How did 9/11 sneak up on me?
I was supposed to meet my friend Bill on the plaza of WTC at the base of Tower One on Sept 11, 2001. We were co-writing a musical and met every Tuesday at 8:30am at the Cosi Coffee Shop before his first class at Tisch. But on Sept 10 of that year I was feeling lazy so I called him and asked to skip the meeting. We did.
I was, therefore, sound asleep in my bed when my building shook from the reverberations of the plane hitting the tower a block from my apartment. I was physically shaken awake by the sonic wave. My husband, who was late for work in the next room, was shouting, “A bomb! There was a bomb!” as he watched the insane huge confetti of thousands of pieces of copy paper rain in crazy patterns, like a snowstorm of legal documents thrown against the ridiculous cobalt blue of the sky.
The rest of the day has been documented over and over.
Every year I remember what’s coming because of the annual Ghost Light (not its real name) memorial — the piercing double-beamed Tribute in Light to the victims of 9/11 gets a dress rehearsal one week before the actual event. Here is how it goes every year: I see a bright beam of white light touching the passing night clouds as I’m cheerfully walking home from some new bar or restaurant in my neighborhood and think, hey! I wonder if a new club is opening and then ka-bam! like a gut-punch I recognize the lights as two beams symbolizing the missing towers and a weight the size and shape of a wet cement block travels from my throat to my stomach and sits there from the dress rehearsal date until September 11 when they play the lights across the sky “for real” remembering that awful day in unwanted flashes and recalling the stench and the dust on my teeth and the grit it took to swallow the fear that everything was forevermore going to be unstable.
But this year, for the first time in 20 years, that didn’t happen. Oh, the gigantic light apparatus is still there, on the roof of the Battery Park Garage — but what has changed is my sky. Downtown NYC is now cluttered with extremely tall buildings. Spiking up on every block, developers have stuck glass-and-steel buildings: hotels, residences, attempted-offices, and blank buildings with no purpose attached except maybe to make money. One WTC is…