I can’t believe it’s already been six years. This anniversary is particularly haunting for me because it’s the first year since that the date has fallen on a Tuesday, as it did in 2001. I’ll never forget that entire week, or even some events the week preceding. I remember on Wednesday the 5th, a friend and I went to hear Salman Rushdie read from his then new novel, Fury, at the Barnes & Noble at Union Square. My friend whispered to me that there were likely a bunch of secret agents dressed in plainclothes hovering about, and I laughed and told her not to be ridiculous, the fatwa was over, fundamentalism was totally passe.
I remember taking a four-day end of summer mini jaunt to Nantucket, and just returning to work on Monday, the 10th. It was a completely nothing day as I spent hours just trying to re-orient myself, go through mail and phone messages, and get myself psyched up for an upcoming oral argument, and my entire fall caseload. I kept telling myself I’d get it together the following day. I set my alarm for early Tuesday morning, but, not being a morning person, didn’t get the early start I’d planned. I was living in Hoboken, New Jersey then, just across the Hudson river from lower Manhattan and I remember cursing myself silently as I walked to the WTC-bound PATH train for being a lazy-ass and hitting that snooze button. Of course it was a blessed thing for me that I did since if I’d gotten up at my planned time, I would have been passing through the WTC concourse about the moment the first plane hit. (My mom cried to me on the phone she’s never been so thankful for my habitual morning tardiness.) Instead I watched everything from across that river.
I remember waking up the next few mornings and thinking it was all a horrible nightmare and I was so crazy to have dreamed it up. I only had to open the window and take a breath to realize it wasn’t. My cat even knew something was up; she kept peering out the window all spooked. I watched TV — CBS, the only station not dependent on the radar from the north tower — constantly for the next week. We were forbidden from entering our office for the next month, until the City had time to test our building’s structure and thoroughly HEPA all the floors. When we were finally allowed access, we had go through about a 45-minute National Guard checkpoint, only to be stricken with headaches and sore throats after about three hours inside. At our office meeting on that first day back, my boss went to address us and burst out crying. She supplied us with surgical masks and each room a HEPA cleaner, and arranged for a group therapist to give us a few sessions, but nothing seemed to help all that much. I did a lot of working from home for the next six weeks.
But that week, I remember my friend Judy, who lived on the upper east side, inviting me to come up and hang out. We were both so depressed; it was better to be with a good friend at such a time. I’d stayed briefly with Jude when I first moved to NY before going to law school, so we went out for drinks at our favorite haunt, Martel’s. There were people laughing and screaming and having themselves a blast. I couldn’t believe it; I was mortified. It was as if what had happened downtown had no effect on uptown in the least.
I remember the only place I felt at all better for the next two weeks was at Union Square, amongst the speakers, protesters, and all of that beautiful public art. It was good just to be around people who were talking about the obvious rather than living in ignorance, and to feel a part of something again.
I remember being scared to take the PATH or Lincoln Tunnel bus into Manhattan for weeks. I remember riding the subway or a city bus and being afraid of people because of the way they looked. I hated myself for that.
My friend, Kathy, lost her father that day. She didn’t even know until several days later, as he was a carpenter and had only been assigned a job on a top floor of one of the towers early that very morning. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I didn’t personally know anyone who died. Although, I still after all this time have this feeling of dread that one day I’m going to find out a long lost friend was in one of those buildings.