Thursday, September 11, 2008

Then. Now.

Seven years and two days ago I was zinging south along the highways and byways returning to Brooklyn from the interment of my maternal grandmother where I had sung Morning Has Broken.

Seven years ago today or, more probably, seven years ago tomorrow I was hearing a lot of people offer me places to stay and ways to get out of the city for shorter or longer periods of time. Seven years ago right about now pretty much all I could think about was how I was going to get back to Brooklyn. The dog had been scooped up by the Carsick family and taken to their place until I could figure my way across the water. I had called them much earlier, back when it honestly seemed as though it could only be possible that a small private plane had made a grievous error. I was annoyed that because of someone's selfishness and stupidity it was likely going to take me ages to get home. I had no idea.

I didn't want to leave. I was, in fact, afraid to leave. At first it was nearly impossible to get clear information. Were the bridges closed? Could you take a ferry? What about buses? What streets were usable? How bad were the crowds? How far did the evacuation zone extend? Would it extend further or shrink? When? Where are those fighter jets going? This translated, for me, into a feeling that if I left I wouldn't be allowed back in. If I hadn't had a dog I wouldn't even have left my apartment in the early days when the smell of burning concrete, jet fuel and flesh wafted gently across Lafayette Avenue.

The feeling hasn't changed. I vastly prefer to be in the city on the day and, in fact, have not been missing from it yet. So it feels quite dangerous to me to be writing this while I ride in a bus that is leaving New York to head north toward another grandmother's ceremony where, again, I will sing. On the one hand I am looking out the windows and seeing things I wouldn't have seen if I'd gone to work and home again as usual; shoeshine men shooting the breeze on a break, the fashion tents, the 59th Street Bridge, the New York Times Building, kids on the way to and from school, the woman in front of me yelling into her cell phone "New York City is a mess. Is it 9/11?", sunburnt construction workers sitting on steps and leaning out of forklifts, a carefree yet cutthroat teenage basketball game. On the other hand, I'm leaving on this day, before the list of names has been completely read.

On Saturday I'll catch a bus back down the highways and byways and by god, they'd better let me back in.


  1. Anonymous1:36 PM

    Don't know if you're on the bus still or not but hope you have a quick trip with no traffic both ways. Sending you a hug as well for tomorrow. I wish I could be there but believe me I will be thinking of you. Lots of love.

  2. They'll let you back in; you belong there.

  3. I can count the number of times I've been to New York on one hand. Despite what happened seven years ago your pictures have me yearning to return to the big city. It must be an exhilarating place to live. Safe travels.

  4. It is such a privilege to be able to live in the place you love the most.

  5. Seester, it sure is.

    Robert, come on back, I think you'll like it again.

    Steph, the trip up was OK, the trip back was like a bus culture cliche. Totally sucked.