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Friday, September 21, 2001

Business decisions: You want to fight back against the terrorists who targetted the symbols of our economic might in your own little way? Go out and spend money . Take that vacation, replace those appliances, buy that home, get that new car. Show some "consumer confidence." I'm sure you've heard about all the layoffs in the airlines sector...well, I was laid off today along with about 30% of my co-workers. Between the WTC tragedy and the market, the companies for which my (former) employer designs web sites aren't all that interested in web sites right now.

Frees me up to do some work for the Red Cross—I finally got a call from them today.

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Picture postcards: Another gift for those of you who never had the chance to visit the World Trade Center. This comes from my brother, Dave, and his family. A few years back, his crew was out here in NYC and we spent a day between the "Top of the World" at the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. Here are some photos from that day.

It's a long way down from the Top of the World. Looking down and north from the Observation Deck, you could see the Tobin Plaza and the fountain (from my other pictures). The short, modern building closing off the corner opposite the towers is 5 WTC. Directly north, the golden building past 1 WTC was 7 WTC, one of the other buildings that collapsed.

Looking up and north, Manhattan stretches away. After the Financial District, the sky scrapers drop away (the ground there would not support them well) until they rise again in Midtown. Across the Hudson River to the left is New Jersey. To the right is the East River and Queens, with the Bronx far to the north on the right side of the picture.

Looking east and north, you get a wonderful view of the East River crossings. The Brooklyn Bridge is furthest to the right, the Manhattan Bridge immediately to its left, and then the Williamsburg Bridge is in the upper left corner of this image.

Looking immediately south you see the most of the Financial District. Battery Park City is off to the right. The park at the southern tip of Manhattan is Battery Park. The small oval on its right edge is Castle Clinton, where you buy your tickets and board the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The Staten Island Ferry docks at the left end (from our view) of the Park, but there are buildings blocking a clear view of the dock.

Looking up beyond the Battery, you find New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island just a short distance away.

On a fair-weather day like this one, you could put in the extra effort to climb the stairs out onto the roof of 2 WTC and get an unobstructed view in all directions. Here we're looking off towards Brooklyn (where I lived at the time) and Queens. That's the East River below with the Manhattan (left) and Brooklyn (right) Bridges spanning it.

Of course, what's a set of vacation photos without getting some people in there. Say "Hi" to my niece Jenny and my nephews David (Jr., the taller one) and Christopher (the squirt).

Even I occassionally get caught in a picture. No, I'm not the squirt. No, the squirt isn't mine—he's my brother Dave and his wife Cheryl's youngest ... Matthew. It's hard to imagine right now someone who will not know the depth of this tragedy ... but then, here's to hoping that stays true throughout Matthew's life.

Now on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, here's Jenny and David again. They were both old enough to remember this trip well, and will have these images to remember the Towers for a long, long time.

Once last, clear view of the southern tip of Manhattan, with the World Trade Center still there. As one friend described it, there's a "Big Empty" there now and, whether a new structure arises, there always will be.

Our final destination of the day (yes, this is one of my brother's photos, not a post card we scanned!). And the heart of the matter we face today. Our very liberty and freedom may have made us vulnerable to these attacks in a way no dictatorship could ever be threatened, but that vulnerability is what makes us stronger than anything terrorists might throw at us.


Comments , as always, are welcome.


Be well,
Bob

... and if this all still proves too much, take some comfort in these images . October 12, and I get to pick up my new companion. More pics to come after this weekend.

Reflections:

top | bittersweet  | initial'd poetry  | my friend

We have all discovered just how close the Web can bring us in the last week or so. I have received hundreds of emails from all over the world ... some even from people who actually know me, but most from "perfect strangers" who, like me, simply had to share. In this column, I'll try to reflect the essence (since I cannot relate it all) of what has exchanged between me and my correspondents.


top  | bittersweet  | initial'd poetry  | my friend
BitterSweet

A number of emails I received had an "oh, by the way" sort of message at their close. One of the first asked one of those impossible questions—"You're from New York City? Would you happen to know...." No, that's not quite the exact wording, but the author had lost touch with a friend, one whose work was similar to mine. He gave me the name (let's call him John Smith ...the name was not that common, tho) and recalled something about Brooklyn, but that was all he had to go on. As it turns out, I lived in Brooklyn several years ago and just happened to have a phone book covering the Brooklyn Heights/Park Slope areas ... a small portion of the borough. As luck would have it, there was a John Smith III listed. I passed on the information. A reply informed me that this was the right person, but the phone number was out of service. So, I tried Switchboard and found two more John Smiths ... neither of whom lived in Brooklyn—one in Westchester, one on Long Island. I was about to paste these numbers into an email when I thought, "Why waste this guy's time on long distance phone calls to bad leads?" and called the first number myself. I got voice mail. So, I tried the second number. Wouldn't you know it, but this was the John Smith who was a father of a John Smith ! It gets better, tho ... this same John Smith was also the grandfather of a John Smith! Imagine that! The grandparents did not have the number of the grandson, but they gave me the number of the father. I called the first John Smith's voice mail back to leave a message about my first message ... and got a person, not the voice mail. Turns out this number—different from the number the grandparents had given me—was the work number of the father , and that's who I was speaking with. Yes, when I mentioned the name of the email author, the father recalled him growing up with his son. He gave me the good news : that his son was safe , and since the email author had last seen him the son had married and had children. I sent the good news to the email author with the son's phone number, and soon got a grateful reply about their reunion . The son had been seven blocks from the WTC and trapped in his building for six hours, before finally getting out and walking home across the Brooklyn Bridge.

I wish all my emails could have been so happy. I exchanged several letters with a woman in England. An American cousin of hers was off to visit his uncle at the World Financial Center—across West Street from the WTC towards the Hudson River. Being a licensed EMT, the terrorist attack drew him into action. He was tending to injured people when 1 WTC, the North Tower, collapsed and he was caught in its rubble. His injuries were too severe, and he died on Saturday, September 15. Yet even in death he continued saving lives, as his organs were donated to those who needed them. A hero beyond death: David Reynauds.

Words from his cousin:

The German Chancellor summed it up best ... that in this the hour of our sorrow; "Today, we are all Americans".
Where I live, we know how you might be feeling. I live in a part of West London called Ealing. Six weeks ago, the IRA blew up our main shopping centre. Even today, as I took the eldest of the 2 children I look after, to Burger King, I noticed that the shops and offices are still being propped up. There are also many gaping windows still. This atrocity happened at midnight on a Thurs night. We were very lucky, no one died. If the attack had been 12 or 24 hours later, the carnage would have been far greater.
I leave you with the image which is now reposing in my porch. It is a clip art picture of the twin towers dominating the Manhattan skyline, with the Statue of Liberty in the front. On it, I have written the following words:
September 11th 2001
They Rest Now Forever Free
In The Land Of Sweet Liberty
We Will Not Forget Them
R I P

top  | bittersweet  | initial'd poetry  | my friend
Initial'd Poetry

Another correspondent simply sent me a rather poignant short poem. I wrote back asking for permission to include it here. The author granted me such. The first is a verse he wrote upon his father's death; the second one is about "escape from the horror's life can bestow upon us." The third piece comes from dealing with this tragedy. He simply wanted to be known here as BM :

Death
Fear is a word that I thought I'd forgotten,
also death is a word I rarely seem to say.
Peace is a thought that comes to me often,
but nothing keeps the tears from falling away.
See how long does a baby keep crying,
a mere distraction can bring them around.
But life it can change while your just not looking,
it takes a shock to put your feet back on the ground.
Where time stands still
Do you have a special place, where you feel at peace,
a place where your emotions allow that great release.

My place is on a beach, looking across the rocks to sea,
this is where my mind goes to, when it's off drifting free.

The place were the sea meets sky, an undefined thin line,
where nothing is substantial, a lost horizon without time.

Where time stands still and clouds scud to rest at night,
the sun to bath, before coming fresh with morning light.

Full moon turns it to a silver space, that reflects no light,
but creates a mercury foam, like diamonds in the night.

Where time is standing still, oh to be in that lost space,
to witness a changing world, without being in the race.

We all have lost horizons, things that might have been,
things we regret and sights we wish we had not seen.

Moving ever forward, dreaming dreams that may not be,
so one slips away again and is there looking out to sea.
A Moment in time (11th September 2001)

A moment in time, when all stood still, by mans corrupted will.

A moment in time, so many too die, stood to shocked to cry.

A moment in time, no one will forget, how two idealogies met.

A moment in time, all life was unreal and so freedom met evil.

A moment in time, that will never be lost, but at such a cost.

A moment in time, sights so obscene, should never have been.

In truth of those killed, I did not now any,
but a single life lost, is one life to many.

top  | bittersweet  | initial'd poetry  | my friend
My Friend, of whom you've asked...

In my 911 story, I mentioned my concern for a friend who lives in Battery Park City, near the WTC. No, I have not heard from her yet. I do have these things for comfort, however. The World Financial Center, which lies between her apartment and the WTC towers, is largely intact. In the helicopter camera footage of the scene, her building looks to be in good shape. Near her apartment is where the boats and ferries docked to carry people to New Jersey, escaping from the danger the damage to the towers represented. Her community also has its own web site with a bulletin board, and from reading posts of her neighbors in her particular building, it sounds as if their evacuation was quick and as orderly as could be managed. Sadly, the residents of Battery Park City are still largely homeless and shelter-bound, as utilities have not been restored and it simply is too dangerous for them to return to their homes at this time. This neighborhood, if you didn't know, largely owes its existence to the World Trade Center, as much of its acreage was created from landfill from the dirt and rock excavated for the World Trade Center's underground levels.

[01/09/21] Finally heard. She got out in time. Can't bear being back there, though, so she's moving to a different part of town. Still no power to her building, either, so if she wants to get any of her things right now, she's got 31 floors of stairs to climb either way.