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Winter 01
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Our readers respond to the tragedy.

Please email your thoughts and we will add them to this special page.

I wanted to talk to my friend. But I couldn't move. I leaned forward, half off the couch, my jaw open. On television the World Trade Center was burning and the newscasters were panicking. I could have jumped up, gone to my roof and watched the events unfold. But I couldn't move. I didn't move for hours.

Millions of people experienced something similar on September 11th, 2001. But no matter how alike, each story is unique, every sense of horror and sadness specific to the individuals caught up in the worst tragedy in the history of the United States.

ducts asked its subscribers to send us their reactions to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. As I read through them,I'm taken by how moving each individual response is. Many people talk about the instant of the attack, seared in their minds forever, as if they need to convince themselves it really happened. Most express fear, sadness and confusion. Many call for peace and thoughtfulness. This, perhaps, sets our readers apart from the general public, though I cannot be sure of this.

Some respondents also said they only believed what was happening when they "saw it" for themselves on television. This speaks of the power of television to convey a sense of reality. We are experiencing the dark side of this equation in the weeks following the attack: TV is full of stories of the ongoing war, but most of it is filtered through a haze of spectacle and misinformation.

What this collection of letters shows more than anything is the real need people had, after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, to tell their stories, to share and to listen. I wonder if this need will last. Will our leaders listen? Will the American people stay awake, focussed on what is happening in the world or, rather, will we choose to fall back into our celebrity-adoring/me-first slumber? Will we continue to trade stories?

illustration by Jasmine, age 11
Middle Collegiate Church after school program, NYC

ducts asked our readers to send just a few lines, but many couldn't slow their own momentum and offered several paragraphs. In some cases, we've edited, for length, these responses, but the impact of every essay remains.

What is important about this collection of thoughts is not any one voice. We must try to resist the temptation to personalize the World Trade Center attack, make it into our own private tragedy. What happened on September 11th -- four hijacked airplanes were turned into missiles, killing thousands -- was an attack on a society. But this piece, a collection of individual voices, like those silenced in September, reminds us that societies are comprised of individuals. And it is more difficult to hate an individual, a voice, a friend, a lover, a business partner, than it is an ideology.

--Jonathan Kravetz
Editor, DUCTS

photo by Philip Shane

Letter dated

This morning I am at work -- large accounting firms do not close for an Armageddon -- though I don't know how I will concentrate. At 7:30 a.m., the streets in Washington Heights were almost empty of traffic, the subway cars almost devoid of people. All faces on the A train were sober. And sobering. Movie posters for "Collateral Damage" screamed at me as my train pulled into every station. I have a sick, hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. And I am grateful to be alive.

--Iris N. Schwartz

illustration by Jordan, age 7

Middle Collegiate Church after school program, NYC

Letters dated

My husband awakens at 6:30 every morning and goes downstairs to brew his coffee, read his paper and eat his cereal with a banana in peace. I have never subscribed to the belief that old folks must awaken and get up with the dawn. When he returned from walking our grandson to school, he came upstairs to roust me out of bed about 8:45 a.m., September 11. Instead of Imus's genial glare from the TV screen, there was the WTC with smoke rising up. I called upstairs, "Why didn't you tell me about the fire at the World Trade Center?" "What fire?"

Then I saw an airplane circle around and slam into the second tower! "My, God, it's a terrorist attack!" It took another five minutes for TV to confirm my ridiculous theory to my husband's satisfaction...the rumor that the Pentagon had been hit, did it. We spent the rest of the day shuttling between the porch and kitchen TV's, and canceling all other obligations (except for grampy escorting Sam back home at 3:00). With a son who flies the Eastern corridor and travels around the D.C. area, we were a little worried until he telephoned from Baltimore, MD to reassure us that his family in Potomac Falls were safe and he was returning home.

photo by Philip Shane

As I am paranoid about heights (and fire is a close second), I am particularly haunted by the thoughts and last minutes of those people trapped above the fires. My paranoia extends to flying in an airplane, and dreadful visions often assail me of what it must be like to know one is going to crash.

Extremely thankful that so far no one I know or love has been killed, my imagination keeps returning me to the towers with the fires breaking through the floors or ceilings, watching some co-workers jumping from windows but not having the courage, wishing I had a gun and frantically searching for a knife or some way to kill myself, praying for smoke to overcome me before I feel searing pain; then I'm below the fires, groping my scary way down the steps, visualizing all the doomed people I could not help, afraid I may not be able to help myself.

Do I make it out? I don't know. Were the police or firemen able to rescue me before they were buried and incinerated by the falling tower? How many hours did I live in pain under the rubble, hearing voices but unable to call, before the ash suffocated me? Or did I burn to death after all?

Every time I pick up my cell phone to make or answer a call, I am haunted by the thoughts of those who reached their loved ones, and the pain of those who took the calls, knowing it was the end of their lives when the call just disappeared. I hold the phone in my hand, imagining...

Will we ever forget? NO. This is much worse than the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

--Glenna Bird,
South Carolina


American Consulate, Sydney, Australia
photo by Christine Walters

At 6.00 am local time in Australia I awoke to hear about something I was sure was some kind of mistake. Our satellite TV confirmed that it was no mistake. I sat there stunned watching the live feeds from the US. I drove to work in a daze, then as I walked through our state capital I looked up at the multi-storey buildings, just thinking.

My heart goes out to the people of the United States - I am not a religious woman, but those with faith, draw comfort through this dark and terrible time.

--Kathy, Adelaide,

illustration by Jasmine, age 11
Middle Collegiate Church after school program, NYC


Letters dated

On Tuesday when I went to the gym at 9:00 a.m. everyone was staring at the TVs, and I stared too, instantly felt terrible dread, saw the second jet hit, knew it was terrorism, heard about the pentagon, watched the World Trade Center towers' implode, and kept tuning out of everything but the TV (people, my job, life etc.) for days, re-imagining the last moments of the victims on the planes and on the ground, fearing what could have happened to friends and relatives, dreading the body counts, more unapt Bush sound-bytes, another Bush war, or that the hijackers would be found to be Asian, and, inevitably, far worse terrorists of the future.

The new skyline, from Brooklyn

photo by Philip Shane

At the same time I fear what Americans are becoming, sensing that our humanity is at stake, that we may be blinded by hate and bloodlust and the corpocrat versions of patriotism, and that many innocent Arab Americans will be hurt....

I'm afraid we're entering darker decades than even the Reagan/Bush/Gingrich "revolutions," which maybe never stopped, and which got us into this mess in the first place, especially when we did high-tech "surgical strikes" on Baghdad during the Gulf War.

Ironically, I just returned to the US from Taiwan, where my parents were born, and upon landing at JFK, the instant I saw all the different faces, I couldn't help it -- I still loved what this country meant to these people -- I saw their hopes, their desires, their yearnings for the America that exists most purely in people who have not been born in the US.

And I love this America too, even though I feel a lot of the crushing oppression of other Americans and feel like its culture is poison to me.

The instant I see all these twentieth and twenty-first century pilgrims, I realize I belong here (despite the countless Americans who have said otherwise) -- and that willingly or not, I still love this place.

--Jeffrey Lee


First thing that I thought,

"Fuck, Bush did it!"

Following that thought,

Lower Manhattan, several blocks from the ruins

photo by Philip Shane

My partner's home,

Her family, friends

All those friends that work

In tall towers

I called to save them

Then girl and I

We packed a few things

Headed for the hills

Thinking how

We miss Clinton's days

He only pissed

The rednecks off

-- Emmett the Sane


Initially we were so shocked that we just sat in front of the TV all of two days following the unfolding of the disaster. We cannot believe the bravery of your firemen and other trying to help evacuate the buildings. We have one picture of a fireman whose number can be clearly seen on the front of his helmet. He was going up the stairs when hundreds of people were descending. That is the most awful picture he was going to his death in an incredible bid to save others.

Signatures, Greenwich Villiage firehouse

photo by Philip Shane

I am sure there are many others who displayed extreme bravery as evidenced by the number of the firemen killed. It was totally horrifying to see the poor despairing people jumping from the building and one paper had a picture of what appeared to be a woman with a small child in her arms on the outside of the building. Poignant for us was the picture of the utterly exhausted fireman lying in a heap with his German Shepherd dog. I have been trying to discover his picture it was on BBC news I would love to put this on my website along with other tributes to these wonderful dogs.

There have been lots of conversations on the newsgroups you will find us on news:uk.politics.misc. Lots of your countrymen visit. We are all thinking of you most of the time.

Our very best to you and yours,
-- Julian and the writer Wendy, Wales.


I have been fearful of over-reaction on the part of our government. I have not seen any serious abuse so far, but I am not reassured. I believe any serious beginning solution will have to pay a maximum amount of attention to insure human rights for the entire world population.

-- Walter Tasem


My reaction to the destruction is much the same as that of others. But I am also concerned about much of the talk about what needs to be done. I do not like the talk about WAR. I think of that as conflict of nations. These horrible actions were not actions of any nation, but rather a small group of extremists. We have had extremists in this country. If our Unibomber had sent bombs to a foreign country would that country have been justified in making war on the U.S.?

Peace circle, Union Square, NYC

photo by Philip Shane

The Oklahoma bombing was by people of our country. Who would we make "war" against in retaliation for that? These terrorist actions that cross national boundaries should be concerns of the World Court, the United Nations. Cannot we work through them? We believe killing innocent civilians is wrong when done to us. Would it not be wrong for us to do it in other countries in our effort to wipe out the extremists? I really fear the reactions of so many of us, who want to get us into a war that could be disastrous beyond what we are now angry about. War escalates. Let's not let our anger about these atrocities bring on even more.

If anyone were willing to give his life to take mine, I would want to know what I had done, or what he believed about me. I would listen to any justified criticisms if he were sane and telling the truth. If he were not sane, I would want him treated as are other insane persons. I would not want a war over a handful of insane activist criminals.

-- Frances Graves


On Labor day, my father passed away... and my world changed. 8 days later, the world changed for everybody.

My father had been sick for a while. Cancer had ravaged his body more than we had known as we thought he had another 6 months. He passed away at home where he had wanted to be, not in a sterile hospital. My sisters and I all flew to Florida for the wake (I live in Chicago). I decided to stay a few extra days so that my mom wouldn't go from a full house to nothing, give her a transition period so's to speak. My flight out was to be on Wednesday the 12th. Then 'IT' happened. My mother and I watched it all unfold on TV, surreal to our already wracked emotions of the week before. Phone calls from far and wide came in as our family reached out to each other, while E-mails from 7 different countries showed me that my friends from chat rooms were family also. As the skies went quiet, I realized I may not get home for a while. The options included taking my Dad's old car, an 89 Taurus with near 100,000 miles on it... but no, things would be back to normal soon enough I told myself. Then came the day after day of cancellations and building clouds. Off shore, tropical storm Gabrielle was gathering strength, threatening to ground the planes even if the FAA allowed them to fly.

I awoke on Friday morning to whistling winds and driving rains... flying out in time to be back at work by Monday looked dim. Without even showering, I grabbed my packed bags, hugged my mother good-bye, and headed out into the storm. My mother had her own car and had planned on selling this one, so while she was worried about me, I was taking the worry of selling it of her hands. The first 3 hours of the drive were in a dark maelstrom of rain and learning the layout off the cars controls, the whole time listening to the radio tell me how Gabrielle was building up strength and heading the same direction I was. Wind gusts of 75 MPH were reported in towns that I didn't know were north or south of me. I just kept thinking that I couldn't stop for food till I had well outrun the storm.

West Side Highway, NYC

photo by Philip Shane

By noon I was halfway through Georgia and listening to the president inspire the country on the radio. I spend the night in southern Tennessee. I walk outside with a beer to see the building next door festooned with giant neon signs advertising fireworks all along it's 300 foot length. Can you get more American than that? All along the drive I notice a few things. Eagles and hawks are flying everywhere, I'm not sure why. I see our flag flying everywhere, from cars to bridges to the pot bellied truck driver standing on a hillside near a rest stop waving a huge flag. I also feel the community our nation has become in how everyone stops to talk with you like a neighbor. At times on my drive I have to force back tears upon hearing stories on the radio... I need to keep heading home. If I stop to let it sink in I'd be a mess.

1,200 miles later of listening to radio stations through the heartland, the voices of hundreds of callers, I haven't figured out a thing. I just know that 10 days ago I carried my father to his home in an urn, and today he, through his faithful old car, carried me safely to my home.

-- Zackary Lowing


The Way It Was
After hearing an explosion, I looked out my bedroom window and saw the Twin Tower burning. I ran outside because I was scared. Everything felt so surreal, the daylight didn't even look right. For a moment I was reminded of the air-raid drills of my childhood and the days of Communism and Castro.

TV news van covered with "missing" notices,
St. Vincent's Hospital, Greenwich Villiage

photo by Philip Shane

I walked toward the Promenade, a walkway in Brooklyn Heights with an open view of the skyline. Nothing felt real, not even the sea of screams that came as the first tower fell in on itself in layers and layers of grey/black ashes. The faces around me were tear-stained, red, horrified. My heart broke for the innocent victims, the buildings, and for my parents who are both Holocaust survivors who believed I would never see such a sight.

Today, Sunday, I got a phone call. The husband and son-in-law of a childhood friend were working on the 104th floor. They didn't get out. Tomorrow would have been her daughter's first anniversary. I curled on the floor and cried.

--Sandra Hurtes


Smoldering, from the Brooklyn Bridge

photo by Philip Shane

I have never felt fear like I have been feeling these past few days. Fear that the United States is not as all-powerful as it tells us it is. Fear that we will "retaliate," instead of "wipe out terrorism," as Henry Kissinger just alluded to on 60 minutes. Just big fear. Fear that I didn't know I had in me. Someone just sent me an email that said "I assume you are holding your own in nyc." I beg to differ. I still love new york though, and maybe i will wear that american flag t shirt that my mom gave me a couple of years ago which i thought was dorky. maybe i don't think it is so dorky anymore. anyway, thank you.

-- jen nails

Ground Zero
photo by Philip Shane

Letters dated

Only as the storms came Friday night did the numbness fade. With every electrified flash, every sky-searing clap, my heart knotted, horrified that so many would forever be without their loved ones.

The first tower collapses

photo by Philip Shane

This week, I have thrice fallen to my knees: first as coworkers informed me that the smoking towers I had curiously eyed from the elevated subway platform an hour earlier had collapsed; next, as four hours after the initial attack I finally learned that a dear friend escaped lower Manhattan alive; finally, as my candle joined thousands of other flames in Union Square to honor those that have given their loves and lives to this city, refusing to be driven out by hatred or fear.

--Sarah Ockler


I was traveling to work in my car. The news broke in on the radio. As I walked into the office, I announced the first attack. Immediately all radios were turned on and one staff member went to get a TV. We could not work. We sat in front of the TV in disbelief. Finally we were all sent home to be with family.

rescue workers supply tent
photo by Philip Shane

I surely have cried a lot. I have been angry at both the circumstances that can cause such hate among terrorists and the fact that our security agencies and systems seemed so helpless. The prayer now is simple. Give us patience and tolerance. But let us not forget that we are experiencing what many in the world have already experienced and that we are truly a global community.

Thanks for the chance to share thoughts.



I, like many Americans, was watching the "Today" program when this attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took place. As I watched in horror, I returned in my mind to the death scenes I experienced in Vietnam thirty years ago. Our Constitution states that our citizen's inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will be preserved at any cost.

Support for rescue workers, West Side Highway, NYC
photo by Philip Shane

Many times these rights have been challenged but America's children came forward and did their duty each in their own way, many spilling their blood and giving their lives to preserve these liberties for future generations. We are all indebted to them for this sacrifice. Now we are one of those generations facing a threat to our liberty. Unfortunately, military force may be the only solution to this problem, a problem that has its roots in ignorance and fanaticism. Let us use this force only as a last resort but if we must, all Americans must support our forces. I am just a common citizen like you, however, unlike many of you, being retired from the US military I can be brought back to active duty immediately. If this were to happen, once again, my oath to defend the constitution of the United States would bear itself upon me, and I will defend her honor with my life if necessary.

--Delano R. "Dee" Brister
Alexandria, La.
U. S. Army, Retired


I turned on the TV when I got home from walking my son to school. I couldn't get the networks, so I went to MSNBC and saw the flames. At first I thought it was a movie review, until I noticed the BREAKING NEWS band across the bottom of the screen. When I turned up the sound, I heard that the Lincoln Tunnel had been closed. I called my husband on his cell phone; his bus was just entering the Lincoln Tunnel. I felt a fear and vulnerability that I haven't had since the Cuban Missile Crisis. I am still afraid.

--Alice Elliott Dark


Having left NY only two months ago to return to my birthplace, Chicago, I thought frequently of the prime view of the NYC skyline I'd enjoyed every day from my St. George apartment in Staten Island.

photo by Brad Wise

Last week, I watched that skyline--the one I'd first fallen in love with when I visited NYC as a child--crumble on live television. Most terrifying was the tremendously heightened sense of physical distance from my fellow New Yorkers as I phoned dozens of friends to see if they had been hurt in the attack. In the months to come, I'll visit NYC to see my friends and take the ferry--which carried bodies from Manhattan after the disaster--to my former home to see the new skyline and find a way to accept it, however impossible it seems to do so now.

--Don Bapst


Letters dated

The day was just beginning at work for me. My class was supposed to have a short session of welcome with the school guidance counsellor at 9:15. She came running into the classroom shaking and pale.

illustration by Jasmine, age 11
Middle Collegiate Church after school program, NYC

She told me that she'd have to reschedule because the twin towers of the World Trade Center had been blown up , her daughter and baby always walked there each morning, and they couldn't get in touch with her on the cell phone that she always carried. All I could think about was the fact that I wasn't sure whether my son had arrived into New York the evening before or was on his way back to The Big Apple. As the day progressed parents rushed to school to pick up their children and I had to wait a long day to embrace the voice of my child. I pray for the parents and families who never had that opportunity.

--Bonni Scherr


During the first couple of days of our national tragedy, I found myself walking around with a feeling of total inadequacy. I asked myself why on earth I had picked such a useless profession as that of a writer. Why hadn't I become a nurse, a teacher, a firefighter, a psychologist -- someone who could perform an act, any act, of concrete aid to the victims of these tragic events?

Painter, Washington Square, NYC
photo by Philip Shane

And while I still am awestruck by and grateful for the courage and contributions of the people who perform those roles, I'm also slowly beginning to realize that the world is also going to need writers, musicians and artists in the times ahead. It is going to take weeks, months and years for all of us to process what has happened, to deal with the inevitable fallout, and to somehow crawl out of the pit of despair and hopelessness that we've all been cast into. Art is one of the tools God has given us to reach into the depths of ourselves and to reach out to our fellow human beings. So please, don't belittle yourself for being a writer, an artist, or a member of any other profession. Use your creativity to help us all reaffirm our common humanity, reconnect with our resilient inner spirits, and recover our joy in living in the face of death.

--Cathy Wald


On the morning of Tuesday, September 11th, I had gone to look at a neighborhood day care center with our 10-month-old daughter, and then we were going to vote in the mayoral primary and pick up some dry cleaning. People on the streets of the East Village startied saying that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane, were hanging out their windows to look, and smoke was visible from the street. It didn't sink in until I came home, turned on the television, and watched the second plane hit and the skyscrapers cave in. Had I not been fired from my hated job, for a health-related non-profit, located at the base of Wall Street a few weeks before, I would have been running up Broadway at that moment in the smoke and ash to my daughter's day care center near City Hall.

St. Vincents Hospital, Greenwich Village, NYC
photo by Philip Shane

The days that followed were eerie and unreal. Depending on the wind direction, the smell of smoke hung in the air. Our area of the city was cut off from traffic. The only cars were ambulances, police cars, trash trucks, and other vehicles used in the rescue. Police outside our door checked our I.D. every time we came home. Now, my husband Thad Rutkowski and I try to go about our lives, but an incredible sadness pervades everyday life. Color-xeroxed photographs of the people trapped inside the WTC are posted on the streets, stating their companies and floors. They look like the same people who would have been stepping out of the East Village bars a few days ago. People light candles and build makeshift memorials, acquaintances hug on the street. in peace,

--Randi Hoffman


Letters dated

Crowds cheering on the rescue workers, NYC
photo by Philip Shane

I was in Bangkok, Thailand, during the terrorist attack on the United States. I first heard the news online early in the evening, as a fellow teacher read off the headline from about a plane hitting the building. For some reason, it didn't register, like it was a joke somehow, or that no lives had been lost in the process. We went out to dinner and then came back to our guesthouse. The staff was gathered around the evening TV, and gestured for us to come over as we entered the lobby. Thai television had interrupted that evening's prime time broadcasting with live coverage. We then saw our first images of the chaos, and the realization dawned sickeningly that this was anything but a joke. I sat and watched the TV in disbelief, with tears welling up inside me, and felt like the world had slipped forever into insanity.

--Benjamin Malcolm


Hudson River, smoke in the distance

photo by Philip Shane

I heard about the disasters as I was on my way to the area on the A train from Brooklyn. I got out at Brooklyn Bridge and all I could hear was a radio blaring the news from an open car. I asked a guy what happened and he told me. Shock and disbelief hit me and then an overall sense of grave reality rained down on me as the ash and paper fell over me as I walked home. Reality of the lives lost and the consequences that must follow. I knew then, as I know now, that we will never be the same again.

--Owen Burke


Letter dated

Homemade peace memorial, Sydney, Australia
photo by Christine Walters

Travel journal entry: Sydney, Australia
Everywhere we go here, we are reminded of the tragedy at home; whether it's flowers on a church altar, people signing condolence books at Town Hall, radio, newspapers or just the sad looks we get from people when we say we're from NY. I want to tell people I'm from Canada just to spare them the pain of empathy. It's very weird to be a tourist in a big city right now. On Tuesday we went up the tallest structure in Sydney--the 76 storey AMP Tower. Walking around the observation deck, looking over the skyline and harbour it was hard not to put myself in the shoes of those unsuspecting tourists who lost their lives on the day of the crash.

--Christine Walters


Letters dated

let me share with you the beginning adjustments I think my mind, heart, body and soul are beginning to make as almost a week has passed... Of course, I'd been crying on and off all week as most of us have watching and reading about it and walking the streets and smelling the burning. But on a bright blue September morning, where I usually would take the now-closed Holland Tunnel past the World Trade Center on the West Side of Manhattan, I drove west across town through the quiet Sunday morning streets to the Lincoln Tunnel, I could not bear to hear any more news. I could not bear to listen to any sort of music. I was stuck with my own thoughts. It occurred to me that it was not good to be old or too young at this time. We were now the weak. I began to go back into this new, unfamiliar circle of worry about my kids and grand kids, their present and their future, and with heavy heart, grieving for those who were not lucky last Tuesday, I knew how good it would be to see them and hold and kiss them.

photo by Philip Shane

As I drove to the tunnel approach, about 100 feet before we entered it, a lone policeman was on duty checking and waving cars in slowly and methodically. In front of me was a beat up old van, which the cop pulled over. I kept driving, my body becoming rigid as stone. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw behind me a shiny black limousine with a capped driver and 3 dark-skinned passengers who, to my now paranoid senses, looked like suspicious Middle East terrorists. I said to myself: "Oh God, one cop. The van is a decoy for the limousine behind me! Stop it, Gloria, you can't live this way. Oh but you'll have to to some extent." Driving through, I kept calm but hoped if anything was going to happen, that it would be instant. I don't know what happened to the van. The limousine turned off shortly past the tunnel to Jersey City. About a half mile out of the tunnel on the Jersey side, the golden sunlight and blue skies were a marvelous setting for the magnificent skylined city behind me. The city I love so much and, which my heart would always swell with pride at as I approached or left it day or night by land, air or waterway. Many Americans don't or didn't seem to consider New York City as part of the United States. To me it was and is a mirror of everything that is American. I noticed a pickup truck in the lane to my right with a big American flag waving tall and proud in the back of it. I saw the driver, a young man, staring back to his left. Normally, I'd be disdainful of a flag-flying American, an automatic bigot is what my automatic liberal brain would tell me.

But yesterday, I saw the pain in his face and I too turned and stared and saw my beloved broken and burning Manhattan skyline against the glorious blue of the morning. I began to choke up badly and then when I turned and saw a lone silver plane rise from Newark Airport a couple of miles ahead of me. I broke down completely. Don't ask me why it happened then. Maybe because I could view the destruction for the first time from a physical distance outside of Manhattan... Because I had only been hearing and seeing military planes overhead all week, now saw a commercial flight, a newly mixed symbol of normality and terror, moving like a bird tranquilly and silently in an upward trajectory...Because I wondered what would 'happen' to it...Because I had driven out of the city safely to be with my own flesh and blood who were not physically harmed... And because I knew for sure that what we'd lost would never be regained. But what helps is connecting with each other as part of this big, courageous, confusing, beautiful, ugly, noble and narrow-minded, lovable, hateful, but always miraculous, wonderful and surprising American family.



I go from being scared, to angry as hell. Random whoops of a siren make me jump. Certain smells make me worried. The memory of the second plane collision makes me weep. My personal work seems trivial and uninteresting, business is bad, the stock market has tanked. Thinking about the passengers who called their loved ones while a hijacker murdered a female flight attendant with a box cutter, imagining how they must have felt as they careened to their deaths, watching the footage of the people who jumped out of the towers to escape the heat, or contemplating the sudden death of office workers who were waiting for a meeting to start and who will never know what really happened—it puts me into a rage that is difficult to describe.

photo by Philip Shane

In my mind, I want to retaliate with mischief, mayhem, murder and destruction, I want shave my head, wear brass knuckles on my fists and feet and kick Taliban ass, I want to go in like Bruce Lee and flail titanium nunchuks on every guy wearing a desert robe, I want to bomb Afganistan and Iraq with a payload of twisted girders, body parts and tower rubble, I want to fly the F-15 that delivers swift, lethal punishment in the form of big ugly pointy Sidewinder rockets, I want to strap a nuclear bomb to my chest and transform myself into a toxic supernova. Oh, and I have some opinions too: I think Osama Bin Laden should have his testicles removed by someone with a shaky hand and a blunt pair of safety scissors, I think he should be raped on a daily basis by a hundred stray Jack Russell terriers, I think he should be given a shovel in order to bury each victim of the attack, apologize to the families, and then shoot himself in the head with an elephant gun. If these thoughts of mine worry you, rest assured, they are just thoughts. My latest worry is about people who don't know the difference between feeling and doing. So why not indulge this poor, shell-shocked New Yorker by telling all your friends and elected officials about how important it is to monitor our actions, personal and official, in order to prevent the country's collective anger from deteriorating into shameful acts, such as the scapegoating of our neighbors or the launching of a politically expedient war. Why not do it out of respect for the dead?

--Jim Gialamas


Like lots of people my first reaction was shock, disbelief, denial, fear. As the week wore on and we were subjected to the images over and over and I watched my four year old child grapple with his own feelings of horror I knew then why I couldn't stop crying. Yes, I cried for the thousands of lives lost, the senseless killing of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. I cried out of fear for my country's future, my future, my family's future. I just cried because I didn't know what else to do. I have begun to narrow down my thoughts and better understand what it is I truly fear.

Missing persons posters, Greenwich Village

photo by Philip Shane

I look at my two young boys, ages four and sixteen months and I feel, at times, utter despair. I wonder what the future holds for them. Two innocent children who G-d willing will grow up to be beautiful, strong, healthy men. I watch as my four year old son builds towers and shows me planes crashing into them, and says "I hate those people." I hear him ask me, "mama what does that word they are saying mean?" And I struggle to explain what terrorism means. I cringe as he asks me," why?". I am angry for them, I am sad for them, I worry for them. How long will this war really last? What will the world hold for them in the future? Will they one day be forced to be a part of this war on terrorism? What will happen to them and all of us in this country while the war wages on? I look at them everyday, and everyday I feel the pit in my stomach. I have made the donations, offered my blood, but nothing seems to be enough to make the feelings go away. That nervous feeling in my stomach that is always there now whenever I turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or drop my child off at school. I guess it is best for all of us if we never lose some of that feeling in our stomachs, I just hope and pray that my children never have to have that feeling in theirs.

-- Robin Cavicchi

Letter dated

I was walking down Fifth Avenue Watching the Towers blossom with smoke in the distance. I felt somehow mesmerized by the smoke as if I had entered a dark part of history and couldn't leave. I felt and saw the people around me caught in the same horrific moment. A young man in a yellow shirt began to scream, "Oh my God." Bending at the waist, he crumbled into himself while his friend supported him. When I looked back at the North Tower, it was gone.

--Stephanie Hart

photo by Philip Shane

Letters dated

Words fail, yet there are only words.
To describe the impact of September11, 2001 is beyond language. I can only stitch the perimeter of the grief in my tiny circle, the lives brushed, the lives lost.

My family is safe vulnerable but snug and consuming pots of soup and loaves of honey cake I've made, on autopilot, in the days after, my puny attempt to exert control and give my children an anchor they can eat. Our losses are substantial, but intangible.

The real losses: Little Jilly Conroy, my sons first-grade classmate, lost her dad Kevin. He kissed Jill, her sisters and their brother goodbye before school that Tuesday and will never come home. Two boys in my daughters Hebrew School lost their mom Lisa; they're with their grandparents now, their long-divorced dad well out of the picture. Theirs are the real losses: concrete, acute, inexplicable, incomprehensible.

Smoke, lit by rescue lights, looms over Greenwich Village

photo by Philip Shane

On September 10th, I loved my life. My husband, our kids, my work I was enraptured, voracious, passionate. Life was complicated, life was dense, life was just great. Having made my own way in life supporting myself when my family cut me off, moving across the country on a one-way air ticket with nine boxes of books and a subway token on a gold chain, pushing three children out of my body and into the world with not a drop of anesthesia had tricked me into feeling strong. Not invincible, of course, but equal to life's blows, made of tough, strong stuff. Now, things look much more elemental. I lay down to sleep and wake up alive: Good. The soup I made this morning makes a good supper at night: Good. The kids lay sleeping in their beds, after midnight, when I shut off nightlights and tuck updrooping blankets. Very, very good. We go on, we go forward, we are changed. Now, I love my life, but I am scared, in ways and places new to me, and the uncertainty worries my sleep, nagging me into wakefulness and into unhappy thoughts.

As a child of Holocaust survivors, I grew up knowing the central maxim of my childhood that anything and everything you love can disappear in an instant. At least, I thought I knew it, and I did from the neck up. But I never really got it, in the gut, in the seizing bowels and pounding heart, until September 11. Now, I get it through and through. And I'm still scared. Living, looking for some sense and some shreds of meaning. Making soup, and still scared.

--Helen Zelon


All Israelis share in Americašs grieving. Israel, more than any other nation I believe, can empathize with America's sorrow, horror and anger. Most Israelis feel that on September 11 America received a bitter, highly concentrated dose of what Israelis have endured for the past 30 years. There is the hope in Israel that Americans and the rest of the world will better understand Israel's daily struggle against terrorism.

--Tata Pyatigorsky
Beer Sheva, Israel


The Dawn of a New Day
The morning after the terrorist attack on the U.S. I woke up very early. I needed to make sure that the sun would rise again.
A lengthy wait ensued as the sky went through many changes in mood.

Sunrise, September 12, 2001

photo by Bradley Ruffle

Eventually, the sun was permitted to show its face. A vestige of a smile emerged on mine: something in this world remained the same.

--Bradley Ruffle
Beer Sheva, Israel



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