9/11

My friend Donald Fried called me, woke me up, and told me to watch the TV. I watched the second Tower hit, and heard somewhere we could give blood and that the Red Cross would be somewhere near John Jay, or Hunter, I forget. I started to go out, and then somehow learned they weren’t taking blood anymore. People were pouring up Ninth Avenue, and I especially remember one middle-aged man who had set up a lawn chair outside his building door, and was holding an American flag. At some point on my way to John Jay, there was a man with a boom box who was shouting “They’re hitting the hospitals, head toward the river” so I did that until it seemed that wasn’t right either.

I decided to go to Gristedes? Or D’Agostino’s? I forget. Bought some beer and popsicles, for some reason. On my way home, I ran into Caroline Treadwell, who had walked up Ninth Avenue with the rest of them, and we came back up to my place and had the beer and popsicles, which are not a good combination.

I was working as a transcriber for a company whose main clients were CBS and NBC long form news programs. I was able to walk there (five blocks), so I was better-positioned to work than anyone who usually came in from other boroughs. I went in that day and began what was to be months – MONTHS – of listening to nothing but grief and fear, intimately through headphones, and typing it out. We were either transcribing the relatives of victims, or the men who were telling us Saddam Hussein was coming to get us–NYC specifically–and we had to go to war. So it was either shocked animal grief or grim man-made aggression, through my headphones, every day– along with the feeling like I was doing something to help, which seemed better than my friends whose jobs just stopped for a long period of time while the city tried to get itself together.

The experience of those terrible days, while the electrical smell was still coming in through my windows all the way up in Hell’s Kitchen, and the anthrax came to Rock Center where we got our physical cassette tapes from, and the drinking at O’Flaherty’s seemed more important than usual but in fact was harmful, and the performing benefits felt good to do because we needed each other– I have been thinking of those days a lot lately. They were not good for me, mentally, physically, spiritually, and I was an extremely lucky person who didn’t know anyone who died. Never forget. And love to the first responders, forever.

But it seems like we all have toxic earphones in our ears nowadays, and for less noble or obvious reasons than being attacked by terrorists. We have been attacked, it seems, from within and without, by greed and nonsense and lack of empathy for others. We need to balance our shock and our anger with passion and voting, and hope, but we also need to balance it with quiet, with love of nature and respect for each other, and with appreciation for the beautiful smell of just rain.

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