What follows here is an email that I sent out to friends and family on the afternoon of September 11, 2001 – unedited, exactly as I wrote it that day . Today is September 11, 2011. It turns out there are a couple of things worth recalling from that moment, that day. - Ian.
Though it's been a difficult day here in nyc, Lindsey and I and everyone we know are ok, as far as we can tell. It's been a terrifying day here, but mostly it's been terrifying in the same way that I'm sure it is for all of you, no matter where you live. Ian S wrote me earlier today, and as I replied to his mail, I was able to start to communicate what we've been experiencing here. I included some of it below. Pardon my state of shock and rambling. Talk to you soon. Everyone be well, and be good, too. Love, Ian.
Things have been crazy--but all of that craziness seems pathetic (obviously) in light of these events. L.A. and I were scheduled to head out to LI to meet with our accountant, and I had left a critical printout at studio, so I was on my way over there at about 8:45, listening to 1010WINS, the all-news AM station. Halfway there, they reported that a plane had crashed into the WTC--I looked up, and sure enough, there was black smoke streaming from that part of Manhattan... At the next intersection I had a clear view of the building, and it was horrifying--at that point, though, it still wasn't clear what type of aircraft it was, so it just seemed like a horrible accident. I tried, without any luck, to call Lindsey, just to let her know that it seemed unlikely that we'd be driving out to Long Island, though I still did not quite imagine the magnitude of what was to happen.
Minutes later, of course, the other tower was hit, and it got very scary. I got to studio and people were just running to the river's edge to watch what at that point had to be the most stunning, numbing, shocking, frightening thing ever. The buildings looked like they were bleeding into the sky, debris was falling and sailing around--you could see plates of glass, massive chunks of metal, just falling as the black outpouring aggressively spread around the building. I called my Dad--just as an outlet... at this point it just seemed horrible, yet contained. Some time went by, and I sort of went through the motions of getting my paperwork as I listened to the radio and periodically looked out the window. I still couldn't get in touch with Lindsey--she was waiting for me to pick her up at our coffee place. Mobile phones were useless.
Stu came into the studio and we could barely speak--there was nothing to say--we decided to just try to drive back to our neighborhood--Stu lives nearby. As we were fumbling about, trying to think about what to do, I stood by the window. Just as it seemed like nothing could be more insane or more gut-wrenching, the southern tower just started collapsing on itself. Massive pieces of architecture moving in a way that looked more like a mudslide or a volcano. From my perspective, it appeared to be taking most of Tribeca out--it just engulfed that part of the city. It looked impossible. I lost control of my voice and just started yelling out to Stu, practically yelping, as the building just disappeared into massive clouds of debris, smoke, and dust... There is no way that I will ever be able to describe what I saw. The words that come to mind sound useless as they make their way into my throat, and they can't come out. It was so utterly unreal. It was the physical manifestation of every horrific, terrible, brutal, soulless thought or idea that's ever existed in our global consciousness. It was worse than language can possibly describe. Writing about it appears to be the only way to tap into a portion of this realization and emotional response... so please pardon my ramblings.
Stu and I headed back to our neighborhood--a slow process during which we heard the news that the second tower had collapsed. We looked back at the next intersection, and there was no sign of either building--a smoke-filled gap in the sky that, again, was impossible to comprehend. So far, it appears that all of those closest to us are ok--all family members, including Claire, who is in Manhattan for the semester, are accounted for.
As frightening as all of this has been, the thing that has me shaken and in shock is the spectre of the fear, resentment, and outright hatred that I fear will flood our country and the rest of the globe, well after the physical event has disappeared. Balance will be very difficult to restore. On one hand, it is amazing to see people looking out for one another as everything appears to fall apart around them, but it is deeply saddening to think that it takes this kind of catastrophe to get people to overlook petty concerns and just be kind to those around them. The saddest thing is that while we'll all remember the physical event-- most of us won't be able to remember the way we felt. If only people could hang on to that feeling of common ground with nearby strangers that such a disaster instills. If we could somehow keep that in our emotional memory, we'd be better equipped to move forward--whether in the context of a local community, a nation, or a planet.
I'm going to stop blathering on right now. We're going to get some groceries. Sorry for the semi-coherent rambling--it really has helped to release some of the emotional pressure inside.