On February 26 1993, I lived on the Upper West side of NYC (E103rd St to be exact). On this day I was oblivious to most of the world. It was ancient times before internet and iphones, but we did have cable TV. Well, the world had cable TV, not us. Outside our building stood José, the super for our new apartment building and the reason for our utter cluelessness. We'd just moved in a few weeks earlier and promptly arranged a cable hookup. The day before the appointment we noticed José standing alone on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign announcing his strike. At the time his scrawled sign and lonely presence seemed comical until the next day, when the cable company refused to enter the building and cross his "picket line". So no, we had no idea the World Trade Center had been bombed until hours later when Mike's parents had called in a panic to see if we were "Ok."
In the beginning of 1994 we left NYC, moved to upstate NY and said goodbye to José (who for some reason thought we were now moving back to our own country). We were still living upstate eight years later on Sept.11, 2001. I was 7 months pregnant with my second child and painting in my studio, in our little house on the mountain, when my sister called.
"Turn on the T.V."
"Just do it."
Then I shared my afternoon (and evening) with millions of Americans, doing the exact same thing. Glued to the T.V. Running through an inventory of friends and family in NYC who may be in danger. Then waiting for that one phone call that said.
"She's okay. She transferred out of the World Trade Center office to the uptown one just 2 weeks ago."
In the days that followed so many people I knew traveled three hours south to volunteer. Meanwhile I was turned away from donating blood (no one can use the blood of a seven month pregnant woman even if it is type O+), and even though the air in downtown Manhattan was white and gritty it was "perfectly safe".
Of course everything changed. I lived on the far side of the reservoir, that supplied water to NYC. Now the bridge was closed and the remote, and isolated mountain lake had patrols 24 hours a day. My 35 minute drive to the hospital to deliver my baby was now over an hour as we wove through the back roads around the massive lake. But, I didn't lose anyone when the towers fell. I didn't decide on a new noble profession like doctor, or firefighter. I just watched with sadness and shock as the world changed around us all.
"People are willing to take these extraordinary chances to become writers, musicians, or painters, and because of them, we have a culture. If this ever stops, our culture will die, because most of our culture, in fact, has been created by people that got paid nothing for it--people like Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent Van Gogh or Mozart."-Kurt Vonnegut