Remembering September 11…

Above: This shot is from Arlene’s Grocery in Lower Manhattan but that’s pretty much what I and the French band looked like in 2001, when we used to perform regularly at The Greatest Bar on Earth (Windows on the World) in the north tower of the World Trade Center.

“There’s no fucking meeting today,” said the French voice on the other end of the line. “Turn on the news.” It was 9:00 a.m. and I was heading out the door from my apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn to a 9:30 a.m. meeting with a client on Desbrosses Street in TriBeCa. Thank goodness I didn’t get on the 2 train. I’m not sure if the second plane had crashed at that point but by the time I was able to tune into WNYC on my Mac (I didn’t own a television then), the south tower had been hit as well.

I picked up the phone and called my mother in California. She was still asleep. “Something’s happened, mom,” I told her. “You won’t be able to reach me today but I’m calling to let you know I’m okay.”

“Thanks for calling, honey,” she said yawning. She went back to sleep and would only learn what had happened when she woke up. By that time, my cellphone (my only phone) no longer worked.

My upstairs neighbor and landlord Janet knocked at my door. She was in tears and hysterical. She asked me to sit with her in her living room until her husband and son could make it home. I did.

Later in the day, singed pieces of paper — from all sorts of documents — gently rained down on our neighborhood. All of the fire fighters from our local fire station — just a few blocks away — perished in the tragedy. In the days that followed, we learned that some of the terrorists had resided just a few blocks from the house where I lived. I passed in front of their mosque nearly every day on my way to the YWCA gym where I had a membership. On my way home from my workout, I would often buy falafel at the deli next door on Atlantic Avenue.

All of these memories flooded into my mind last night when I came home from a food and wine event in downtown Austin and Tracie P had the TV on: “President Obama is going to make an announcement,” she said. Osama bin Laden was dead.

Between 1998 and 2001, the French band (above) performed once a month at The Greatest Bar on Earth (Windows on the World) in the north tower of the World Trade Center. Burlesque was the new fashion in hipster circles and we often played with The Pontani Sisters, who danced on stage as we played. Giuliani was mayor and you could still smoke cigarettes (and pot) in NYC nightclubs.

When I finally made it back into the city to visit my client, Desbrosses Street was closed to the public but the police let me through because I had business to conduct there. The staff in my clients office were literally shell-shocked by what they had seen and heard. I saw David Bouley cooking on Canal Street for the fire fighters and police.

Later that week, I interviewed Drew Nieporent for a trade publication. He told me that the entire morning staff at Windows on the World had perished in the tragedy. I’ll never forget how he choked up during our conversation…

All this memories flooded my mind when Tracie P and I heard the news last night.

It seems like a lifetime ago… and it was… I had just purchased my first digital camera. It used 3½-inch floppy disks as memory cards. Today, I can take larger and more photos with my phone. I didn’t even know what (we)blog was.

8 thoughts on “Remembering September 11…

  1. I perfectly remember that day: I was sitting at the table in our living room at the beach house, having lunch with my family. And I will never forget how my blood froze learning what was happening, and what happened in the next hours.
    Nobody will ever forget.

  2. Thank you for remembering. My base was locked down and when we were finally able to go home I remember spending the next 3 days in a fog before I finally had to just turn off the news and go for a run. 3 years later I was in Afghanistan and thought we were about to roll him up then – or soon. For 10 years this went on and for those guys who had a part in finally taking this guy out it means more than most of us will ever know. If only this meant the end of all of it. To this day, wherever I am in the world, I’m cognizant of how much people would love to see it happen again – and how lucky we are it hasn’t. How it changed a lot of us – and the world – and how the death of 1 dude brings it all home again. Peace, Jeremy!

  3. And I was in a 5th grade classroom getting my students into their long division. Wow–a lifetime ago, and a different life it was, for you and me both. I’m so glad that not a hair on your precious head was harmed that day 2B, and I wouldn’t have believed 10 years ago that it would take a decade still to find my true love, and to capture one very bad man.

  4. @Valerie what a powerful memory and image… where were you stationed? It’s incredible how the news made all of us reflect on our lives and our country and the world over the last decade.

    @Tracie P We all remember the moment we first heard of the tragedy ten years ago and we all will remember the moment we heard the news of its author’s demise. It was a scary time to be in NYC then and thank goodness I called before getting on the train to head into the city. Not everyone was so lucky. I love you so much and am so thankful for the last ten years (three of them spent with you now!) that delivered me to you… I love you with all my heart and soul, sweet Tracie P…

  5. On Sep 11th I was working on my Master’s degree @ Wright Patt in Ohio – the planes hit during a calculus class. I had just finished complaining about a $2K airline ticket I had bought for Korea & Hawaii just 10 hours before that. The rest of the day we were huddled around the TVs & trying to call friends & family & feeling helpless. The things you could have tried to tell us all 10 years ago…

  6. @Valerie “The things you could have tried to tell us all 10 years ago…” SO TRUE! Thanks for being here… When are we going to get to taste some great wine with you?

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