Ten years ago between working at MoMA and going to the Whitney I had a brief stint at a horrible little museum near Battery Park. On that typical normal morning of September 11th I had gotten a coffee and sat down at my desk on the 20th floor of One Battery Park Plaza when one of the secretaries appeared in my doorway. “My husband just called and said a plane crashed into the north tower of the Trade Center.” It wasn’t yet 9 am and people were still filtering into the offices. Some of us went into a break room with a large view of the World Trade Center and watched the smoldering spot on the North Tower, everyone speculating as to what kind of plane and what could have possibly happened. When the crowed began wandering back to their offices I remained in conversation with one of the curators. All of a sudden we felt a rumbling and heard the distinct sound of a jet which simultaneously appeared in the frame of our window. It tipped to one side before leveling off and directly approached the South Tower.

I watched with my mouth open as the airliner disappeared into the building with a shimmer of glass particles like confetti. The whole scene reminding me of those science films of a sperm going into an egg. I remember the person I was with saying Oh My God and I heard others shouting as a fireball blew out the perpendicular wall on the east side. Immediately we were called into a conference room and told we are obviously under attack you can stay here or you can go. I was already on my way. Whenever I see trouble I hear a voice in my head that says GO! It’s always the people who stand around watching that die.

Riding my motorcycle to work that day was a fluke. I usually took the train and got off under the World Trade Center. Before running back to my office and grabbing my helmet I tried to call my girlfriend but couldn’t get through. I rode down the elevator with a bunch of crying women and ran to my bike. The streets were chaos. Pedestrians were directing traffic and gridlock was everywhere. I rode between cars, up on the sidewalk going through holes in the congestion like an NFL running back. I even rode up Fulton Street which was normally closed to traffic, sliding around on the fish slimed cobblestones as my rear tire searched for a contact patch. In my rear view mirror I could see the smoke spewing out of the towers. My inclination was to get away. Making it up to Canal Street, a cop stationed at The Holland Tunnel entrance blocked my way yelling “Its closed, the Lincoln too, try the GWB.” When I made it up to 175th Street, The George Washington Bridge was so backed up I saw no way of approaching it. I would go north until I could cross. The Tappan Zee was also impossible to get close to. Stopping a few times to try calling my mom and my girlfriend on the cell phone proved useless. Continuing north all that passed were emergency vehicles from upstate towns headed back to where I was coming from. I finally crossed the Hudson at the Bear Mountain Bridge. Stopping at a motorcycle dealer that I knew of in the area to use the bathroom, all the employees were huddled around a TV in the showroom. I saw video footage of a tower collapsing. “Shit” I yelled “one of the towers collapsed?” They looked at me like I was from another planet, “Both towers collapsed, where have you been?” said an old mechanic. “I just came from there” was my barely audible reply. It was at this time that I found out that the Pentagon was also hit and was starting to realize that this was far more serious than I had imagined. It was now my mission to get home. My Triumph was so hot at this time from creeping in traffic that I let it out doing 90 mph on the Seven Lakes Drive through Harriman State Park. When I reached Suffern I was able to get a coffee and my call through. I told Micki to call my mom and that I would come by her work as soon I could. When I got to her work place I collapsed into a chair in a conference room with TV coverage of the events. I felt as if I had made it out alive. It seemed as though the world was coming to an end and that night I’m pretty sure was when our son Jake was conceived.

My house was on Raritan Bay across from the city. I could smell the burnt bones and building materials smell which I refered to as “that smell” for weeks afterward. I also heard, saw and felt the F-16s which were patrolling the airspace, turning around directly over my house. All this constant reminders of that day. They made us come back to work the next week. Personal vehicles and buses weren’t allowed in the area at that time and you had to take a ferry to lower Manhattan. Still the smell and the constant spraying of the dust by water trucks, all the while Christie Todd Whitman telling everyone the air was fine to breathe. Be patriotic, get back to normalcy and go shopping were the cries of the day. Little did we know that things would never be normal again.

Last week I received my 2011/2012 World Trade Center Health Registry Survey. They want to keep track of my health since I breathed some of that air that was declared fine to breathe. Yesterday I deposited a large check in the bank that was going to be held for 10 days, “The Patriot Act” said the Teller. Two months before she died my mother went to Mexico for cancer treatment and the TSA strip searched her because she didn’t want to go through the naked body scan machine. She had a nephrostomy bag and they didn’t understand it. So enjoy the 9/11 ten-year anniversary programming and coverage of that stupid wet hole in the ground memorial but remember to be afraid, not of the next terrorist attack but of the next hoop you’re gonna have to jump through to protect your “safety” and the constant erosion of your freedom.

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