We are approaching the ten-year reunion of 9/11 which brings back so many painful memories for so many Americans, including me. I was in NYC for 9/11. I had lived here for a just over a year at that point. The summer before 9/11 had been one of the best in my life. Back then, I lived in a tiny east village apartment on 6th and A with my friend Gabe and all we did was party, party, party. I took a bus to the West Village that morning because I wanted to use the computer at my then boyfriend’s place. He lived on 10th street, just west of 7th Ave. Just before leaving the apartment, I happened to hear that a plane had crashed into Tower One of the World Trade Center. Therefore, I was the only one on that #8 bus who knew something bad was up. While everyone else was looking down, reading their books, I was looking up and saw smoke, people standing on their roofs. It was an eerie ride. When the bus let us out on Christopher and 10th at 9AM our lives would be forever changed. Here’s the article that I wrote about that day, still published in Friction Magazine which is still so poignant in my mind.
Where are we 10 years later? I married that boyfriend who lived on 10th street a few years later. We now have a toddler and another baby girl on the way. We still live in NYC. After 8 years of living in the West Village, in an apartment we inherited from a couple “who were too afraid to stay in the city after 9/11”, we moved to Battery Park City, a stone’s throw from where the Towers once stood. We live in a fancy “green” building with recycled central air and triple filtered water. 10 years ago I couldn’t even go down here because it reminded me of 9/11 and it felt dark and uninhabitable, like some sort of war zone. Now I live across the street from the buzz of the new “Freedom Tower.”
Because I’m so close to it all, I don’t think about it so much anymore. That is, until today. I watched a special on the show Sunday Morning. It talked about the strength of the new building. A 747 full of fuel could fly into it and it would survive. The program also focused on the stories of the victim’s families. So many people lost someone that day. Just like all the other New Yorkers, I remember seeing the images of the “lost” all over the city and one image in particular is still vivid in my mind. It was of a man with white hair and a beard. He looked like Santa. He could have been someone’s dad, someone’s grandpa, someone’s husband. Maybe he was someone’s everything. His photo was plastered everywhere. I must have seen him 100 times in different places. For some reason it was his story, a story I made up that had me so sad. His story was the story of so many.
I can remember wanting to help, but feeling helpless. I can remember that I couldn’t stop crying. When I’d try to stop the tears welled up and I cried even harder. Days turned into nights, then weeks of this. Nothing but shock, tears and fear. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who died. My roommate Gabe was supposed to be there that day but decided not to go to work. He was lucky, so many were not.
Back then I was afraid to travel, afraid to still live in New York, afraid I’d never get over the shock and horror of watching it happen right before my eyes. But like so many, I’ve moved on. I had my first play produced a month after September 11th, and became a graduate student in playwriting at a NYC university the next fall. Did the experience influence me? My writing? Yes. I think, for me anyway, the party kind of ended on 9/11. That summer of debauchery was over. Suddenly, on 9/12/01 the reality of what I was in New York to do became clear and present. I wasn’t 100% sure of myself before 9/11, after 9.11 I had to be.
I feel there is an analogy between the Internet business and 9/11. The Internet business was so frivolous and new before 9/11. It was one big party with money being thrown around for and at anything with a dotcom sounding name in the title. No one really knew what was happening or what they were doing. I was part of this world. I worked for a few of these companies. It was how I made my way to New York City from San Francisco in the first place. Just like New York in 2001, there were a lot of vapid Internet parties, and yes, they were related and intertwined. The Internet business changed after 9/11 and by 2003 it had officially become something new and better. It was no longer vapid and full of cheap frills. Finally business owners figured out how to make money by using the web. Web 2.0 it would be called. New York might as well be called “New York post 9.11” or “New York 2.0.” The new New York was not nearly as hard and edgy as she once was, but the people making up her dreams are and will be (Paris Hilton aside).