Note: Click any image here for a clear, large version. All images will open into a new window. To continue, just close the new window. Smaller monitors may require some scrolling to view the whole image. 256 color systems may display posterized colors in skies and other places -- use thousands or millions of colors if possible. All full-sized images are larger than usual jpegs (>10", ca. 100 megs each), as no smaller size can do justice to this event, one which will loom as the lowest nadir of perfidious human evil. To quote FDR from 60 years ago, this truly is "a day which will live in infamy."
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9- Nighttime Views
There were many things I had to get back to which remained more or less untouched a week later. While in one sense we can fool ourselves into thinking we're going along just nicely, handling the increased stress and anguish of a national tragedy, another part of our minds keeps peeking over our shoulders, so to speak. In my case I was aware that everything I was doing was done in slo-mo. I was a jar of molasses on a cold night in winter. Eventually a few things were accomplished. But it took forever, and very little to show for it. Finally I wanted to see how my city and neighborhood had changed by this cruel attack during the evening hours, the "magic hour" and shortly afterwards.
Looking South on Fifth Avenue
So at the start of the new week I decided to go out for dinner to a small restaurant due west of here. As I crossed the various avenues I stopped to snap a picture. Some views comfortingly were about the same as always. But looking down Fifth Avenue you could see right away that something familiar was missing. The traffic all around me and pedestrians at the dinner hour were going about their usual tasks, if slightly more slowly. I found I had to steel myself to look south, and to take a few pictures of what I saw.
Looking South on Sixth Avenue
During twilight and the "magic hour" the light level changes quickly. Here just one long city block later, walking briskly, you can see a deeper shade of darkness engulfing the city, as lights begin to turn on in a dazzling "white way" other than Broadway north of Times Square. This angle always showed the towers to good advantage. Now only some buildings of the World Financial Center, towers Three and Two, remain, crouched down low. See them there? The tall mast on 1 WTC, with all its radio, television and even high-def transmitters and antennae would commence each evening to wink at us with the slow throb found on transmission towers around the world. They're mainly there to prevent the accidental plane crashes of the kind that happened in July 1945 into the north face of The Empire State Building. Then it was a B-25 bomber, and 14 lives were lost, during an unusually opaque, rainy Saturday morning.
The lights are now gone, destroyed with everything else in a bombast of mayhem brought about by that very same action: a plane crash. But these new crashes were not at night, and were no accident, although that's what my disbelieving brain first assumed the rest of me must be what had happened. That fiction never gained status as an "urban legend," as it lasted but some minutes before it became obvious what really was happening, which was worse, MUCH worse.
You can also see the attractive clock tower of a much older building, now a the Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library. That and a shorter solitary church spire behind it are all that spear the twilight sky in this spot. They had been dwarfed up to two weeks ago. Like a scene from Finney's sumptuous fantasy novel, "Time and Again", we are like that tale's protagonist, noting an older New York City, one in which there are still "skyscrapers" of a sort. The many steeples of churches and temples and a handful of large civic buildings would slice the sky nearer to the horizon into smaller chunks.
In our own time the chunks have dwindled, and the sky remains unblocked only directly overhead. One of the few sacrifices I made to live here was to give up much (but not all) of my love of astronomy and the stars. Light pollution is now somewhat on the wane due to new streetlights and awareness. 4th and 5th magnitude stars can now been seen from the rooftops of many buildings on a few dozen nights each year. At one time you'd be lucky to spot much dimmer than 2nd magnitude. But I do miss the dark skies of New England when I was growing up. And now I miss the World Trade Center. In both cases I had to lose something first, before the loss hit me in the chest.
Looking South on Seventh Avenue
If you had looked south on Seventh Avenue, here near 11th Street, you would have seen both towers, well, "towering" over the night skies. Now there is nothing but the memories of them, those of us still alive to HAVE the memories. I hope they do decide to rebuild something on the spot. We need the office space if we are to keep the businesses and companies here that had been using the WTC for years. We may be able to do a better job of it now, and keep a section of the Plaza for a permanent memorial to the lives lost on 9/11/01. Perhaps return one of those gnarled metal sections to a memorial on the plaza level. My late collaborator's film, "2001 -- A Space Odyssey" provided us with over three decades of things to look forward to as we marked the start of the new Millennium. Now this year is forever marked not with optimistic images, hopes of space stations and lunar bases yet to be realized, but by melancholy and anger.
Remembrance Wall on St. Vincent's Hospital
On the way home I paused at Saint Vincent's Hospital, which is located on the opposite side of the street from where I took the last photo. Along the south wall of the building I saw some people stopping to read a long expanse of postings of people who were missing. The Hospital is the one that had braced itself to give emergency medical aid to the people who were found alive but wounded. They prepared quickly for the worst, cases of inhalation of smoke and particulate, burns, cuts from falling glass and metal and whatever else might happen in such a ferocious event. A few hundred case were treated early on. Then fewer, then two days later, none. Whomever was found still alive would likely have been one of those lucky enough to be out of the buildings, running for cover. The rest would never return. I originally feared the death toll would be nearer to the usual occupancy of the buildings. But reports came that most people just ran for the exit stairways, and got out of there as fast as they could. I wish everyone had been so able. I wish the hundreds of firefighters and police who bravely tried to assist had not lost their lives in their line of duty.
Just a Few of the Missing
Here's a closer view of just a fraction of the images that are affixed to the hospital wall. Many shown here were moved from more exposed locations, as there's an overhang above this section of wall, which offers some shelter from the weather. When you look at a whole wall covered like this, with so many detailed, loving descriptions of lost love ones, you can't help yourself -- you shudder involuntarily. There is such hope expressed in these descriptions. The photos are generally as you might expect, taken at a party, or on vacation -- when do we normally grab snapshots of our own family and closest friends, after all? It feels completely incongruous, otherworldly, to see the smiling faces, so healthy and full of life. So many young people, too, lives ended before they had really begun. We have all died a little with them; the American psyche has died a little.
As I said at the start, seeing the debris and wreckage left me numb. I found the site chilling, horrific, while the Union Square crowd and my fire station gave it a personal, human face. This is where it felt natural to express our grief, our collective hopes and fears for the future. A week later the city took down all the shrines and posters, all the flowers and candles and signs are now gone. But people still come anyway. They'll probably continue for awhile, until the cold weather intervenes. Gradually we are moving on from this stage, to -- what's next after denial and grief? Acceptance? And then what? We all still are angered and know the taste of wanting swift justice and even vengeance. I can't tell you here what will come of the seething and reaction to such a massive terrorism. Conflagrations and unending ethnic and religious wars have been fought on many shores, but never before on these. We have a lot of growing up to do. But the American people are strong. We will get there, just give us time, time to think, and time to mourn.
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Post Postscript July 2007
Time to Mourn
This brief section is being added nearly six years after that horrific event. While making this first "aftermath" addition since my 2002 Postscript comments (on the last page of this rather lengthy single-topic section), I'm suddenly struck by how my most pessimistic predictions in that postscript (and on the page it completed) have been grossly exceeded by an astonishingly incompetent, lawless, self-serving administration. Shame. I just hope we can still survive it, as I've worried in several candid postings from the past six years.
But this newest section is no polemic or soapbox (and the minority who still don't "get it" probably never will). It's a simple personal addendum about something closely related to these aftermath postings, something I saw for the first time only a week ago. As a final cap to a three-year delayed get-away which I really needed, I visited my good friends, synthesist Larry Fast, and his tech-whiz wife, Phyllis, who live in mid NJ. It was also the first time I could see how their extensive home reconstruction and expansion project was progressing.
We get along so very well, it was wonderful to visit and catch up, see them, pet the cats, enjoy a wonderfully mild and sunny early Summer afternoon. Their home is now about four times larger than before, and will be gorgeous when it's completed soon. I love seeing creative people work out creative puzzles, which in this case respected the older original sections, while complementing them with tasty, striking, comfortable new expansions. As we wound down our visit, they happened to mention that near them is the bell tower memorial to 9-11 that I'd read about a few years ago. Would I like to see it? Most certainly! So on our way to a quick meal together, we stopped by this quiet, lovely spot. Let me post a couple of photos of it.
As you leave your car in the secluded, convenient parking lot, you descend several yards along a small, gracefully curving brick pathway. This leads to the memorial itself, which is located in the middle of a charming tree-lined grotto (the tower is not visible from the road). You will pass a flagpole marker set beside the path, which includes an inscribed plaque (September 11, 2001 -- "WE WILL REMEMBER"), as you can see here.
Memorial Plaque and Flag
The memorial is called the "Tower of Remembrance", and it is part of the Shrine of St. Joseph, at 1050 Long Hill Road, Stirling, NJ (for those who'd like to see it in person). If you've not heard about it before, the tower was cobbled together with actual steelwork from the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The momument also contains four bronze bells from Monroe Virginia (cast in 1960) which had been silent from 1973 until they were contributed to the tower project. On the surrounding memorial walls you'll find inscribed the names of the victims who died on that fateful September morning. It's a very tasteful, thoughtful and appropriate addition to the Shrine (many of the victims were from New Jersey). You can't stand there and not be overcome by emotion and a tragic perspective about the best and worst sides of human nature. I'm very glad Phyllis and Larry mentioned it.
Tower of Remembrance
This is the approximately 20 foot tall tower seen close up. The deep reddish-brown patina is caused by the natural oxidation of unprotected steel exposed to the elements. If you stand right beside it and look closely, you can make out the subtle warping and bending of many originally straight, massive portions of steel, caused by the immense weight of collapse. There are a few benches located on either side, and nearly always I'm told you will find many fresh flowers and bouquets placed about, which are brought by visitors in memory of lost friends and loved ones. I'm glad to have seen it, and thought it wouldn't be out of place to be included on this webpage.
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How Do We View Such Destruction?
This page was assembled with some haste, while everything was still close up and sharp in memory. I have yet to attain any perspective on any of this, which may be the most discussed and remembered historical event of our generation. As I glance back through the many images here, I notice that there are none of the original fires and collapse (unless you count my computer painted perspective view just above). But then I was away from my city when our small island was under attack. There are also no close-ups of people grieving over their and our losses. But that was deliberate. I just couldn't bring myself to poke a camera lens into the face of these utterly crushed fellow human beings, when they were at their most vulnerable, and I was grieving along with them.
Then again, I'm old fashioned enough to deplore the path the news media has taken in my lifetime. Sound and picture bites are NOT news reporting. Nor is yelling about other terrorist attacks about to happen two days later, when it was rumor and conjecture sans evidence. Scare the country, why don't you? Playing to the lowest, basest emotions, prurient or other unsavory parts of our nature, may sell papers or slots for commercials. But it seems (to this old skeptic) like taking an easy shot, the cheapest trick, instead of making at least a little effort to raise journalism and reporting towards the best it can be, given all real world constrains. Then again I don't face their day by day conditions, and the pressures from above. So it's easy for me to criticize. And you have to give the networks big points for altruism in continuing coverage around the clock, sans any commercials, for many days. That was putting people ahead of profit in a big way!
I was grateful to the media for allowing all of us not in Manhattan or D.C. or PA that fateful day to witness for themselves the outrage while it happened. If there had been swifter actual follow-up news, perhaps we would not have been treated with the specter of seeing those planes crash again and again into those buildings. After enough repeats I simply had had enough. I still couldn't get into any of the books or magazines I had brought with me to try to relax for a few days. I still can't do it, but I am trying at least to get back to being productive. Creating this new web page collection has taken many hours. I hope after uploading them, and the usual few initial days of proofing and polishing, I can get back to the stack of work and deadlines awaiting me. Perhaps most of you feel exactly the same way, and hope to heal gradually, as we seem as a species prewired to do after a suitable grieving time.
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