I thought I should write some of this down, figuring it'll come
in handy all the way around.
I'd only been in the office for a
couple of minutes when I heard the TV on and everyone going in.
We were standing there watching the first tower burn when the second
plane hit the other tower. No one knew for sure what had happened,
first; from the angle we had you could only see the flames pop out
of the second building, and it was only after they took away all
the superimposed animation at the bottom of the screen could we
see, on the replay, the plane. Even then I had no idea how big it
was; with no scale other than the towers themselves, it looked like
a Piper Cub and only later, in replays from different angles, could
you see what size plane it was.
The moment when I first felt the adrenalin
flowing into my stomach was when they started talking about people
starting to jump. There are a couple photos in today's papers showing
guys frozen against the still-standing tower wall. The option of
But right after that the towers collapsed,
one after the other. I figured that both would be entirely burned
out; just before the first collapse I saw smoke coming up from the
bottom and imagined the chimney effect would take hold of both.
I even figured that there'd be a partial collapse, eventually. But
like everyone else I never expect that the things would just fall
in on themselves, completely, after only an hour and a half (sooner
in the case of the second tower hit).
This makes me realize that even in
a non-nuclear postwar Manhattan, very little would be left other
than two to three hundred feet of rubble, and makes the place feel
even less secure than it did.
The absence of the Towers hasn't begun
to sink in yet. I haven't been below midtown, and from 5th &
59th the cloud is visible but nothing much more. On TV, from across
the river, it's still very hard to get a grip on exactly what shape
things are in. I should imagine that every building in the Tower
complex is on the verge of collapse (the ones that haven't collapsed)
and the Marriott that stood in between the Towers is on fire. There
were some old buildings on almost every side of the towers, including
St. Paul's church, the oldest structure in Manhattan; and a small
Greek Orthodox church that was the only building in the middle of
a small parking lot, right next to the South Tower. The latter I'm
sure is smashed flat.
In the paper today they're saying
that the 2,000 degree heat from burning jet fuel just caused the
place to melt, basically, to the point where it could no longer
stand up by itself.
They're showing some footage from
down there this morning, and the only things that come to mind are
Berlin after the war. Stalingrad, London in the Blitz. No other
comparisons, and in places this is probably worse. They're saying
rubble is one to two hundred feet deep down there.
This morning they're just really starting
to get to survivors. There are apparently some, with mobile phones.
The notion of what these conversations contain, and the conversations
of the people with the mobiles on the airplanes, are haunting. Of
all the things going on, I seriously have not even tried to imagine
what these might be like.
Giuliani says it'll take a week before
final totals are known, but I suspect by the weekend it'll be pretty
Anyway. Yesterday after I left the
building I walked home. Took about an hour and a half. Yesterday
the weather was beautiful (and today, even more beautiful; NY fall
weather at its finest is coming in this week -- the kind of weather
you had when you & Graeme were here, just before the wedding
-- which just makes all of this all the more grotesque). The crowds
were heavy, but not crushing. Many people standing around talking,
everyone with a mobile trying to use it, groups gathering around
TVs in bars, in stores, looking at the windows on the street at
TVs inside. Walking up Broadway was like walking to/from work during
the subway strike in 1980. I stopped at Fairway for some groceries,
crowded but not overwhelmed. There were a few buses running, all
full, but no subways. The bridges and tunnels were sealed. Got to
my house. Went back out for groceries around the corner, and that
so crowded that we had to stand on line to get in. But finally in,
out, and by evening that had lessened.
With all flights cancelled the only
aerial sounds you hear, here, are F-16s. You can't always see them,
only hear them.
At 5:30 I walked over to St. John
the Divine to attend the prayer vigil.On the way I passed along
several cafes and on the other side of Amsterdam several firemen
were walking, and everybody applauded. I can't remember if I've
ever gone over there to the cathedral with you. Sat up in the Choir,
up at the front, as I got there early -- almost five hundred people
eventually showed up. Very lovely organ music and then the priests
etc. came up, all in black robes except the main guy who was in
cerise. Readings from Isaiah & Luke, and prayers, and then another
lovely organ piece. Much stillness, and crying. Then out --
Back home to find Valeria had made
it back. She was calling many people, as was I, the rest of the
This morning came to work. Very creepy
feel on the streets. The only time I've ever seen the streets so
empty of people and cars has been on Christmas morning, and I swear
I think this is even more so. New York's white noise is very different
this morning -- no sirens, no airplanes (save for the occasional
F-16), very few buses, taxis & next to no private cars. There
are cops stationed at all major intersections & subway entrances.
The subway was one-third full; my line is the one that goes under
the Trade Center and is presently stopping at 42nd.
Here at work only one entrance is
open, and there are only four people in my department in today;
and we can basically leave when we want to, having come in (our
boss says so). There were 48 emails here, almost all expressions
of concern & worry, and only one of which actually requested
a galley whilst condoling.
Clute called last night, & I let
him know things were fine; and I imagine Ellen is letting everyone
in the UK know.
I suspect I'm going to stay here till
lunch, then go. I am thinking I'll go downtown, as far as I can