediately upon exiting the train we were engulfed in foreign tongues: German, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, and yes Arabic. Sometimes I have traveled in the city on a Saturday morning and not heard English spoken for hours. This is the beauty of New York, the great gateway to America. All of the languages and people of every race, every skin tone every nationality and everyone draped in a piece of the American flag. Every one holding candles, praying holding each other.

We stood with the Buddhist near the horse statue in Union Square for a long time. The power of peace and tolerance that exuded from this area was overwhelming. Witnessing so many people come together for peace after such tragedy and death ignited a personal spiritual vision that I believe came to me from the God of all humanity.
On Saturday I made my way back to downtown. It took some determination to go around and find where I could get south of Canal Street, but finally I made my way to Broadway, the same street I ran up getting out of the disaster. My blood began to chill and my heart rate increased dramatically.

The beautiful early fall sky was filled with fine dust partials and the air was caustic. The furthest point south was at the corner of Church Street and Reade Street, about six blocks from the Trade Center. The streets were filled with Army personnel directing vast amounts of traffic into and out of ground zero area. Lots of people wanted to see what the city looked like after this devastation. And the view I got was incredible and totally shocking. It seemed as if the entire World Trade Center and not only collapsed but was blowing about one block east.

Normally from Church Street you can only see the Twin Towers (not the entire complex) because of the other tall buildings in the area. You can almost be underneath the Trade Center and not see it because of this density. But the smoking rubble pained my heart with empty desperation. I was not in the area long before I had to leave; I could look no further into this pit of destruction. I thought that retracing my steps would help answer questions about how I got out of the Trade Center. It did not. It became radically apparent that only through God's mercy did I live through this ordeal. I went into some form of shock again.

Returning home to Brooklyn across the Williamsburg Bridge I meet some friends for dinner. At this time I think I was starting to have hallucinations. Emotionally out of proportion words begin to fill my speech. I saw things in peoples face, perhaps faces I had seen run from the Trade Center. I was reading a newspaper when a woman stopped me and asked, "Why did you look at me and say "Oh my God?" I didn't even realize I was looking at her or that words were coming out of my mouth. I was totally stunned and amazed at the same time. I certainly hoped that I was not breaking apart mentally.

On Sunday, I went with Janis to see the rubble at the Trade Center. Again, we got to Church Street. Even more amazing was the amount of fires burning from inside the rubble. After almost five days the rubble was still burning. We made out way to a press conference on the street where Governor George Pataki was talking with firemen. Further west we made it to the Westside Highway and again more rubble than either of us had ever seen. But we also saw the Salvation Army camp to help workers and it was truly overflowing with donated items. This was the only bright spot of the day.

After walking a little further north we found a church with the doors open. The church service we attended briefly was at the Church of our Lady of Pompeii. What strange irony! The day was so beautiful and peacefully quiet and the feelings of reverence and deep meditation were palpable. The city was exhausted and in need of rest.

Today is Monday. People are getting back to their routine. I was leaving for Europe today for a two-week tour. I finally had the energy to cancel my ticket and deal with the airlines. I am still fatigued from my experiences but feel that it is utterly important at this time to communicate me experiences. And to this end I relay my message.
First, for the leaders of this country who were elected on and profess to believe in a Christian God, it is time heed God's message. My vision reminded me that the New Testament teaches us all we should turn the other cheek. Jesus was addressing the Old Testament issue of "eye for an eye and tooth for tooth". The vision to me explained that now more than ever we need to remember this message and hold it in our heart. It is impossible to forget what happened. As a direct eyewitness to the attack I know that justice must be served on those responsible. This country believes in the rule of law no matter how diabolical the actions. We have mechanisms in place to deal with this type of situation such as the World Court. We must let the accused see the victims and deal with justice. But not by bombing civilians and invoking rhetoric that may actually bring on the apocalyptic visions many feel are close at hand. God has given us options, this is what we call free will, and the Second Coming many are speaking of may be evolving differently than any of us believe. Which leads me to the second part of the vision.

Second, we must seek peace. We must seek peace like never before. We must seek peace in our families, in our schools and neighborhoods. We must find peace in America and in the world. Everyone is human and humanity must be served, this is the clarion call to action. "Love thy neighbor" is a message all religions teach. Now that the world is our neighbor, we must change our ability and our focus to see the possibility of peace throughout the world. This is paramount. Seeking peace is the answer to the anger that everyone feels about such atrocities. And it is pragmatic, which is the backbone of American thinking. Peace is something we can do. It is something we can do together and it will change the vision of the world.

The saying once in a lifetime has taken a new meaning for me. As I share these thoughts and observations I hope that my feelings for peace are truly conveyed to those in this country and throughout the world. Over and over again the one thought that pervades my brain is a phrase from the Latin of antiquity: PAX HUMANA.

-Charles Waters



Note from the editor: The American flag to me is a metaphor for my belief in freedom and a symbol of my pride for our country and its people. While often being disheartened by the mistakes of our government, it is my sincere hope that its decisions in the upcoming days are wise and reflect the goodness of this nation. My thoughts and condolences are with all the victims of this tragedy. We will get beyond this as a community and as a country. In recent days, the news of racial attacks in the news have been simply disturbing. I urge people to chill the fuck out and remember that racism, hatred, and ignorance started this mess in the first place.



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