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.