Just another night


I haven't written much.  I suppose I've been waiting for something good to happen or to feel like Hurricane Sandy is far enough behind me that it's not still affecting me every day.  I hate getting stuck, like a skipping record…but I am and I've been for so many months now that the ache has grown to fear.  Will I get through this?  Like seriously, will I get through this…safely?  Almost every commute to work and every commute back is a reminder, a battle, and has depressed me to the point of not wanting to talk or share beyond random kvetching on twitter.  And I'm stuck there too in 140 character bursts on twitter, reduced to pleading with the MTA for help.  So much has returned to functional, yet getting where I need to get each day and back, seems to be a process that gets worse each week.

 

Since October life has been a sort of spectrum of struggle.  First there was not knowing and assuming we lost everything.  We didn't.  Yay!  So there was the lull of realizing there were far worse things in life than living in an area decimated by a storm, while we still had an undamaged home.  I basked in that feeling of luck for all of a minute until the reality that our neighbors, family and many friends were not so fortunate.  There was petty complaining about LIPA and our electricity – because our house felt like a delicate husk that could burn, flood, be robbed, or disappear into a sinkhole.  And, though the structure was indeed still there – the anger was tangible, something to throw our energy toward (and re-electrifying was a test of sorts in itself).  There was helping where we could – because we had to do something – and feeling like I could never do enough. 

 

Eventually, and overlapping some of those initial fears, there have been the attempts at normalizing.  Trying to find little joys again, starting to recover, and trying to distract ourselves.  This often led us outside our community (because so little was open and we hadn't lived in the area long enough pre-storm to have made local friends or even routines).  Then came the resignation that the logistics of just getting to and from where we live is often more trouble than it's worth.  So there we are, back in our husk spinning the same maddening questions over and over.

 

Like any spectrum, it's a scale that leans positive on one side and negative on the other.  Some days have been great, some days are okay, some include normal levels of stress.  All things I can deal with.  But, most days are far off any sanity check, okay there is no normal, life is hard kind of spectrum.  Those moments at their mildest are "Our friends in Brooklyn and Manhattan lead somewhat normal normal lives, not all their conversations are about hurricanes and they have restaurants, laundromats and gyms just over the bridge". On the other extreme end – "It's cold, I'm soaking wet, I've been commuting for three hours for the third time this week and I just want to lay down on the sidewalk right here and give up."

 

This is some of the complaint I just filed with the MTA.  Since it was sent in haste, I made some tweaks in what I pasted below.  I'll spare you the letter I sent to the CEO of my insurance company, because that is a whole other battle that just exhausts me, and I am beyond tired…

 

Tonight I took the A to the Q52 at Rockaway Boulevard as I do every day.  It’s a transfer I dread, it’s rarely pleasant, but I do what I have to get to work and back.  The trip seemed uneventful until we got to Broad Channel when I noticed the bus was going very slow.  We were in the right lane and I stood up a few times over the course of a few minutes to see if there was traffic blocking the way.  There was not, cars were swerving around us.  I noticed fellow riders were also starting to stir and trying to figure out what was going on. 

 

After a few more minutes I started to worry that perhaps the driver was ill or in distress. I got up and asked the driver if he was okay.  I looked as his speedometer and noticed we were going 10-15 miles per hour.  He told me that he was frustrated that the stop button kept getting triggered and no one was getting off the bus.  There are not many stops through Howard Beach –  and I hadn’t noticed at all.  I was annoyed that I was being punished for what could have been accidental or even mechanical failure of one of the buttons.  That didn't stop the driver from slowing down and waiting for his protest to be noticed.  I noticed, I worried he might be dying, I checked on him and was confronted with a situation I had not considered, and so I returned to my seat.

 

I didn’t expect that some of the other passengers would react as they did.  What had started as a questionably dangerous situation quickly escalated to one.  Passengers were screaming at the driver, the driver was screaming back.  Cameras were shoved in his face while he continued driving the route.  Threats were made.  It was awful.  I regretted saying anything, even though my purpose was out of sincere concern for the driver.  I felt like I had triggered what followed.

 

I thought of the passengers, what they might still be going through, how disrupted our lives still are, and how awful our commute has been from the Rockaways without the A.  I wondered where the driver was from, what his life might be like, I mean we all have "things" and surely he had stuff that might be causing him to act out beyond what he told me was bothering him. 

 

The situation has been escalating seemingly every week over the past 3+ months.  Lines are longer, people are running on fading patience, fumes really.  Two weeks ago I was caught in between two men fist fighting after the man behind me shoved an older man in front of me (the man in front of me was walking with a cane, who does that?)  I've sat next to a grown woman bullying a larger man in front of us for taking up two seats.  Seats are a rarity – I've been pushed over by an elderly lady with a grocery cart jumping the line because she knows no one will offer her a seat up front reserved for the handicapped or elderly as they should.  During rush hour the trains are packed door to door, there is no visible white line to protect the passengers or the driver.  There are no lines, there is no order while waiting.  Civility has started to disintegrate on the Q52 and I believe it is only a matter of time before I witness or am caught up in something worse.

 

Taking the bus from the Rockaway Boulevard stop takes less time than other alternatives for those of us in my part of Rockaway, but a lot more time than anyone who lives within MTA serviceable routes plans for.  I feel confident in speaking for the passengers on the peninsula that we are tired.  I have no doubt your employees are too…and I would hope that your drivers aren’t goading passengers on when something as annoying as being asked to stop when no one gets off happens.

 

Before I exited, I stopped to tell the driver that I was sincerely worried about him.  That I hadn’t imagined he was trying to punish us for what one person may have done that upset him, and that may have even been because they were lost, or that maybe the bus itself was malfunctioning.  The driver then started yelling at me, about how people were shoving their phones in his face and yelling at him and how wrong it was.  I agreed, but also disagreed with how he handled it.    Then I just started sobbing and asking him to try to understand what life is like for all of us out here.   This was not how I expected my Friday evening to go, for my commute to end being yelled at by my bus driver.   But that’s the direction it went in when I boarded the Q52, bus number XXXX and found myself in the midst of a fight around Xpm on Friday, February 15th.

 

 

What I'd add if I hadn't already sent -

 

I’d ask that drivers on the Rockaway route (and others) get some extra support and perhaps sensitivity training for areas affected by life altering circumstances.  I ask that all drivers announce bus stops ahead of time.  When it’s raining and dark – you cannot see out the windows.  I have been that passenger who pressed the button ahead of my stop before.  In areas I am familiar with and areas I am not.  I ask that drivers understand customers may be confused by routes they are not familiar with.  This is not my first time dealing with a hostile and unapologetic bus driver.  I ask for more buses to ease rider’s frustrations, most of which I suspect are fear and actual pain from having to stand and balance, stuffed in like sardines, traveling on roads that have been deteriorating since Hurricane Sandy.  I ask for an ETA and commitment on a date for the return of the A and more communications on it’s progress.  Mta.info was great to check in for updates through December, but they have stopped updating on the situation in the Rockaways.  I ask to not have regular fear for my safety, other passengers, and for your drivers. 

 

This was not the first time, but it was the worst yet.  This cannot be the new "normal", there has to be a better way while the A will be closed for months to come.  Please help your customers and your employees get through this, it's escalating.  It is not working, it is broken

 

Because there is no option but to move in some direction, I try to move forward.  I try not to be angry, throw tantrums and otherwise sulk when services are still limping post-Sandy (this extends beyond the MTA).  I know you can't stop the world because you want to get off.  Life will deal harder hands still if I'm blessed to live a long life.  I know I can't dictate new bus lines and schedules.  I know our spectrums are skewed by any number and sorts of disasters.  And as a disaster implies, our spectrum is more likely to lean on the negative side.  I know I can't snap my fingers or click my heels together and have a lease dissolve or a painless, inexpensive move without sacrifices and risks.  But, I also think sometimes you have to stick up for yourself and file a complaint instead of carrying it and hoping things will change.  Maybe not scream "Uncle"  Uncle!-  but allow myself to cry a little.  I've lost track, I don't know if some of what I've been dealing with is normal, I don't know if my take is skewed so far in a direction that it doesn't make sense outside my day to day.  I honestly just don't know anymore.  And, I think that might honestly be the hardest part.



How to Hail a Cab in NYC


If you know me, you know I take cabs often.  I joke that my favorite subway line is the private yellow one, but most often it's a case of working late and I get reimbursed. 

 

I've been surprised to see NYers lifting their arm in traffic then stomping their feet when no one stops.  Friends have admitted they don't know how to tell if a taxi is free or not. 

 

I created this crude little guide to help.

 

Click here for business card guide size version you can print, snip, and carry.

 

I have noticed some newfangled taxi tops of late and they seem to be simplifying it to just a number, on or off .  Maybe it will be a lot more obvious in the near future.

 

Me and my blog are not affiliated with the TLC, please go here for official updates and communications.  I picked 2286 because it was the first four digit number that came to mind (and was my Girl Scout troop as a kid).



9-11 WTC Memorial 8th Annual Floating Lanterns Ceremony


9-11 WTC Memorial Annual Floating Lanterns Ceremony

 

 

In 2008 I attended the 7th Annual Floating Lanterns Ceremony for the first time.  As I've found words are often an insufficient medium to articulate both the personal experience of September 11th, life after;  the same goes for this annual ceremony on Pier 40.  Among a crowd of strangers, of many cultures and faiths, I am grateful for the personal comfort I have found in attending this memorial the past two years.  Out of respect for the event, the speakers, those in attendance, and you…I wanted to share the audio of the ceremony, without my own commentary. in the hope that those unable to attend in person may benefit from hearing it.

 

*Shinji Harada, Eriko Fukui , and the Japanese American Association of New York Chorus with Reono Ito, Conductor, performed beautiful musical tributes. My apologies for having to edit those segments down to short snippets, but unless audio or video clips appear online (and I can get permission to post them), the only justice I could do to these gorgeous moments was to remove them and try my best not to remove their context entirely.  I borrowed a small audio device to record and didn't know how to use it properly.  I will insert video clips if/when they appear online.  Aside from that I, editing was kept to a minimum. 


9-11 WTC Memorial 8th Annual Floating Lanterns Ceremony

Sponsored by the New York Buddhist Church
Partner with Interfaith Center of New York
Supported by NY de Volunteers and New York Kayak Company
Supported by Buddhist Council of New York, United States
New York Disaster Interfaith Services
LIC Community Boathouse
and NYC Downtown Boathouse

Delicious and generous feast provided and served by the UNITED SIKHS
 

 

Sincere and humble thanks (and hugs) to all the volunteers and organizations who participate and make this event as perfect as they do, I appreciate every moment of what they have done to commemorate a tragedy I wish we didn't need to.  Please donate to them when you can.



ARG, “The International” and being a viral marketing pawn


Forgive the very nasal audio summary…I’m still getting over the latest flu.  Detailed recap is captured here:

http://www.somethingfound.net/audio/112508.mp3

or scroll to the bottom and use the browser player

I had no idea what ARG was before today.  It means Alternate Reality Game.  I found myself taking part in one today for “The International”, a movie on its way to theatres from Sony Pictures. 

It started with a friend who saw something interesting on the unfiction forum

 

 

Participants were instructed to go the Guggenheim Museum in NYC on November 25, 2008 and find a man in a hat at 1pm. 

Next we were given our “Security Brief” which instructed us to head to the obelisk in Central Park and note the first letter of a number of words on the southernmost translation plaque (we figured out this was Cleopatra’s needle) .

That directed us to another location in the park where a phone would ring every 15 minutes and provide the next location.

From there, we went to the Bethesda Fountain to find “relief” with more clues

Finally, we found our next destination – the Central Park Zoo, more specifically, the “little dog”, where we found our cache of “blood money”.

Much fun was had, including a payoff in foreign currency.  For me, I was intrigued by the integration of live action role play and viral marketing.

www.stoptheinternational.com

Scan of the "Security Brief"

 



tonight


margaritas with margarita…
fun fun…then union square park where i felt under siege, so glad i’m out of town next week.
 



09112001


I slept.  I was utterly exhausted, more tired than I ever remember feeling before.  Perhaps my body was preparing itself for what may be a lifetime without a full night’s sleep.  The ringer on my phone was turned off and I’d written a brief email of thanks to everyone who flooded my inbox and voicemail with concern, there was nothing else I could do.  I felt so loved, but so completely empty and sad.

It was Tuesday, September 11th, around 9 PM

 

The week had begun on an odd note.  I looked at an apartment in the entirely “wrong side of town.”  It was a very old mansion in Jersey City, with an amazing room for rent for a reasonable price.   I went after work on Monday and it rained for the entire terrifying 30-minute walk from the PATH.  Having lived in South Boston, I thought I was pretty tough and that Jersey City wouldn’t be a big deal.  I was scared.  Men on bicycles in identical clothing eyed me suspiciously and people yelled at me from their dilapidated stoops.  The house itself was bizarre, Mrs. Havisham meets Ann Rice, meets “Boyz in the Hood.”  I clearly could not live there and not fear for my safety, but there was some allure in the drama of the whole situation.  The walk home was far worse than the walk there, it had gotten very dark and begun raining in buckets.  Half way back to the PATH train I spoke to Alex and he and I worked it out that I would meet him in Newark and he’d drive me home.  The ride home was funny, changing my shirt in the front seat in traffic, flashing a cop and some people waiting for a bus; we chatted about the apartment and made it out of Newark without incident.  Once on the highway we fought about his driving and the rest of the ride was a miserable angry silence.  Petty rage.  Once I got home, I had trouble sleeping, hoping to feel warm and dry after being drenched for so long and wishing to dream about the apartment I’d seen transported to a different neighborhood.

 

I woke up Tuesday morning nearly an hour later than usual.  I had 15 minutes to get ready if I was to make it on my usual 6:50 am train.  I called Missy to tell her if she didn’t see me at our usual time, I’d be there in time for the 7:20.  I rushed to get ready because I was determined to catch the earlier train and get a head start on the pile of work I had on my desk.  I’d begun taking the 1/9 from the World Trade Center on late and rainy days because it saved me the 20 minute walk from the PATH and also because I liked having a friend to talk to during the commute.  Missy had started her first semester in a graduate program not far from my office and the WTC was closer for her than Christopher Street, which is where I’d been commuting most of the time, and both stations were just about as close to my office.

 

Missy was shocked to see me in front of her house 15 minutes later, she was sure I’d just take my time and go on the later train.  My hair was uncombed, I wore no make up and even left my shoes to be tied on the train.  In the year I’d been commuting, I’d yet to leave myself with so little time.  Once on the train and somewhat more presentable, I told her about the apartment, about the nightmares I’d had in which I accidentally burned down my manager’s house, and complained about Alex.  As usual, she mostly listened to my silly rambling, though I think we both secretly prefer a morning nap to our chatting.  Although I was on time, I was still in the mindset of running late, so I decided to go to the WTC with Missy and take the 1/9 one stop from there.  It was a usual morning, but a break from my usual commuting pattern and probably why I remember the details so well.  The PATH was typically over-crowded and we got split up at some point on the escalator.  When I got to the concourse level, I waited at the top for Missy.  I didn’t see her, so I walked toward my subway entrance turning around a few times on my way to the subway to try to catch her eye and wave good-bye.  I saw the back of her head further ahead, on her way to her exit in the opposite direction.  I made a mental note to call her with a casual “Hey, What happened?  You disappeared.  Have a Good Day.”  I am a little neurotic and I don’t like not saying goodbye to someone in the morning.

 

Alex, an unfortunately located apartment, a bad dream, not saying good bye to Missy and reminding myself to call her and also find out if we would meet up for the return trip: these were my biggest concerns, my current problems. 

 

When I got out of the subway I instantly regretted my decision not to walk.  The weather was amazing, especially in the context of the night before.  I took my time walking the ½ block to my office, stopping at Ninos for breakfast and at a deli for a bottle of juice.  Sitting at my desk assessing my inbox, I enjoyed my egg and cheese on a roll from Ninos.  My routine of filling my water bottle to start the day brought me to the cooler at Northern-most side of our building.  I heard a plane flying really low almost at the same time my mind registered a bang that sounded like a truck accident in the Holland tunnel (which is just to my left below the window)  A woman in her office behind me yelled, “What was that?”  I didn’t answer.  I looked out the windows down on to the street expecting to see a car accident.  Several cars had stopped on Varick Street in the middle of their lanes.  People were outside of them with the doors open looking straight South.  From the angle where I was, I couldn’t see what they were looking at.  My memory of this image reminds me of one when I was in high school and left my p/t retail job for lunch one day.  It had just rained and there were people in the parking lot outside looking at a rainbow beyond my building, behind me.  I deduced it was a rainbow by the way the people were looking and the fact that the weather was clearing.  I had to walk a few moments to get far enough ahead so that the buildings weren’t blocking what they saw; afraid the whole time it might disappear before I got to see it.

 

I am a jumpy person.  Every time I hear a plane I get uncomfortable.  It is irrational and the best explanation I can offer is having an over- active imagination. I’d always imagined airplanes falling en masse from the sky where I am.  I didn’t want to embarrass myself by telling this woman what I thought might have happened.  Someone across the huge open space of my office, in front of the windows on the South side yelled, “Oh my God, the World Trade Center is on fire.  Holy Shit.”  At this point the woman from her office had come out and just looked at me, appearing more human and panicked than her typical polished self.  I said, “I heard a plane.”  We literally ran across the space to the window where we all did what people do when they react beyond themselves, their beliefs, and their ego.  Me, an atheist, cried “Oh my God, Oh my God”, over and over.  I saw the woman I ran with to the window with her hand over her mouth.  There were only about 5 of us there being that it was still early, and we all sort of stood, frozen in front of the large windows for a few minutes trying to figure out what happened. In trying to remember the exact order of things: the phone calls, people’s reactions, and my own reactions, I realize that many are scrambled and seem just as accurate when I rearrange them.  But, this is only with my memories of feelings, the concrete events never wavered, perhaps reinforced by watching the news for days afterwards.

 

Immediately I realized my Aunt Phyllis worked in one of the buildings and I had to call my Mother to make sure she was okay.  I told my Mom that the World Trade Center was on fire and she, having heard me talk in my sleep about such things, doubted I was being coherent.  I yelled at her “I am looking at a huge burning hole in the building, you need to find out what happened, check the news, call Aunt Phyllis, Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God….”  I told her I had to go and though there were a bunch of phone calls after that which all sort of blend together, I know I called her at some point soon after and she had heard on the radio that a plane had hit the building.  I passed the news onto my co-workers who were starting to gather, as it was closer to 9 o’clock.  At some point someone rolled a tv under the window to put on a news channel.  We all wondered what would happen.  How many people would get out?  Would the top of the tower topple off since it had the antennae on it and the hole made the building look precariously sliced ¾ of the way to the top.

 

I had been pacing back and forth, answering the instant message windows that popped up on my screen from friends, former co-workers and people I hadn’t spoken to in a long time.  My cell phone kept registering messages, but the phone wasn’t ringing and I couldn’t dial out since all the circuits were busy.  I stood at the window speculating how firefighters could battle such a fire and how long it would burn until it didn’t spread anymore.  I was quiet, I was nervous, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the image of burning bodies.  It is so morbid and horrifying and yet I knew I was watching the death of people, who had just come to work on a typical day, just as I had.  I prayed and prayed that my Aunt wasn’t one of them.

 

A huge fireball exploded out of the second building with no warning.  It was as if I was watching a movie clip, a special effect with the monitor on mute.  My immediate thought was that the colors were all wrong.  Having only seen fire like that in “the movies” my perception was limited to that of the NTSC colors, or the spectrum my cameras and monitors pick up.  It didn’t look real precisely because it was.  I screamed and started sobbing and hyperventilating.  I wanted to stop, I knew I was embarrassing myself, but I’d lost total control of my body and my breathing.  I heard some other cries and a man next to me jumped up and down screaming “Oh my God” and eventually fell to his knees and just cried.  Somehow my cell phone worked when I finally stopped shaking and shivering enough to get my Mom’s work number right.  I was sobbing so hard it took her awhile to calm me down enough to understand that I was telling her that both World Trade Center towers were burning.  I told her she had to find out if my Aunt was okay and that from what I could tell she might not be alive.  I felt so bad saying it, but I felt like she needed to know at that moment. 

 

Some time after I hung up with my Mom again, I heard that the man next to me, who had collapsed, say he saw the plane’s wing as it turned to hit the tower.  At this point I knew two planes had hit the World Trade Center, where I had been not one hour earlier.  I kept shaking my hands and flapping my arms, trying to get feeling in them, my body was physically numb and I was getting nervous that I might faint.  Looking down toward the street immediately in front of me there were hordes of people running both to and from the burning towers.  The footbridge across the street was packed and the street below it was too.  It was living hell before me, with lava-like liquid fire pouring down from the second tower.  Burning jet fuel was flowing down like a waterfall from the middle section of the building where it had been hit.  A woman was screaming because she’d seen a body fall from one of the burning towers.  I was surprised it upset her so much as I had noticed several jumping from the time the first tower was hit.  Nothing could surprise me; nothing could affect me more.  Our “state of the art” air conditioning system which is supposed to filter all the exhaust from the Holland Tunnel (and then some), had begun to smell faintly of smoke.  The news was reporting the Pentagon had been hit by a plane as well, they had the screen split between NY and Washington DC while reports of other hijacked planes and car bombs were blaring on the radio and the tv.  World War 3 had begun and the United States was being attacked.  I was in a building over the entrance of the Holland Tunnel and I was stuck in New York City.  I didn’t think I’d see my family or friends again.  I was afraid for Missy, I was scared for my Father who worked in Times Square, and I had given up on my Aunt. 

 

Before the second plane had hit, Missy’s boyfriend had called me to tell me he couldn’t get in touch with her.  He asked me where she was and told me I had to find her.  I cried and kept telling him “I don’t know,” I’m sure that I was making no sense because I couldn’t connect my thoughts to what I said.  Every thing I saw, heard, felt, or thought was disconnected– each sense acting independently and completely beyond my control.  I had been instant messaging people, finding out what else was going on in Boston and on the international CNN channel.  I said a lot of things I regret, I didn’t realize that these people were not seeing what I was and so my reports was scaring them for their safety as well as mine.  I stood at the window and looked at all the sick faces of my co-workers, friends, and a few people I flat out dislike.  I didn’t want to be touched and most people reacted by trying to comfort one another.  I got upset as a friend tried to hug me because I was still shivering and shaking. 

 

Being that part of my company is a news source, the employees were frantic to get pictures and footage of the scene in front of us.  People were on the phone with filmmakers and photographers, scheduling helicopters, running to the roof.  One man asked me if he could borrow my cell phone for the day since he needed to run down to the site.  I looked at him horrified, cut off my only contact to my family when I was not sure I’d ever see them again in person?  He seemed insulted I didn’t think of the company first and let him borrow it.  I’m not sure how much time lapsed, how many more land-line phone calls I made and received, or how many people I instant messaged, or what I even said to them,…but I looked up from the tv screen at some point to see the second tower that had been hit crumble.  It was like it had transformed to baby powder, soft, but black, it melted in the most graceful way.  The building was gone in seconds and an enormous dust-cloud enveloped most of the buildings between the towers and mine.  I didn’t hear it, I don’t know if it made a sound that we could hear, my mind was completely blank.  My concern had been extinguishing a fire so high up, but it never occurred to me that the entire structure could fall.  I walked up to my desk telling people along the way that one of the buildings was gone. 

 

I remember calling my Mother, trying to hear her over the radio that was reporting the news near my desk.  I told her over and over that I had to find Missy, that she may be hurt.  I don’t remember if she already knew it crumbled or if I told her, or if she found out later, but I did tell her Goodbye.  I told her I loved her and that I’d stay in my building as long as I could before the fires made their way North.  We talked about how I could meet up with my Father, and I told her I’d call him and we’d figure something out.  I heard someone running behind me and it was Missy, her face looked nearly unrecognizable, filled with terror and soaked with tears.  I told my Mother that Missy was unharmed and at my office and she told me that “it was going to be okay.”  We hugged and I tried to do the consoling, I told her “it was going to be okay,” that “I didn’t want to die today.” 

 

Her cell phone was worthless, so I found an empty office for her to make all the calls she had to make.  I was trying to reach my Father, but the circuits were busy and I kept getting text messages from him on my phone that I had to call him.  I felt trapped in my building, trapped in the city, anticipating the next strike, attack, explosion, noise, whatever, with no way to talk to the people I needed to.  I noticed I’d taken off my shoes somewhere along the line and had been trolling around my office in socks.  Still completely disconnected, I put my shoes on.  More screaming from the windows.  I jogged back to see the first tower that had been hit, sinking beyond the buildings in front of it.  The huge antennae that distinguished the two buildings from one another descended as if it were slow motion, straight down.  The black ash and debris was very thick, but it was clear that the buildings were gone, there was only blank space.  It was not even 10:30am.

 

The entire office was called for a meeting where we were told not to leave.  It was clear that there would be no way out of the city for awhile and it was safest to stay inside away from the crowds and debris.  I still hadn’t spoken to my Father.  We were then asked to make a list of all the people who had family and friends in the World Trade Center.  I stood next to Missy crying quietly and wanting to disappear.  I couldn’t do it, there was no need to add my name to a list.  I felt so awful that I’d accepted that someone in my family was gone, leaving her kids and husband.  I split from the meeting before it was through, desperate to get in touch with my Father and tell him my decision to stay put as long as I could.  It was really good to finally talk to him, and comforting to know he was in the city with me.  We considered having him meet me at my building since we weren’t sure it would be safe to walk through the streets.  In the end I told him I’d call him when I found out what other people were doing.  Within 15 minutes of getting back to my desk, the landlord decided to evacuate the building.  Two Senior Managers came to my desk to tell me that since it was a planned terrorist attack, it would not be safe to remain so close to the Holland Tunnel.  I plead with them, completely terrified, I told them I lived really far outside the city and I didn’t know what I’d do.  I feel really silly looking back on it, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who panicked. 

 

There was a group of people who lived in New Jersey making their way to the ferry.  The ferry was still open according the radio.  I called my Father and gave him all the information for him to meet us in Hoboken at a co-worker’s house if he wanted to leave or had to at some point.  By the time we got out of the building, a radio in the street vendor’s cart told us the ferry had closed and there was no way to get out of Manhattan.  I no longer had a landline to call my Father.  It took about 20 attempts to get through on my cell phone, but I got the address for for where he was in Midtown and set off with Missy to walk the 60 or so blocks to meet up with my Father.  We’d already accepted we’d likely be spending the night in Manhattan so we stopped at a deli to buy water and protein bars.  The ATM machines along the way were empty so we paid with our credit cards to hold on to the little cash we had in our wallets.

 

The walk uptown was surreal.  There were vehicles parked on 7th Avenue with their radios on, the volumes as high as they go and crowds of people gathered around them listening to the news.  Every few blocks we looked behind us and saw the grey dust cloud appearing closer to us.  Once we rounded the bend a few blocks before St. Vincent’s, we could see the hospital was barricaded about two blocks on either side.  The sirens that hadn’t stopped for hours were intense, ambulances racing to and from the hospital with clouds of white trailing behind them from all the dust and debris that covered them as they got close to where the World Trade Center had been.  Crowds of people were already lined up around the building to donate blood and a triage unit had been set up on the sidewalk in front of the main entrance for the great number of people they were expecting to need medical help.

 

Missy and I were pretty quiet.  I had my Walkman on, listening to Howard Stern who had decided to stay on the air and keep reporting as long as he could.  There was a lot of misinformation being reported, such as a bomb in front of the State House, and a fire at the Mall in the capitol.  We walked past Penn Station and the Empire State building and quickened our pace with the fear that something might happen to them next.  Times Square looked like it does on any given day, tourists milling around, packs of people looking up at the giant screens and lights as they jam up the sidewalks.  Missy and I felt as though we’d entered a different world.  Our pace didn’t slow as we continued toward 48th street. 

 

A few blocks away from where we were meeting my Father, I felt a cold wet drop on my hand.  I was upset to think that water from an air conditioner or window washer landed on my phone and on my hand.  After about a block of walking with my arm sort of angled behind me with my body to rush through the crowds I looked to see why it still felt wet.  I had been crapped on by a bird.  Missy and I reacted as though it was the funniest thing that we’d ever seen.  The absurdity of the moment and the hours that brought us there left us a giddy mess.  I kept telling myself that it was lucky.  I’d heard it meant luck, so it was lucky, right?  I was lucky to be walking to see my Father, lucky to not be harmed, but could a person feel lucky after seeing what had happened?  I hated the word and the concept and knew if anyone told me I was lucky or that I should feel lucky, the word would make me sick, sicker than having shit on one hand and my lunch in the other. 

 

The security guard wouldn’t let us in the building.  I had pretty much figured on having to fight to get in, but once I started talking, my desperate need to see my Father turned me into a child who was begging for her Daddy.  I rambled about having walked from downtown, being 2 hours away from home, not knowing how I’d get there, and just needing to see “my Daddy.”  As the security guard’s resolve was softening my Father was walking over to the door with another security guard who had given him permission to have us in the building.  It was so good to be with one of my parents.  As I hugged him, I felt really bad for Missy who was still so far away from hers.  We went inside and downstairs to the IT area.  My Dad welcomed us to “the bunker” which I am still not sure whether or not it is a true bunker or just nicknamed that since it has no windows. 

 

It felt safe to be inside with only the radio replaying the events of the morning.  My Father’s boss was still in the office along with a younger woman who would be making the trip towards NJ with us.  I used a pre-moistened alcohol swab to clean my hand, took a tylenol, and ate my sandwich while we considered walking the 140 blocks or so to the George Washington Bridge since it was open to pedestrians.  My Father was concerned as to whether or not we could handle the long hike.  The plan was to cross the bridge and then my Dad’s co-worker’s boyfriend would pick us up and drive us to my Mom’s office in Teaneck.  Having hurt my feet a few weeks prior by wearing improper shoes, I was already in a lot of pain from the walk to midtown.  I didn’t want to add the fact that I’d need to stop and buy walking sneakers to make it half the distance.  It seemed too inappropriate to be shopping on that particular day regardless of how necessary, it seemed ridiculous.

 

After we’d been in “the bunker” for about an hour we heard on the radio that the A train would be opening at around 1:30 pm.  That particular subway was what we needed to get to the George Washington Bridge.  My Father called my Mother to tell her the plan, and she relayed the information that my Aunt was accounted for–she was okay!  I was thrilled by the news and frustrated that we couldn’t contact her to see exactly where she was and if she needed help getting to NJ.  We left the building not knowing how long it might ultimately take us to get to New Jersey.  The walk was about 12 blocks and the only way to explain the mood was "jovial”.  Everyone seemed to be headed towards the same train (since it was the only one working) yet we all stopped at every subway along the way to see if it was the right one.  No one really knew exactly where they were going, just following the crowds in the same direction.  People were talking and joking with strangers and everywhere I looked, mostly men, were carrying and drinking brown bagged cans of beer while they walked. 

 

The time I spent between 60th street and the bridge in the subway was torture.  The train was very slow since they were running as many cars as they could to get people out of the city.  I felt cut off from the city above us and my mind raced with all the things that could be going (wrong) while we were underground.  I felt like I was playing the lead part in some science fiction/WW3/Armageddon movie where we were doing the “wrong thing.”  Like in a horror movie when the virgin heads into the haunted woods at night, alone, in her pajamas, and you yell at the screen because you know no one would really do that in “real life.”  We were, afterall, in the New York subway, which has always seemed a vulnerable place to attack.    

 

When we got to the bridge, a man had overheard Missy and me talking to my Father.  We exchanged addresses where we were downtown as sort of a pat on the back, linked in some brotherhood of eyewitnesses which again lead to think about the word lucky and what it meant to be “lucky.”  I didn’t want to be one of those people who would talk about that day like “I remember exactly where I was when JFK was shot.”  Everyone would have their story and mine was just another set of images that would play inside my head before I fell asleep for a long time.  I guess more than anything, I shed a major innocence that day…Just realizing how insignificant we all are.  It sounds sad and self-pitying, and I don’t mean it that way, just in the sense of the world and how many of us there ARE and how lucky I’d been (as an American) to never truly fear for my life before that day.

 

Above ground, the scene was total chaos.  There were literally thousands of people trying to cross the bridge.  In the time it took us to get there, the bridge had been closed to pedestrians, but re-opened to cars.  The police held large guns and when I approached one to ask if the bridge would be reopened, he pushed me several feet backwards back onto the curb, never answering my question.  Behind police barricades riot gear was lined up.  There were shuttle buses arriving intermittently on either of two curbs.  When one would pull up it would be immediately swamped with several times its capacity.  People had begun chanting “Let us walk, Let us walk!”  As the cars sat in traffic approaching the bridge, people were knocking on their windows asking for rides.  Pick up trucks were fair game for people jumping into the back.  We decided to walk a few blocks away from the bridge to approach people before they saw the crowds and got frightened.  The first vehicle we approached was an SUV with two women and one man inside who nodded “No” to my father.  When they saw Missy with her hands pressed together in a demonstration of prayer and a look not unlike the one I’d seen on her face earlier in the day, they looked at one another and nodded a tentative “yes.”   The four of us filled the stranger’s vehicle and made small talk.  I was comfortable in the back seat with one of the women.  Missy, my Dad, and Susan were stuffed uncomfortably in the back.  I repeatedly offered them a more comfortable seat with me, but thy all gave up the opportunity just wanting the ride to be over with.  I’m not sure if I had just heard the sounds of planes or heard Missy and my Father talking about them, or if I actually saw them, but I can’t forget the image of F-16s flying over the George Washington Bridge. 

 

As we crossed the span, it was the first time I saw the smoke rising from lower Manhattan from a distance.  The skyline looked artificial as NY always does from the outside, but I still couldn’t accept reality in the context of the location, the decade, my life.  I spent the rest of the ride trying to make conversation and avoiding looking in that direction.  I knew no one was listening, I saw them all out of the corner of my eye looking where I didn’t want to.  I made a faux pas while talking to the driver who mentioned that her husband used to work in the Trade Center.  I asked her where he was currently working and she told me he’d passed away the year before.  It was almost refreshing to feel embarrassed by my question, and stammer my apology.  I’d spent the entire morning and afternoon trying to watch every word I said, but failing in my effort to avoid clichés and silly questions.

 

Though we knew the driver was willing to pretty much drive us anywhere, we had her drop us off on the side of the highway, literally right at the tollbooths along the median.  There were cars lined up doing the same thing in front and behind us.  We walked off the highway and toward a Burger King where Susan’s boyfriend was supposed to be picking us up.  We certainly weren’t the only people using this as a meeting point.  The parking lot was packed with cars and people trying to figure out “I’m in Jersey, what now?”  The streets were also jam packed, bumper to bumper with nowhere for the cars to go (the bridge was still closed going towards NY).  We decided to start walking toward Teaneck and if Susan’s boyfriend passed by, he’d pick us up and drive us the rest of the way.  While we walked someone yelled, “Did you walk from NY?” it occurred to me that we were fleeing New York City, the people who were also walking reminded me of refugees.

 

Maybe an hour and a half later we arrived at my Mom’s office and found a sign on the door that said “Meet us at the bar.”  Since her office is attached to a hotel, we found the lobby and eventually, the bar.  Freddie and Ellen, friends of the family were waiting with her and we all hugged our hellos.  The bar was pretty crowded with people watching the events of the day on the news.  I realized it was the first time my Father was seeing the images I described to him.  Every time they replayed the buildings being hit or crumbling I pointed and said “Look at that, look, look Mom, look Dad.” Like a little kid trying to get their parent’s attention with something they want everyone to see.  I ate and felt bad that Missy still hadn’t met up with her parents.  I knew she wanted to leave and be on our way closer to home and closer to them. 

 

We listened to the news in the car on the way.  I have no memory of anything else until I wrote the email to answer my emails and messages.  I woke up the next morning and called in to work to see if I was expected there.  I left a message.  The city was closed from 14th street down and I knew it might be awhile.  That Wednsday evening my manager called me at home to tell me we weren’t expected back until the following Monday–if the city was opened by then.  From watching the news for days, I knew I couldn’t make my first trip back on my way to work.  My mother and I ventured into Hoboken and immediately saw posters of missing people before we crossed the Hudson.  It was an emotional day, but it provided a buffer to the shock that every day since has been.

 

My life is the same.

I go to work. I commute nearly 2 hours each way. I have good intentions. I argue with my mom. I hope for romance. I eat too many carbs. I love my dog. But, my world is completely changed. I am always afraid. I see police everywhere. They check id’s and bags in the streets. Parts of the city are barricaded. I’ve seen SUVs and trucks searched for bombs by police who walk up and down the street with long sticks with upturned mirrors on them. I’ve seen F-16s fly above the GWB with orders to shoot down a jetliner if need be. The national guard and other military personal come in by the bus and humvee load to search for body parts or evidence (or anything) in the pile that was where I used to dilly dally before heading home. People wear gas masks to work on Wall Street. I know I’ll find ash on someone’s work boots by the look in their eyes. The Holland Tunnel has been closed for 3 weeks and I accept once it’s opened it might be a target. I will not be able to bring a nail clipper on a plane. Ninos, my old egg on a roll place is closed to the public and only open to the police who need rest and food more than I do. Everyone has become a suspect. Cynicism, the nation’s last fashionable past time is lost, but for how long. And, I wonder if I’ll ever have to use one of the dust masks I carry in my bag.

 

I have become irrationally afraid of beautiful days.