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September 11



My friend Stephen—who is much more diplomatic and grown up than I am and who was therefore able to survive Dan Okrent’s purge of People Magazine with his job intact—was living in a funky old penthouse atop the old Delmonico’s four blocks away from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

One time, he described that day to me. We were having drinks at an overpriced and fairly mediocre French restaurant.

“My patio was completely covered with rubble that included bits of the inflight magazines, the airline tickets, Cantor Fitzgerald documents ...,” he told me. “I saved some, but the rest I turned over to the FBI, which had set up headquarters in a makeshift trailer in Bowling Green, near my apartment. I also told the agents I had a favor to ask, because Battery Park was closed, with barricades. I said, in exchange for my handing over the papers, could my dog run in the park? Coco got special permission.”

He shook his head. Tears welled in his eyes. “Nearly all the dogs down here got sick from the air. Coco developed a brain tumor that soon killed her.”

“Oh, my God,” I said. “That’s an amazing visual, your patio.”

Stephen shrugged. “Not to be gross, but people living in Battery Park City had body parts on their balconies. Friends living in the building where I live now witnessed those who jumped from the Towers.

“And what came next… The tanks rolling down Lexington Avenue near the Armory. The horror of those missing people posters. The smell of burned wire. The only sound on the subway when cars tunneled under the rubble was the sound of crying.

“I hear it still. The crying. The wailing.”

###

Two friends went mad directly as a result of the events of September 11.

Gerard, a real-life Sydney Carton, upon whom I’d entertained a crush for years and Loca, an ultra-rational, somewhat pedantic but extremely funny X-Boyfriend.

In the space of about a month, both men went from being run-of-the-mill liberal progressives to raving, ranting, salivating conspiracy theorists who hated all Arabs and would have liked to turn back the clock to those warm, fuzzy times just before WW1 even though the Turks (Ay-RabZ!) had an Empire, ‘cause the Ottoman Empire was going d-o-w-nnnnnn.

I didn’t have all that much real-time contact with Gerard whose metamorphosis I watched—appalled—from a distance. But Loca was a real-life friend who was always at my Thanksgiving table. One afternoon, he and I began talking politics, and I tried to reason with him; by the following morning, he had ghosted me.

By espousing cultural relativism, I had revealed myself as one of the Enemy.

In his new reactionary zeal, there was no room for traitors to Judeo-Christian values.

###

My everyday life was disturbed by the events of September 11, 2001 in one immediate way that felt significant to me, but in the larger scheme of things, probably wasn’t.

I was in the habit of walking Max’s dog, Xena, up the Franklin Street hill every morning, through the Monterey Presidio, and up into the Huckleberry Hill Nature Preserve. Though the Presidio of Monterey was an active Army installation and the home of the Defense Language Institute, it had always been completely open to civilians. You never had to present ID or subject yourself to searches.

On September 12, when I tried to enter the Presidio, a nine-foot-tall soldier blocked my way and aimed his rifle at me. “Off limits!” he said. He did not make eye contact.

One thing. One very, very small thing.

Of course, my life had changed in ways far more significant than this one small thing. Everybody’s had.

But I didn’t know it then.

This entry was originally posted at http://mallorys-camera.dreamwidth.org. You may leave comments on either Dreamwidth or LiveJournal if you like.

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
bandicoot
Sep. 11th, 2018 04:32 pm (UTC)
And of course, in the inscrutable way of the military, it remains off limits.
mallorys_camera
Sep. 11th, 2018 04:43 pm (UTC)
Yes. A shame. The Huckleberry Hill Nature Preserve is a really lovely place, and I don't know any other way of getting to it.

Although, of course, I live nowhere near it now.
bandicoot
Sep. 11th, 2018 04:48 pm (UTC)
My take is that 9/11 was just a convenient excuse for the military to throw its weight around. They'd probably been wanting to close it off and protect it with tanks for years. They hate having civilians on their pristine posts.
mallorys_camera
Sep. 11th, 2018 04:51 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's probably true. The very last job I worked as an RN was at the Oakknoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, and I remember I really had to go through a song and dance to be allowed onto that base as a civilian nurse. They searched my trunk daily and everything! :-)
bandicoot
Sep. 11th, 2018 04:57 pm (UTC)
When I was in the army back in the 60's, it was mostly a civilian R/D post, but with GIs. The civilian gate guard had to take down names coming and going, but never asked for an ID. Coming back late one night with 4 in the car, he wrote down Nikita Khrushchev, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and I forget the other one we gave him. All with a straight face. They no longer have any sense of humor.
mallorys_camera
Sep. 12th, 2018 09:50 am (UTC)
That is hilarious. :-)
melissa_maples
Sep. 12th, 2018 07:47 am (UTC)
I'm in the habit of reading your entries with two extra tabs open - Google and Google Maps - because I'm always curious about the things you mention by name. Thanks to you, I now know what Cantor Fitzgerald and Delmonico's are, and I had a look at the Delmonico's building on Street View and it looks like a pretty cool place. Also, I would like to have a steak at a place that's been making them for nearly two centuries.

Also, I didn't realise that I didn't really know exactly where the WTC was until today. I mean, I knew it was at the tip of Manhattan somewhere, but I didn't know that it was more over on the left-hand side than at the very bottom.

The description of the inflight magazines is chilling, and reminded me how frustrated I was/am that all the photos I've seen of the aftermath of the attack seem to be the actual WTC buildings, the rescue workers, and so forth. There must have been some street photographers out there who were shooting the surrounding neighbourhoods and were picking up forgotten details like these. I just haven't been able to find any of their photos yet, but I'm sure they're out there.
melissa_maples
Sep. 12th, 2018 07:48 am (UTC)
Oh also, because of you I'm now making a greater effort to mention specific things and places by name, because I love it when you do it.
mallorys_camera
Sep. 12th, 2018 09:49 am (UTC)
You travel so much! I always look up the places you mention. :-)
mallorys_camera
Sep. 12th, 2018 09:47 am (UTC)
How funny! I do exactly the same thing when I read your posts. :-)

The most chilling part of the WTC calamity for me was the people who jumped out of the buildings. There are a few photos out there. I cry every time I see one.
benicek
Sep. 13th, 2018 09:53 am (UTC)

These mad folk are so mad that they haven’t noticed that beloved privileged oil-ally Saudi Arabia produced most of those attackers. Such an effort of double-think must be painful.

mallorys_camera
Sep. 13th, 2018 02:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah. That bothers me, too.
mexpatriot
Sep. 13th, 2018 05:18 pm (UTC)
9-11 was the beginning of me no longer feeling that I could live in the US. Everyone went crazy, like you say. I, too, am a cultural/moral relativist. All the normal people who went crazy, hanging flags everywhere, scared the shit out of me. A terrorist attack is at the very bottom of the list of my fears.
mallorys_camera
Sep. 14th, 2018 10:35 am (UTC)
Everybody did go crazy after 9/11. Sigh...

And to a large extent, they're still crazy.
mexpatriot
Sep. 15th, 2018 03:15 am (UTC)
Some friends and I came up with the term Flaggots for those who started hanging US flags everywhere after 9-11, when they never would have done before.

I had the idea that it would be cool if this were some sort of thing like Chairman Mao's 100 Flowers thing. "Let 100 flowers bloom, 100 schools of thought contend," and then killing those who actually spoke up, contended. If they got rid of the flaggots, I thought that this would be a just act.
mallorys_camera
Sep. 15th, 2018 02:08 pm (UTC)
Nah.

I would never describe myself as patriotic, but I do think I am incredibly lucky to have been born in the U.S. and to live in the U.S.

Many people were just horrified because this was a foreign attack on American soil, and those types of attacks are rate.

The shock of it propelled other people into the discovery of a tribal identity.

People crave tribal identities. It's just what people do. It must be hardwired. I think cynical people may have the deepest</> yearning for a tribal identity, actually—it's like their cynicism is a complex reaction formation.
mexpatriot
Sep. 16th, 2018 12:13 am (UTC)
Yeah, you're probably right. I've never felt like I came from anywhere, like I was part of any sort of group or tribe. I see the appeal.
millysdaughter
Sep. 14th, 2018 04:21 am (UTC)
Our base is ID entry only - if you do not have a military ID or some sort of "access ID", you must get a visitor pass.
However, after 9/11 -- for a VeryLongTime, every car entering the base was searched. It took literal hours to enter on some days, at some times of the day. I carried a library book in my car.
mallorys_camera
Sep. 14th, 2018 10:34 am (UTC)
My last job as an RN was at a naval hospital in a base in Oakland. It never took them less than 10 minutes to search my car even thought they knew me. This was nine years before 9/11.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )