I decided to ask my friend, Teresa Jusino, to share something for today. Here is what she sent me:
I wrote the following on September 11th, 2004 on my old LiveJournal, when I was still living in NYC, my mother was still alive, and I was working in publicity. As a native New Yorker, it’s strange to be asked about September 11th. Whenever I’ve traveled since then, once people find out I’m from New York, I’ll get asked about it. There’s a strange fascination with That Day. Where we were, and what we did. It’s interesting how curious we are about each other’s tragedies. I’m sure people from New Orleans get asked all the time whether they lived there pre- or post-Katrina. I’m sure folks from Oklahoma City are asked if they were there the day of the bombing…I suppose it’s a good thing, though, that we’re interested in each other’s stories. It shows that we all have a certain desire to put ourselves in each other’s shoes; to sympathize as much as we can. Of course, I don’t think people often get the answers they expect when they ask about stuff, because they often forget that, as monumental and tragic as an experience can be, there’s also Real Life continuing around it, and much of the experience of tragedy can be surprisingly hum-drum.
In any case, I’d like to thank Cathy for inviting me to share my story of that day with you. 🙂
[NOTES: The “Merle” I mention was my former boss, and she was the publicist for Riverdance on Broadway, which is why a Riverdance dancer randomly appears in the story…] 😉
I didn’t even realize that today was September 11th until I turned on the TV this morning, and they were reading the names of the victims. I have to say, as heartless as this sounds, my first thought was Oh God. Everything on TV today is gonna be about the friggin’ Twin Towers! While I did say a quick prayer for the victims, I feel bad about going on and on about it. I feel like the only people who really have a right to mourn, and I felt this way even back when it happened, are the families of the victims. Thankfully, I didn’t lose anyone in the attacks, and I’m grateful. I don’t know….I just feel sort of weird about pretending to be down about it when I’m not really that sad. Feels sort of hypocritical….
But I’ll never forget that day. How could anyone? I’ve never really written it down, so….here goes: It was a sunny Tuesday morning. I was commuting to Merle’s from Valley Stream because I had been staying with my parents. I was on the E train and got off at 42nd St. like I would have on any other day. Went to the office. When I got there, no one was in – which struck me as a little odd, but not earthshattering. I went about my morning routine…when it came time to make some long-distance Riverdance-related phone calls, I tried, but the phone would dial out. I was confused. I called my mother to see if I could get a Long Island number. She picked up the phone, and when she heard it was me, she became hysterical Oh my God Terry where are you? Are you OK? Don’t you know what’s going on?! I didn’t. Do you have a TV? Merle did, in her office. Turn on the news. Something’s happening at the Twin Towers… After reassuring my mother that I was no where near the Towers, I hung up with her and turned on the news. The first tower had been hit. I was in shock. I didn’t know what to think….at that point, Merle called in. Teresa, get out of the office right now. If this is a terrorist thing like they’re saying, Times Square is as likely a target as any. Get uptown to my apartment right now! I agreed. As I shut everything off, and went to turn off the TV, the second tower had been hit. I ran out of the office.
The subways had already been shut down. So, I walked uptown trying to catch a bus. Bus after bus passed by, packed. I saw people on the street on cell phones, crying. But to me, it all felt very surreal – I felt like the star of an action movie. That this all wasn’t real. That eventually, I would wake up, or the director would yell cut. Something. Finally got on a bus. Someone had a radio, so the whole bus was listening to coverage of what was going on. A Jewish man and a Muslim man started arguing over whether or not this was terrorism and what that meant. A fistfight broke out in the back of the bus between two other guys. I got off the bus in the 60s, having almost been hit in the face by one of the guys in the fight. I walked to Merle’s at 72nd & West End.
When I got there, and saw the news on TV, both towers had already come down. I couldn’t believe it. In the time it took me to get uptown from Times Square, there were no Twin Towers anymore… I spent the rest of the day in Merle’s apartment numbly watching the news. Eventually, Eileen, the Riverdance principal female dancer came over. At the time, she had an apartment near the UN, and was freaked out to be by herself near such an obvious target. We spent the day watching the news….Later that night, Merle made us dinner, and we ended up on her rooftop garden drinking wine. It was strange, because it was a beautiful night, we were having great conversation, it was a beautiful place to be sitting. Yet you could see smoke coming from downtown. And fighter planes kept flying overhead every 5 minutes. We could see the West Side Highway from there, and it was empty save for emergency vehicles….there was no transportation getting off of Manhattan, and suddenly I felt the strong urge to be with my parents. I had called them once the phones started working again, so they knew I was OK, but I wanted to be with them. At around 9PM, it was announced that the LIRR was running again, so I went to Penn Station and got a train to Valley Stream. A man covered in dust sat in front of me. He had run out of the Twin Towers as it was starting to fall, and just kept running – up to Penn Station – and just sat there until the trains started running again, not bothering to dust himself off. Myself, and four or five other passengers started talking to him – then to each other. Strange how in the midst of so much chaos, these little pockets of blind compassion can be found…we exchanged names (none of which I remember now, sadly) and wished each other well as we each got off at our stops. I ran home from the station, and hugged my parents furiously when I got home…..
The best thing I can do, I think, is to go on living my life as if it were any other day today. I know it sounds cliche, but this way, the terrorists won’t have won. Sigh. God bless the families of the victims, though. I know they need strength today.
Read more from Teresa Jusino at http://teresajusino.wordpress.com/.