September 14, 2001
Last night I went out on the boat. I headed west-northwest. After twenty minutes or so the skyline came into view. First the Bronx, then the Empire State Building, then the plume of smoke. The wind was from the south and the gray mist which spouted from the lower end of Manhattan filled the horizon. The sunset was just beyond where the smoke seemed to dissipate, a magnificent array of reds and oranges and yellows, but in tortured twists and turns as if it was trying to express the pain we are all feeling.
A plane, at very high altitude, was approaching from the south of the city, over the Atlantic. It had a vapor trail marking its route. I thought all air traffic was banned? It was heading for the city and then took an abrupt turn toward the east. It continued for some minutes and then got back on course. I stared at it, trying to make out what kind of plane it was. The sun was reflecting brightly making identification difficult. I thought it might be them again. I thought our interceptors were on to them this time, and so the change in course. But no, it continued on. Perhaps they were just skirting the city out of respect for the dead – and the living.
We woke up to fire alarms. 3 AM. Oddly, no cars went racing down the street to the firehouse. A smell like burning rubber filled the house. I went to the hall window, overlooking the den roof where the weather vane is on top of the cupola. West it read. West wind.
At day break the backyard was filled with the bright sun of an autumn morning. A mist was visible in the light. The odor, the smell, was from the Towers. It covered the neighborhood some 50 miles east of the site. The entire Island is covered with the smell of destruction. My throat began to clog with phlegm, allergies reacting to the multitude of particulate mixed in this mist of death.
It’s Day 3 after the initial strikes. “11,000 body bags ordered” said the radio commentator while in the next breath he says “Only 3600 people are unaccounted for.” Only.
The city is still closed from 14th Street south. Closed. New York City.
The mourning and wailing of the bereaved is starting to fill the airwaves after days of the same photos: the ones of the impact, of the fall, the ones you can’t see the people in.
Excerpt from Letters to Mack
Thoughts and prayers to all those who lost their lives and their loved ones, friends, neighbors. So much hurt and pain, destruction and hate. Also to those who have given their lives since due to the service they provided in the aftermath of this tragedy. May history remember – and the world learn to live in peace.