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September 11, still

Here's what I sent out as an email on September 12, 2001

Dear Everyone --
First of all, I am fine and so is everyone we both know. I decided to write one letter to a lot of you, so I could answer faster to the many e-mails I’ve received. Thank you to everyone who wrote. The main thing that helped, yesterday and today, was hearing your concern. For one thing, it makes me remember that somewhere people are going about their business & their city isn't burning. Also, phones aren't working too well -- I haven’t been able to make a long-distance call for over 24 hours & local service is unreliable. I can get incoming calls but it usually takes a lot of tries; everyone who’s gotten through has been amazed. Thank goodness for e-mail-- I heard from people I couldn’t manage to talk to, people from all over the world.

By now we know a lot more about what happened & you’ve heard plenty of explanations & analysis. Well, YOU do--I don’t. Lower Manhattan, where I am, has been cordoned off, meaning no newspapers, among other things (such as state, local & auxilliary police + National Guard checking IDs when I cross 14th Street to go home). No papers makes this both more unreal and more real. Not that I want to see the papers.

Yesterday morning I heard a loud noise, which I only vaguely registered as yet another inexplicable New York explosion: a building going up or down, sheet metal falling off a truck--who knows? A few minutes later my friend Maggie called to tell me the noise was a plane hitting the World Trade Center (as the crow flies, perhaps a mile or two south of the East Village where I live and work). I remembered hearing about a plane hitting the Empire State Building in the 1940s & assumed this time too it was a horrible accident. I turned on the TV & saw the 2nd plane hit. By now you’ve all seen the footage so much that you’re maybe used to it, but I can’t begin to tell you how confusing & unnerving it was. How stunning to realize there was a terrorist attack on my beautiful city.

Where the hours of the day went I’m not sure. It was 9 & everything was normal, & somehow it was 10 at night. In between, I went up on the roof and saw flames & gigantic smoke coming out of the two towers. People on roofs all around were screaming, crying, cursing. To the north, it was a perfect fall day-- soft air, bluest sky, the Chrysler Building shining. Then the towers fell.

The daily psalm for Tuesday is 82, with the line "the foundations of the world collapse."

A little later, on Second Avenue, I saw hundreds of people trudging uptown, their shoes gray with ash.

The primary was canceled. The baseball games were canceled. Broadway shows were canceled.

Maggie, who’s a paramedic, ended up at the scene a few hours later. She said it was worse than you can imagine--the dust you saw on all the reports, plus a foot of water, and the smell.

My mother, who was there, said it's like the Blitz. I don't know what it's like. We've always been safe. I have no speculations. I almost am not angry--it's too scary to add more hate to a world that is perilously full of it.

New York was itself everywhere and nowhere. I don’t know where I am. I don’t recognize the city, both literally and figuratively. I can’t believe I don’t see what I know isn’t there.

At MediaChannel.org, where I work part-time as an editor, we put up a special edition of coverage of the catastrophe. It was good today to have work to do.

I hope you are all well. When I’m less shocked, exhausted, puzzled, I will write to everyone. Please keep in touch.
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