Saturday, September 22, 2001
I promised I'd post pictures from my first trip to Ground Zero. More are coming.
When I first got to the area, I was drawn to photograph more than the destroyed
towers. As I was shooting pictures, I met a man named Jim, who struck up a convesation
about my CoolPix 900. He was very polite. He told me that he'd taught photography,
and was clearly interested in purchasing one. I strongly recommended it. We
separated for a couple of minutes, then Jim came back, saying "I have a
picture for you." It's the first one below.
Friday, September 21, 2001
The reading went well, even if the attendance was lower than usual. We had
time to break into a discussion of how we see things evolving from here. It's
the first wide-open forum I've participated in. It quickly became clear how
many layers (e.g. political and religious, tactical and diplomatic) there are
to the situation. We talked about who's scared of another attack, and what the
nature of the attack might be. As much as the politicians want to say that the
event hasn't changed us, it has.
After the reading four of us went down to a little Mexican restaurant on Bleecker
St. for a light nosh, and some Margharitas. As we were getting ready to leave,
I noticed the illuminated smoke plume over the rooftops. My friend looked at
me and said "Yes, that's the smoke."
I heard an announcer on the radio talk about how signs of life are returning
around the city. I have to agree. Two days ago, I remember seeing the first
obvious smile, and yesterday, I heard someone laughing heartily. The collective
mood is lifting. Still, I continue to hear from more people in my circle who
knew people who are missing. This will take time.
Mommy, what's blowback?
Harvest of Sorrow
by Michael Manville
"It has been compared to Pearl Harbor, but the
analogy goes not far enough. Certainly the
day will live in infamy. The anniversary of the
Camp David Accords, once a milestone of
peace, have now been twisted into a
monument for violence. ...
"...But he is something else as well. He is considered, in
the parlance of the intelligence community, to be "blowback"--the
negative fallout of an otherwise successful foreign policy. Osama bin
Laden, we should never forget, began his career working for the CIA.
The same agency that failed so horribly on Tuesday succeeded equally
horribly years before: it trained bin Laden, it gave him weapons, and it
helped create the vast web of Islamic militants he now draws on to
torture the world." ...
From Freezerbox. Read more
Groggy, but awakening. I had to do a lot of zig-zagging to get across
Water Street today. The heavy traffic has returned. In fact, it is probably
even more choked than normal.
three places, I saw tables mobbed with people. They were selling flags and t-shirts,
the two hot items. Wearable flags have been a big deal. Two days ago, I spotted
a woman wearing an American flag jacket. I've seen a number of women with flags
tied like scarves around the strap of their purse. But the hottest item is the
American Flag Doo - Rag. Men are snapping these up, wrapping their heads with
them, and sporting them all over town.
In the elevator on the way back from lunch, a man was holding a clipboard showing
a color print -out of the old skyline at night. The world Trade Center towers
looked beautiful. I commented on how nice it looked. He told me it was the announcement
for the memorial service of four of his co-workers who'd been lost. He said
it could have been much worse. Then he showed me one of those coffee table picture
books with scenes of New York. Said he had to pick one up. The picture of the
towers is beautiful, he said. I expect that such books are fast sellers all
across the country, but especially here in New York.
Locked out. This afternoon, someone from Tech Support came to install
some software for me. He asked how I was doing; if I'd been affected by it.
(Nobody has to say specifically what "it" is - that goes without saying.)
He seemed genuinely interested. I told him that I know a number of people who
know people who were hurt or lost, but no one in my immediate family, or my
direct circle of friends. When I asked how he'd fared, he matter-of-factly told
me that he can't go home.
His place is in Battery Park City. So far, he was allowed into his home once
for 20 minutes to grab as much as he could, then go. He said that OSHA is saying
that the air quality is bad, and that it'll probably be another week before
he can move back in. The really interesting thing, is that he seemed to have
no concern for his own displacement. He mentioned that there was a morgue set
up in his neighborhood, and that he thought another had been set up at Chelsea
Piers. We've really never dealt with anything like this before.
Things to come. My friend Walter was filling in today for someone who
sits across from me. He commented that the president had given a very
effective speech. He showed me the transcript in the newspaper, said I could
The aftermath of this will go on for years.
Thursday, September 20, 2001
Forget business as usual. I work at a huge firm. They have about 2,000 employees around the world. When you send an e-mail to *All Users Worldwide, itís normally a big deal Ė something like that usually has to go through channels. I donít think Scott was concerned with that. Hereís what he wrote:
I wrote this poem yesterday to try to deal with the aching sorrow that we all feel about the World Trade Center and other hijacking tragedies. Every American feels like they lost somebody precious, whether they knew a victim or not. Feel free to forward it--just include my authorship note. Thank you. God bless you.
By Scott Ufford, Copyright 2001
My heart is ripped open.
I am in shock.
I am grief.
My brain is pounding pounding
My pulse is crazed
Everything is askew
Who will catch me?
What can heal me?
What is real?
Where are you now?
No words to cry.
No one to hear me.
No way to cry.
My blood runs away.
My pain flows like honey
Into your broken hive,
Into my full memories of you.
I will never see you again?
My ripped heart recoils at the thought
Like at a gunshot aimed
Look, Iíll prove it:
Right now, with my eyes closed tight,
I can still see you . . . .
Into my wretched heart
Healing it like a
Long-vanished ocean tide
Returning to bathe encrusted shores.
Washing away my grief.
I am so grateful to you.
I can feel you grinning with relief
You live in stunning new dimensions and
You see me finally
On my side of the ripped veil.
We are both going to be
In the morning, my tears taste
Do you think terrorists would write viruses? Are they high-and-low-tech? Our office
website got attacked with the Nimda32 virus yesterday. Today, they're taking
all of the PCs in one of our satellite offices off the LAN, because they're
infectd with a virus. Good thing I'm not running Windows at home. Glad my web
server is Apache.
Meanwhile, here's a link to an official site showing how
the city's been affected
Weblogs are distinguishing themselves as a unique, powerful, and credible alternative
to the commercial networks. As I find other blogs and info, I'll be linking
atrocity through the eyes of weblogs. By Nick Denton
"The Americans": The Real Deal. Over the past week, I've received
several e-mail copies of the trascript of a "speech" given by Gordon
Sinclair. The piece is particularly upbeat in its support of America. In most
cases, the e-mails I received only referred to Mr. Sinclair as a Canadian broadcaster.
Some suggested that the text was the transcript of a radio broadcast. Turns
out Mr. Sinclair passed away some time ago, and the original broadcast was on
June 5, 1973. Still,
i t's a good read.
Reminds me of the "Wear Suncreen" e-mails that were going around
- those were attributed to be an MIT (or Harvard or Brown... pick the school)
commencement speech given by Kurt Vonnegut, but they were actually part of a
column written by a midwestern news writer.
Ah, what the heck? ...builds good will; generates lots of internet traffic...
what's not to like?
Wednesday, September 19, 2001
I've been a hundred yards from hell.
At lunch, I met two women with digital cameras, who were comparing the shots
they'd captured. The images they shared with me were immediately recognizable:
Ground Zero. They said that Broadway had been opened-up. If you've never been
to New York, we're talking about a street that runs one block away from where
it all happened. It was too late to go back to the office, get my camera, and
head uptown. I'd have to go after work.
After work, I took my time walking up The Great White Way. As I got close,
I started to notice the ash and dust that clung to the buildings everywhere.
I started to see cracked windows and doors. Then I saw One Liberty Plaza. The
black stone facade of the building makes the ash stand out in stark detail,
as if the entire building had been caked in mud. As I stepped into the cross
street, I got my first look at the destruction. I'll post pictures here, but
I promise you, they can't do justice to what I saw.
Looking at the twisted, slumped pieces of steel, I recognized the effect of
unleashing an almost inconcievable amount of energy in a very focused area.
There have been many comparisons to Pearl Harbor, especially because of the
surprise nature of the attack. I think another comparison might be appropriate.
Imagine being one of the survivors of Hiroshima, seeing the remains of your
city for the first time.
Even though it's hard to spot the smoke plume from the sky, buildings are still
smoldering. I watched a fire truck continuously hose one large, unrecognizable
At each intersection that had a line of sight to Ground Zero, there were police
officers working to keep the foot traffic flowing. "You can't stay there...
take your shot and move on... keep moving, please." The tone was respectful,
if authoritarian. Where they could, groups of people had stepped away from the
sidewalks and stood gazing in silence. It seemed as if at least every other
person had a camera. Many had two or more. The silent observation was similar
to the vigil I had witnessed on those first days at the Promenade.
Nerves are still a little on edge. I stopped to take a picture of City Hall,
leaning my wrists on the wrought iron fence that surrounds the place, pushing
my camera slightly inside. As I began to focus my shot, two or three police
started moving quickly in my direction, saying "sir, you can't do that!"
I backed away from the fence. Maybe they thought my camera could be a weapon
As I started back down Broadway to the subway, I saw a man carrying a little
boy on his shoulders. Apparently, the little boy had just asked his father where
the World Trade Center towers were. He simply said "They're not there anymore."
There's one long chain link fence that starts down below Bowling Green, and
runs all the way up to Duane Street. From there, I figure it goes all the way
to the river. My friend Chris' apartment is inside that cordoned-off area. Today
he said to me "My apartment is 6 blocks from the site of one of the worst
mass murders in history." He's one of the evacuees who can now inhabit their
own apartment. Has to show ID to get in. Others aren't so lucky.
Chris tells me that the restaurants in his neighborhood are opening for business
again. Often, their only "customers" are emergency personnel, to whom
they happily give food gratis. If we're up for it, Denise and I can come to dinner in his neighborhood with Andrea and him. Don't we need proper ID? I wonder.
Chris says "I can get you past the checkpoints -- you guys can come in with me."
Members of a very exclusive club.
Tuesday, September 18, 2001
Sunday evening was the first: "Do you want to get a great deal on a car?" This
morning, it was "Save 50% at over 10,000 hotels" It looks like even the spammers
were given pause.
What's so funny 'bout Peace, Love & Understanding?
This just in by way of my college classmate Bill
Barol: Jerry Fallwell has some choice words for us about the source of the
catastrophe of September 11...
I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists,
and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative
lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried
to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped
more for yourself.
Bill has an excellent weblog called Blather.
I lost several postings the last couple of days (Aaargh!). From now on, I write
off line, then copy into the form.
Denise (my wife) told me that she'd heard that Bin Laden made a ton of money
on the German stock market on 9/10.
More pictures from the area where I work :
The new look of Business as Usual
Life during wartime
IT'S BEEN ONE WEEK, TODAY.
A wave of generosity
The firm where I work has made a $1 million pledge for disaster relief. In an
e-mail that went to all of our employees worldwide, management announced that
any individual employees that wish to make a personal donation can add to that
amount. A guy we call "TG," who sits across from me, clicked "Reply
to All" and sent this message:
The Firm's contribution is very inspirational.
I would like to donate my one day salary (if possible, the day of Sept. 11th)
and request the Payroll department to deduct one day pay from my paycheck
and contribute it to the fund.
...tinged with patriotism
One by one, dozens of people replied to his message, and donated a day's pay.
When I clicked on, I sent my plede in bold text, and colored the words in red
and blue against the white background.
When I got home last night, I found a large flag draped over a chair in our
living room. My sister-in-law had sent it to us. I know just the place to hang
We're alive. Let's continue to live.
I've written a bunch of new pieces since hell broke loose. I'll be sharing
those pieces and others on Thursday in the city.
Here's the info:
Poetry & Performance Series
+ open mike
Thursday, Sept 20, 2k1
7:30 - 10 PM
153 W. 21 St (bet. 6th & 6th Ave.)
Featuring Mindy Matijasevic and Lou Benjamin
"Remove your shoes, relax and enjoy a little bohemian ambiance."
$5 contribution requested. Reservations suggested: 212-989-5950
Maybe I'll see you there.
I've written about this man before, and I am constantly amazed by his willingness
to stand on the corner with his messages of affirmation, day after day. He's
one of a kind.
Michael was at the base of one of the towers when it started to crumble. He
dashed into a nearby building and started heading downstairs for safety, when
the stairwell collapsed. He was bruised up a bit, and ended up spending 3 days
in the hospital. As soon as he got out, he's right back on his beat, holding
Michael makes good money, and he could simply contribute bucks to some worthy
cause, but he wants to contribute goodwill. He's willing to stand on the corner
with his signs of affirmation, even though some of his customers think he's
I think we need more of his brand of craziness.
Speaking of closed... they shut off our internet surfing at the office today.
There are a lot of virus threats out there, and apparently there are some that
spread from websites.
The special parking permit used by Verizon. There are a ton of Verizon trucks
in the area. Many are displaying more than one American flag. These folks
are on a mission.
I looked for the smoke plume first thing this morning. Today was the first day that I couldn't find it.
At Nevins Street, I noticed that the light grey dust had collected in the bottom of the rail beds. This is miles away, under the ground. The stuff goes everywhere. The first time I went down to the area where I work, I hadn't really noticed how much of the stuff had settled into the pavement. Today I saw street cleaner trucks running back and forth, unable to get much of that stuff up. I don't know if those streets will ever come clean.
Monday, September 17, 2001
The poster's headline read: "Circle the City & Go Through the Lincoln Tunnel Traffic Free!". I was on the #4 train headed for my first full day of work. I read further... MS Bike Tour ... September 23... Start and Finish: World Trade Center Plaza. I looked around the subway car, and noticed a woman glancing at the poster, then taking out her journal. Another man seemed to be gazing directly at the words World Trade Center. I think we all noticed each other taking notice of the poster. No one spoke.
On the other side of the car, someone had affixed a large hand-written press-on label to the poster panel. It read:
Still in Business
Beats by JAG
Beats and Lyrics
I got to the office, and finally got to speak to my friend Chris. He'd witnessed the second hit through the window of an associate's office. He said the TV footage doesn't come close to what he actually saw. There's something still smoldering inside his voice. He said "I think I saw some things I'm not ready to deal with yet."
I still haven't heard from one of my friends that I sent an e-mail to. I don't think there was any reason for her to have been in the area. I hope she's just out of town and away from her e-mail. I'm going to try again today to locate my other friend: the one with the bad e-mail address.
When I was a kid, I stepped in more than one ant mound. If I was aware that I was stepping in it, I stepped lively. This morning I thought of how the ants responded to such a calamity. Some ants were immediately dispatched to the surface to launch a counter-attack. Others began the process of digging out and rebuilding, while still others dealt with the injured and the dead. You could watch the whole thing unfold through a pane of glass. There were so many cameras rolling. We get to see it again and again from so many angles; through so many panes of glass. Meanwhile, at the Pentagon...
One degree of separation. I asked one of my co-workers if his people are OK. He said "My Best Man is missing" - and gestured toward a photocopied portrait that he'd taped to the wall.
My co-worker is one of the thousands (millions?) of commuters who used to come to work each day on the subway via the WTC. He came out of the building around the time of the first strike. He looked drained, and mostly looked away, toward his computer monitor. He said "I don't know how I keep going." I asked if he knew about the free counselling sessions our firm is offering. He said he didn't have time.
Another co-worker said his wife's cousin was badly burned. He's still in the hospital.
A third co-worker recounted coming up into the World Trade Center building from the PATH trains at almost the moment of impact. She hadn't felt the shockwave, but came into the mammoth underground mall in time to see a stampede starting. She heard a cop going around to the shopkeepers and shouting "get the hell out of here!" Luckily, the first round of debris had stopped falling. She stepped out onto the sidewalk and looked up to see smoke and fire.
I asked another friend if she was OK. This is what she wrote back to me:
I was in front of this building. It was evacuated after the plane hit. We were told that we could go back in after it was determined that everything in the building was ok (no bomb in the building). While we were outside, we saw the WTC on fire and paper flying around. I started running along the FDR Drive as soon as I saw people coming down Broad from Wall street saying that the building was about to fall. 1/2 a block away, it did, and everything was covered in smoke and dust. It was so hard to breathe on the FDR.
Two steps forward, one back. I heard from one of my friends, and I'm happy to hear she's rattled but OK. She's just not been on the web until now. I found a phone number and reached an answering machine for my friend that worked at One Liberty Plaza. I still haven't heard from her.
I also heard from another friend who's lived in Vermont for a couple of years now. He's far enough removed to offer a unique perspective. Being in the thick of things, I can't always remember that others experienced this in a very different way. Here's what my buddy had to say:
I have been in Newport, RI since Thursday. My wife... was helping a girl
friend of her's whose family owns [a yacht company]. So I came down with the
kids to hang out. It was a great weekend to be there weather wise and an odd
weekend to be there regarding recent events. I find it real strange that
people were going about their business of buying "luxury yachts" as if
nothing happened.... had the best show [they've] ever had.
Hmmm... Maybe they were all taking a page from the business leaders who are all saying that "business as usual" is the best response to the attack. Or, maybe they're jus that far removed. I guess sooner or later we need to get on with life. The farther from Ground Zero, the shorter the time needed.
We have neighbors that are Police Lieutenants. Both have been to Ground Zero. He's usually a man of few words, but she's typically more effervescent. Her only comment about the place is "Yes, I've been to Ground Zero."
Unbroken circles. I noticed today, that people have a new sincerity in their voice when they say "It's good to see you." Often, that's accompanied with some form of "I hope the people in your circle are OK, too." It underscores people's concern that all of us are whole after being through this ordeal. This event has driven home the value of relationships, and underscored how interconnected we are.
It seems fitting that the Jewish high holy days of Rosh Hashana should fall a week after this disaster. On both sides of the equation, this has been a test of faith.
Sunday, September 16, 2001
I won't bore you with the usual drivel about why I've been off the air for so long.
We're alive, we're well. We don't have to go more than a couple of degrees of separation, to find folks who aren't. I'm worried about one friend. She used to work at 1 Liberty Plaza, but she might have left that job some time ago. I haven't been able to locate a valid e-mail address or phone number for her.
Normalcy is still far away, but the citywide state of shock is starting to subside. I'm going to the office (at the bottom of Broad Street - a half mile or so from "Ground Zero") for a meeting tomorrow. I think we'll open on Monday along with Wall Street. Denise is watching heavy doses of "The Brady Bunch" as an antidote to everything else she's been seeing and hearing.
File under "Life Goes On:" our cat Friday went to the vet 3 days ago, and we just got him back. He's got a condition with his colon that means he'll be on meds for the rest of his life.
Just remember with all that has gone on since Tuesday:
- You can still smile.
- There is still beauty in this world.
Poetry is flowing again. I wrote this a couple of days ago:
Come Tumbling Down
like souffle collapsing
like air from lungs
a collective gasp
it all falls down
your house of glass
your house of cards
your precious papers
sins and stones
the mighty fall
like pigs can fly
bodies from the sky
the choice not to wait
choosing your own fate
the sun rises on rubble...
Kiss your life hello.
Be well, my friends.
I'm starting to hear from more far-flung friends. I added myself to a list of people who are OK on my alumni website. A short time later, I heard from a classmate that I haven't seen in years. I think many reconnections will come from this.
I've still not heard back from some of the people I've written to. In normal times, it can take a week or more to hear from folks. Right now, any lag is ominous.
Call me morbid. I tried to look up one friend, and got a bad e-mail address. I got a message back from the mail system saying that the message was undeliverable with the following phrase that rings like sick geek humor in the context we're living through:
The address which was undeliverable is listed in the section
labeled: "----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----"
There are flags everywhere. Theyre attached to car antennas, stuck into hats, draped from fanny packs, stickered to the side of buses. They're like the first Crocuses that appear after winter.
We were at brunch, sitting outside, at noon today. The church bells all began to ring. The sound seemed to come from every direction, and they seemed to ring for several minutes. As the sound died down, there was another sound -- the sound of a jet overhead.
It was strange to look up today, and see commercial jets in the sky again. For the last few days, the only thing I'd seen was military jets, some of which were conspicuously carrying missiles. Earlier in the week, there were jets that could be heard, but not seen. They must have been flying high, and moving fast.
I feel a little strange saying this, as if I'm a spoil-sport, but it bothers me that NBC chose to use "We Shall Overcome" as the theme for their coverage of the aftermath. That song means something profound to me. It is the anthem of the Civil Rights movement, and it feels inappropriate for someone to take that song and wrap it around this tragedy. Maybe I'm just being selfish. Maybe it's just a song that symbolizes strength. But to me, it feels wrong - a bit like I've been looted.
My first visit to the office
The train ride from Nevins Street to Bowling Green station seemed a lot longer
than normal today. The train wasn't going much slower, it's just that I could
feel every foot. The anticipation was killing me. What would it look like?
As soon as I got off the train, the air smelled wrong. It was like the aftermath
of an electrical fire. I was immediately surprised to see a long line of people
waiting to get through the turnstile and onto the platform. There were a lot
more people than I expected.
Reaching the surface, I saw that everything was cordoned-off. Railings had
been set up to corral people downtown as soon as they exit the station.If you
want to travel north, you'd better have the proper papers.
I wasn't quite sure what I expected to see, but as I started snapping pictures,
I noticed my hands were shaking.There were still a number of people who were
wearing masks. I wonder if they would make any difference in that part of town.
The soldiers and the cops weren't wearing them, just some civilians.
There's one other thing I noticed: lots of flyers. Many offered
prayers for the missing, or support for the rescuers. Some called for peace,
and one that was posted in the stairway of the Nevins Street station explained
that Islam is a peaceful religion, and that what was done was sinful in the
eyes of most Muslims. One read "Get the Bastards, Don't Kill Innocent People."
People are communicating. They're using the technology. They're expressing themselves.
At the office, I saw the cleaning woman who comes in around 6:00. She told
me her son was spared - that he was supposed to have been on the 100th floor
of the towers that day, but he was late. He arrived just in time to see the
building on fire. A lucky break, if I ever heard of one.
Welcome to the Militarized Zone. There are clearly places you're not allowed
to go. You can't even get up to the famous bull sculpture from Bowling Green
The latest fashion. If you're wearing a uniform or a dust mask, you fit
This truck had its back windows blown out. It's still covered with dust,
even though much of the sidewalk and street have been hosed-off. You get
the idea its driver is not coming back for it.