September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:As a New Yorker living in lower Manhattan I was engulfed by the events of 9/11. Within hours I began to receieve emails and calls from friends and well-wishers all over the world. The outpouring of love and support was truly the silver lining in a terribly dark cloud.
Here I am attaching a copy of the email I sent out during those first difficult days:

Dearest Friends,
I feel I want to share these observations with the many friends who are in my thoughts these days?. I imagine that sharing this with each of you is my way of feeling closer to friends and family in these difficult times?

Tuesday, 9/11/12

.... I am safe and well, but it?s been a terrible, terrible day. As you know, my apartment is at the foot of Fifth Avenue with a clear, unobstructed view of the World Trade Towers. I stepped outside this morning at 8:50 on the way to the gym. It was less than 5 minutes after the first plane hit the tower and there was a clear view of all the damage, the flames and the billowing smoke. It was indescribably horrific...and that was, of course, to prove to be just the beginning.
New Yorkers are at their very best in times of crisis and today was no different. All the trains, subways, buses, cabs were stopped (at least in this part of town) so the ONLY way to get anywhere was to walk. The streets were teaming with people either just being together on the streets or walking their way about town. You could easily spot anyone who was walking up from the trade center because they were covered in what looked like volcanic soot...some with small wounds wrapped in handkerchiefs or make-shift bandages....and many, many people walking around dazed or crying or just shaking their heads talking to themselves.
The entire area feels like a war zone. The only vehicles on the street have been the emergency vehicles or the trucks carrying medical supplies, oxygen tanks, etc to the hospital. Several police cars drive around with the windows blown out. The Air Force had fighter planes patrolling the skies. The Red Cross and Salvation Army trucks started arriving later in the afternoon. They put out a call for blood and the streets soon filled with lines of people 4-deep from one avenue to the next...people waited as much as 7 hours in line to donate blood.
With my years in ER Psych I went to volunteer at the hospital which is 2 blocks away and is the primary receiving hospital for this tragedy. They also asked if I could help translate (I could help with French or Indonesian of course) but in the end they were overwhelmed with people volunteering and I decided to come back in a day or two as people loose steam and can appreciate fresh replacements.
I had had plans to have dinner with some dear friends but since many restaurants and shops were closed (the banks also closed by about 10:30 and the primary elections were called off) we decided to have an impromptu dinner at my place instead. It was good to be surrounded by friends this evening....this was not an evening to be alone.
It will be so strange to wake up tomorrow and just have a hole where the Trade Center has been. It?s always been a special pleasure of mine to be able to step out my front door and see the Empire State Building to the right and the Twin Towers to the left...I will miss them...and the sense of safety that has been shattered forever by this experience.
Perhaps the most eery thing of all has been all the people who have NOT arrived at the hospitals. With expectations of approximately 20,000 people in the Twin Towers, the hospital has only admitted 130...With the exception of these few and the few admitted to some other area hospitals, all the rest lie under the rubble....what a gruesome, horrifying picture...what a gruesome, horrifying experience.
Well, I should try to get some sleep. It?s hard to imagine what I will see when I close my eyes, but whatever it is, I know it is far, far less to deal with than so many people around the city the midst of all this horror, I am so fortunate.
Hold someone you love just a little bit closer tonight.

WEDNESDAY; 9/12/01

??.It is as horrible today as it was yesterday but in different ways. With the primary triage hospital just 2 blocks from me, this neighborhood is now the epicenter of human activity...The information center for people searching for loved ones is on the next block so there are lines of hundreds of people, some sobbing, most just numb, lined up behind police barricades waiting their turn in line to enter the makeshift facility to ask if their loved one was one of the few to be admitted to one of the hospitals or, as is most likely, how they can learn further about those who are, until now, unheard from. There is such a heaviness in the air...
Today trucks full of rubble roll by fairly regularly, but still no ambulances? The smoke continues to rise, but the wind has shifted?today we smell and breathe the smoke in a way that we did not yesterday.
To sit in the middle of all this and not be able to be helpful is, for me, almost torturous, but the reality is that there is so much personnel (hospital, army, Red Cross, police, etc.) that there is no real need for additional people. I am extremely impressed with how well organized everything is and how smoothly it all seems to be running. People continue to be helpful, accommodating. Walking next to the endlessly long lines of people searching for loved one are people offering bottles of water, snacks, fruit, sandwiches?whatever they can find to help ease the burden of those suffering the most. Things do not always run smoothly but everyone understands that the city is "winging it" and trying its? very best.
I spend some time each day on the streets to remain in touch with this unphathomable reality, but mostly I just stare at the television or spend time with friends. We have all sought one another out. This is not a time to be alone. In addition, the outpouring of concern from friends and family around the world has been extraordinary. It is the only way that I know sometimes that this is not a terrible personal dream...not something that I am exaggerating and dramatizing... but truly a cataclysmic event that is affecting people around the world.
I have been having a strenuous debate with myself about whether or not to go to San Francisco tomorrow. I am booked on a flight from Newark to San Fran...the identical itinerary as one of the hijacked planes. It is most likely that the decision will be taken out of my hands - that the flight will be cancelled - but if it does fly as scheduled I remain conflicted. Torn between a feeling of fear at how close this all hits home...not only in my line of vision as it unfolded and then in my neighborhood as it gathers, but also a duplication of the intended flight of a planeload of victims...this is very close indeed. I also have a certain reluctance to leave my hometown at a time like this, even though, in reality, there is nothing that I can do.
On the other hand, I argue with myself, that if ever there will be tight, effective airport security it will be in the next few days, so the reality is probably that it will never be as safe from terrorists as it will be tomorrow. And the fact is that I have been looking forward to visiting with Karin and the family and I would be genuinely disappointed to cancel those plans. So, as I write this I am unsure what I will do.
In writing this email to you, I follow the lead of my cousin Laurie who, with her family, recently lived through the wildfires of Wyoming. She routed a lengthy description of her experience which helped make it feel more immediate for me. I hope this helps you understand what has happened here. For certain, I find it helpful to share what is going on here with my "village".
It's late afternoon and I want to go out once more before dark.

At holiday time 2001I receieved a card from a cousin who gave news of her year and ended by saying it was a "joyful" year for her and her family... I responded (for myself and for all New Yorkers):

Dear Anne and John,

A ?joyful? year?.? We have had very different experiences of 2001. For me, this year has been the most difficult and painful year of my life. I have not yet recovered from the brutal, painful and lasting attack on my city and my home. There is not yet a day that goes by when I do not reflect back to those terrible days or try to adjust to the realities of my new life. The gaping hole, aglow at night from rescue lights and barren with blue sky during the day requires a recalculation each time I look up.

New Yorkers still address one another as family, still understand unexpected outbursts of tears, still make way for emergency vehicles, and still maintain makeshift memorials at places of loss ? My neighborhood holds visions that, though fading from reality are ingrained in my mind? and in the mind?s eye of my neighbors and my community. We are still trying to comprehend what has happened to us.

I was able for the first time yesterday to trace my running route which now ends at a broken and torn Winter Garden of The World Financial Center?the trees covered in ash, the windows smashed - a corpse of my old life?.and yet a life that was so recent that my ankle is still sore with wounds from jogging that very route. Reconciliation of the realities still eludes me.

No, for all my good fortune, and all my good health, for all my friends who were unharmed and for all the bounties I enjoy, for all my trips for travel and all my visits with family, still, with all this, for me, this has not even been a ?good? year, let alone a ?joyful? one?.Our experience of 2001 seems worlds apart.

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