A Resident’s Recollections from the Months After September 11, 2001
By Michelle Ashkin
Everybody asks me what it is like to live “down there.” They mean, of course, near Ground Zero, which is a block away from my front door. The sounds, smells, and changes that pervade my daily life here make it hard for me to know how to respond with an easy, short answer.
Today it is gray. The streets are wet, not from rain, but from the sanitation trucks that pass by every few hours spraying strong jets of water to keep down the dust. The delivery trucks are now outnumbered by the constant parade of heavy, equipment-laden vehicles, carting materials to and from the site. Their content clangs and clanks as the trucks move along the potholed streets, broken up, in most places, from the overwhelming wear and tear. These startling, crashing sounds seem only to heighten the rumble of the engines and the ear-piercing screech of the brakes. How many times they have awakened me in the middle of the night, no matter how tightly my windows are closed? And the cobblestoned tree pits that added such quaintness to the neighborhood have been covered by orange boxes protecting the newly laid, above-ground telephone wires that run the entire length of the road. Then, there are the huge blacktop mounds you have to climb over to get from the street to the sidewalk, just more ugly reminders of how far away we are from “back to normal.”
The air, too, has changed. They say that it is safe, and maybe it is, but the dust, although not visible, settles perceptibly on my glass night tables and mahogany-stained bookshelves, which must be wiped clean several times a day. Most of all, it shows itself in the sediment that collects at the bottom of my new air filtration system, which uses water to clean the air that passes through it. It becomes a brown, sticky goo, with pollutants extracted from the same air I am breathing into my moist lungs. I no longer open my windows in the morning to let in the fresh breeze that always smelled unusually sweet and clean for Manhattan before that terrible day. Now that air is filled with gasoline fumes, or other odors that I cannot quite identify. The acrid, sickening, toxic smell of the fires is gone. But there is a remnant of all that has been destroyed and on many days it still permeates the air.
I used to take long walks at night on the Esplanade that runs along to the river, and always felt safe because there were people out strolling, even well past midnight. During the days, even in winter, it was filled as much with runners and rollerbladers as it was with children, baby carriages and lunch mobs. I don’t see them anymore. A few days ago, I walked north toward North Cove Marina, for the first time in many weeks. The Winter Garden, where huge glass windows once provided a spectacular view of the plaza and the sailboats that colored the Marina, still lies in ruins. It seems naked and ghostly against a sky whose space used to be filled with the looming presence of the Twin Towers. The boats, with their shiny blue, red, or black hulls, and their two-story high masts that awed onlookers, are gone. The only colors are the orange barricades that have been placed all along the plaza and dictate where I can and cannot go. Lately, there has been talk of the smoky, loud commuter ferries that may take over the marina. Another blemish, another punishment. So now, when I walk, I only go south, and I keep my eyes on the river, the only thing that seems to have remained unspoiled. The air by the river is still salty and clean, its mist refreshing.
By day I walk through the rubble and construction and broken streets. By night, when I go to bed, from my window I now see the two powerful and haunting beams of light commemorating the towers. And no matter where I look, I cannot find a place to put my eyes that does not bounce back at me with images of the horror. This is how I feel about my wounded neighborhood, my wounded city. It is not easy to answer the question I am lately too often asked — “what is it like?” — but surrounding me are reminders every waking moment that I am no longer safe.
Today I bought some nuts and seeds and walked along the promenade looking for the squirrels and birds. I’ve seen them searching for food where they used to get daily handouts from visitors on their lunch breaks. When I first returned two months months after the attacks, I saw no sign of them. I don’t know where they went or how any of them survived those first brutal weeks of thick, knee-high debris. But they are here again, and their presence calms me. Whether or not they are hungry, I feel the need to feed them.
Yet there are small signs of the return of life that are beginning to heal me. The gardeners have carefully laid down sweet smelling mulch to replenish the barren, damaged soil, and the yellow and purple heads of the crocuses are popping through. I can see them through my window in the garden below. And early this morning, well before daybreak, I was awakened by the lone voice of a robin filling the pre-dawn silence with a melody that was sweet and alive, full of joy and of the promise of the day to come. It is these vital signs that breathe hope into me even while I am still filled with the sadness of the tragedy of September 11th, and what its devastating aftermath has done to my world.
Editor’s Note: Ms. Ashkin is a longtime Battery Park City resident and community leader. These memories were written down 19 years and several months ago, shortly after she was allowed to return home.
Wondering Whether You Have Been Worth the Windfall
You recall the frenetic chaos—people wandering blithely into traffic, while cars with flashing lights and bleating sirens tried to make lurching progress by driving on sidewalks. And everyone staring upward, transfixed.
Even amid the bedlam, one anomalously serene (even festive) detail stood out. Confetti—a jumble of office paperwork and shredded aluminum—drifting lazily toward the ground. Reminiscent of nothing so much as a ticker tape parade, but in reverse. The honorees didn’t know the parade was for them, because they had not yet become heroes and martyrs. Although in just a few moments, they would.
A few minutes later, you stood at the foot of a tower, looking up at an airplane-shaped hole in its side and thinking, “there is no way that building is going to fall down.” To read more…
photo: Alison Simko
The Old Neighborhood
by Andrea Carter Brown
Where is the man who sold the best jelly donuts and coffee
you sipped raising a blue Acropolis to your lips? The twin
brothers who arrived in time for lunch hour with hot and cold
heros where Liberty dead ends at the Hudson? The courteous
small-boned Egyptian in white robe and crocheted skullcap
in the parking lot behind the Greek Orthodox shrine whose
bananas and dates you could always count on? How about
the tall, slim, dark brown man with dreadlocks cascading
to his waist who grilled Hebrew National franks to perfection
and knew just the right amount of mustard each knish wanted?
The cinnamon-skinned woman for whose roti people lined up
halfway down Church, the falafel cousins who remembered
how much hot pepper you preferred? Don’t forget the farmers
who schlepped up from Cape May twice each week at dawn
to bring us whatever was in season at its peak: last August,
blueberries and white peaches. What about the lanky fellow
who sold green and red and yellow bears and fish and snakes
in plastic sandwich bags with twist ties; his friend, a block
away, who scooped still warm nuts from a copper cauldron
into palm-sized wax paper sacks he twisted at the corners
to close? The couple outside the post office with their neatly
laid out Golden books, the shy Senegalese with briefcases
of watches except in December when they sold Christmas
trees? The Mr. Softee who parked every evening rush hour
by the cemetery to revive the homeward hurrying crowd?
I know none of their names, but I can see their faces clear
as I still see everything from that day as I ride away from
the place we once shared. Where are they now? And how?
Andrea Carter Brown lived in Gateway Plaza from 1987 to 2004 and was in her apartment the morning of 9/11. “The Old Neighborhood” is one of the first poems she wrote about 9/11, about seven months later. September 12, her collection of poems about that day and the aftermath, has just been published for the 20th anniversary by the Word Works. The author of three previous poetry collections, Andrea Carter Brown now lives in Los Angeles. For more information, visit her website.
Lower Manhattan Community Sidelined from September 11 Observances, Again
A time-honored tradition will be upheld on Saturday, September 11, when residents from the community that was devastated by the terrorist attacks of that day 20 years ago are once again excluded from the ceremonies marking the anniversary.
This ongoing snub became the focus of a heated discussion at the Executive Committee of Community Board 1. To read more…
Dear Students, Staff, Faculty, Alumni and Neighbors,
We are pleased to announce that Metropolitan College, in partnership with our colleagues at NYC Health & Hospitals, mobile COVID-19 vaccination units will be stationed at our campus located at 60 West St, New York, NY 10006on September 7-10.
This schedule will enable those of you who have not yet received the vaccine to get one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks apart—right outside our doors.
This is a walk-in vaccine clinic—no appointments are needed.
We encourage you to get the COVID 19 vaccine if you haven’t already done so. The pandemic is not over yet, and hospitalization and infection rates have begun to rise again in New York City. The safety and effectiveness of the COVID vaccines have been demonstrated, and the vaccines have played a significant role in reducing serious illness.
Thank you for your efforts to keep our communities safe!
The Broadsheet Sept 7 – 20
EYES TO THE SKY
September 6 – 19, 2021
Reach out to Jupiter, Saturn all night
Planet Jupiter shines with startling brilliance above the southeast horizon in evening twilight. The great planet, orbiting fifth out from the Sun in our solar system, could be mistaken for the light of an airplane flying low above the skyline. Jupiter (-2.83 magnitude) is the Evening Star rising in the southeast while dazzling planet Venus (-4.05m), is the Evening Star setting in the west-southwest during twilight. Note that the smaller the number the greater the magnitude of a celestial object. Sunset is, roughly, 7:15pm this week and 7:00pm next week. Twilight begins about half an hour later and, for nightfall, add another hour. To read more…
Two Photo Exhibitions
1pm-6pm and by appointment
At the SohoPhotoGallery (15 White Street), see two exhibitions commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11: “Witness” with photographs by Lee Day, Hans Weiss and Wolfgang Staehle, and “911: Our First Responder Heroes” with photographs by the FDNY and NYPD.
Friday, Sept. 10
Flotilla Commemorating the Great 9/11 Boatlift
The boatlift of 9/11 was the largest water evacuation in history. In today’s commemoration, vessels will board around noon, gather south of Governors Island, sail pass the Statue of Liberty and north on the Hudson River. Vessels will disembark around 2:30pm. You can join this event by booking passage on a participating Classic Harbor Line vessel. (For details, see “Remembering the 9/11 Boatlift” event at 11am on Sept. 11, described below.)
American Merchant Mariners’ Monument, Battery Park
Shoreside ceremony, blessing of the fleet, vessel procession. Speakers will honor those who participated in the 9/11 Boatlift.
9/11 Memorial & Museum Community Hours
Special gathering of the 9/11 community, on the eve of this year’s 20th anniversary. During these hours, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum will be reserved exclusively for 9/11/01 and 2/26/93 family members, family members of individuals who are sick or who have died from 9/11-related illnesses, 9/11 rescue and recovery workers, active duty first responders, 9/11 survivors, active-duty military and veterans, lower Manhattan residents and business owners, and active and retired flight crew members. Reservations are required. Reserve your free ticket at 911memorial.org/September10/.
A Time and Space for Remembrance and Healing
9pm September 10 to 8pm on September 12
St. Paul’s Chapel
This will be a time and place to pray, reflect, mourn, or simply sit with your memories. Clergy will be present to offer support and prayers, and from 7am-7pm on Saturday, brief musical interludes and readings will be offered on the hour by Trinity Church’s staff and community of musicians. An exhibit displaying artifacts from the events of September 11 will be available at St. Paul’s Chapel, along with interactive digital exhibits at trinitywallstreet.org/911. Free.
photo: William Johnston
Eiko Otake: Slow Turn
At sunrise and sunset on Saturday, September 11, movement-based artist and dancer Eiko Otake will perform in Belvedere Plaza (north side of North Cove), accompanied by clarinetist David Krakauer. Eiko & Koma were artists-in-residence in the World Trade Center North Tower through 2000. In 2002, they premiered Offering: A Ritual of Mourning on Belvedere Plaza. Eiko Otake returns to Belvedere Plaza to explore memories from 20 years ago. A reservation is advised and available at https://bpca.ny.gov/. Walk-ups will receive a headset if available. Free. This performance is presented in partnership with NYU Skirball, Battery Park City Authority, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
Saturday, Sept. 11
Eiko Otake: Slow Turn
7am and 6pm.
20th Anniversary Observance at the 9/11 Memorial
8:30am to 1pm
Family members of 9/11 victims will gather on the 9/11 Memorial plaza to read aloud the names of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Throughout the ceremony, six moments of silence will be observed, acknowledging when each of the World Trade Center towers was struck and fell and the times corresponding to the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93. The first moment of silence will be observed at 8:46am. Houses of worship are encourage to toll their bells at that time.
9/11 20th Anniversary at St. Peter’s Church
9am morning mass; 4pm mass of remembrance
22 Barclay Street
Bishop Edmund Whalen, Vicar for Manhattan will be the main celebrant. The church will be open all day for private prayer. The first recorded causality of 9/11, Fr. Mychal Judge (Chaplain to the NY Firefighters), was laid in front the altar on that fateful day.
Remembering the 9/11 Boatlift: America’s Largest Water Evacuation
Zoom discussion, short film and Q&A.
Following the September 11 attacks, people were unable to leave Lower Manhattan due to the closure of roads, bridges and tunnels. Within minutes of the plane hitting the first tower, multiple fireboats from the New York City Fire Department rushed to the scene, and the U.S. Coast Guard coordinated a convoy of hundreds of merchant ships, tugboats, ferries and other vessels to evacuate stranded and injured victims. This extraordinary rescue was memorialized in the 2011 short documentary film Boatlift documenting the evacuation of more than 500,000 civilians in just nine hours—the largest maritime evacuation conducted in the history of the United States, moving more people from the island than even the 1940 evacuation of Allied troops from France. See the short documentary film Boatlift: An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience narrated by Tom Hanks, followed by a panel discussion among National Maritime Historical Society trustee emeritus RADM Richard Larrabee, USCG (Ret.), USCG Safety and Security Division Chief for Sector New York John Hillin, president of the New Jersey Sandy Hook Pilots Association Capt. Andrew McGovern, founder of the fireboat John J. HarveyHuntley Gill, and USCG-licensed marine engineer and author of “Saved at the Seawall: Stories from the September 11 Boat Lift” Jessica DuLong. Free. Tickets at https://seahistory.org/seminar-series-9-11-boatlift/
Tribute in Light
Dusk to dawn
Tribute in Light has become an iconic symbol that both honors those killed and celebrates the unbreakable spirit of New York. Assembled on the roof of the Battery Parking Garage south of the 9/11 Memorial, the twin beams reach miles into the sky and are comprised of eighty-eight 7,000-watt xenon lightbulbs positioned into two 48-foot squares, echoing the shape and orientation of the Twin Towers. The installation can be viewed from a 60-mile radius around Lower Manhattan.
Battery Park City Gathering
6pm-8pm, Esplanade Plaza (south of North Cove)
Join neighbors and friends for an informal community sunset gathering sponsored by the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association in partnership with Battery Park City Authority. Light refreshments, music, and friendship provided.
Remembrance, Reflection, Resilience: A 9/11 Tribute Concert
Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
The Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra and the Museum of Jewish Heritage present a special concert to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001. The concert will feature Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” the world premiere of Gary S. Fagin’s “9/11 In Memoriam,” and Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” featuring the KCO’s Orlando Wells on violin, among other musical pieces. Lower Manhattan residents will offer short readings, and the program will conclude shortly after 9pm. Tickets are free and available at mjhnyc.org. This program will be held live in the Museum’s Edmond J. Safra Hall. The audience may attend in person or via livestream.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
Providing Companion and Home Health Aide Care to clients with dementia.Help with grooming, dressing and wheelchair assistance. Able to escort client to parks and engage in conversations of desired topics and interests of client. Reliable & Honest
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Samascott Orchard Orchard fruit, strawberries from Columbia County, New York
Francesa’s Bakery Breads and baked goods from Middlesex County, New Jersey
Meredith’s Bakery Baked goods from Ulster County, New York
Riverine Ranch Water Buffalo meat and cheeses from Warren County, New Jersey
1857 Spirits Handcrafted potato vodka from Schoharie County, New York
SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, Debit/Credit, and Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks accepted
TODAY IN HISTORY
1961 – In the Italian Grand Prix, a crash causes the death of German Formula One driver Wolfgang von Trips and 13 spectators who are hit by his Ferrari
1509 – An earthquake known as “The Lesser Judgment Day” hits Constantinople.
1776 – American Revolutionary War: Nathan Hale volunteers to spy for the Continental Army.
1846 – Elias Howe is granted a patent for the sewing machine.
1897 – Lattimer massacre: A sheriff’s posse kills 19 unarmed striking immigrant miners in Lattimer, Pennsylvania, United States.
1932 – The New York City Subway’s third competing subway system, the municipally-owned IND, is opened
1939 – World War II: Canada declares war on Germany, joining the Allies: Poland, France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.
1960 – At the Summer Olympics in Rome, Abebe Bikila becomes the first sub-Saharan African to win a gold medal, winning the marathon in bare feet.
1961 – In the Italian Grand Prix, a crash causes the death of German Formula One driver Wolfgang von Trips and 13 spectators who are hit by his Ferrari.
1977 – Hamida Djandoubi, convicted of torture and murder, is the last person to be executed by guillotine in France.
2008 – The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, described as the biggest scientific experiment in history, is powered up in Geneva, Switzerland.
2017 – Hurricane Irma makes landfall on Cudjoe Key, Florida as a Category 4, after causing catastrophic damage throughout the Caribbean. Irma resulted in 134 deaths and $64.76 billion (2017 USD) in damage.
1659 – Henry Purcell, English organist and composer (d. 1695)
1839 – Isaac K. Funk, American minister and publisher, co-founded Funk & Wagnalls (d. 1912)
1907 – Dorothy Hill, Australian geologist and palaeontologist (d. 1997)
1929 – Arnold Palmer, American golfer and businessman (d. 2016)
1933 – Karl Lagerfeld, German-French fashion designer and photographer (d. 2019)
1941 – Stephen Jay Gould, American paleontologist, biologist, and author (d. 2002)
1945 – Jose Feliciano, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter and guitarist
1167 – Matilda of England, Holy Roman Empress (b. 1102)
1364 – Robert of Taranto, King of Albania
1933 – Giuseppe Campari, Italian race car driver (b. 1892)
1933 – Stanisław Czaykowski, Polish race car driver (b. 1899)
1961 – Wolfgang von Trips, German race car driver (b. 1928)