"My dog Misha was retching, and I was trying to sleep. I arrived in the city at 9:30 the night before and managed little rest. Rerrack! Open my eyes. Hum of the city drone, close eyes. Sleep. Rerrack! Open eyes. And then an awkward knock on the bedroom door. My girlfriend's mom: "The World Trade Center is half blown up." Eyes hang open. Downstairs the TV is on, the World Trade Center with a tar-stained tracheotomy hole blowing thick black smoke.
I leash my dog and walk him to the corner of Charles and Greenwich at the end of the block. The towers loom in the skyline, performing. Hands are on foreheads, cell phones at ears. Sirens have started, and I won't have to move the car for street cleaning.
I call my parents. I tell them how the street is filling with people, that sparks and papers are cascading down the tower. I gasp over the phone when a second plane hits the far side of the second tower, sending a ball of flames from the north side of the building. My dog retches. Is he my canary in this coal mine? Are there chemical or biological weapons pouring invisibly over us?
I walk to get coffee. I call this resignation. A radio voice spills out of an open brownstone, 'If you can, stay out of the city.' I am unemployed, I am trying to find an apartment, and though he grew up in the un-city of Portland, Misha just dumped on the sidewalk like a big city dog. Is now a good time to move to New York?
The exodus has started. Women holding hands, men with cell phones and torn pants. Cars carrying disoriented Jersey drivers and lonely Middle Eastern men come north, up the street, ignoring sidewalks, and staring forward. We cannot leave if we want to; bridges and tunnels are closed.
Fighter planes are overhead, and the television tells us the Pentagon is smoking. George Bush is reading to children, the planes are from Boston, and someone has to pay. On the corner where people are calm and hung faces pour past, only an occasional person shouts, 'This is terror. This is goddamn terror.' I judge people by their feet. Towers have fallen, and now, dust migrates north on peoples' feet, in their hair, pouring off cars as they stream up the Westside highway. I judge people by their shoes, by the layers of white ash as if they'd come from a crematorium.
We can't find bread, the mayor is safe. Peter Jennings, like everyone, is starting to get upset. I call out of the city again, this time to Oregon, and I find that not only is the whole country watching, but most people also know more about this than I do. The city is still alive to me. I buy coffee, I eat dinner out, I am tempted by cocktails on Hudson, where emergency vehicles pass unimpeded, and crowds of people sit watching and getting drunk.
I think people are walking in the streets where cars used to drive, I think the smoke is blowing Southeast, away from the gorgeous fall air that the village breathes. I think my dog has stopped retching and the subway might run tomorrow. Before I can tell anyone this, I find out I am wrong. The city is on fire, there are not water cooler bottles filled with blood on the loading dock of St. Vincent's. Everything is chaos, the night is coming, and no one is ready. There is no way to survive this, there is only shock and awe in this country, there is only terror."
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 You know, people are funny. While it was certainly the majority of Americans who rushed to the aid of those fallen by the WTC tragedy, there always seem to be, in times of national disaster, a few assholes who are more than willing to make a buck. Today on the internet auction site Ebay, and to a lesser extent amazon.com, there were people already selling WTC memorabilia, such as newspapers documenting the event, videotapes of the crashes, and even chunks of rubble and bits of glass. One man was selling an unread September 11th edition of the Daily News with the headline "It's War!" for $3000. World Trade Center 2002 calendars were on the auction block for fifty bucks each, a WTC Musical Water Globe was going for $200, and a videotape showing the plane smashing into the tower was on sale for 1,000 dollars. Meanwhile, President George W. Bush and the defense department were trying to sell the American public their own bill of goods, spewing a startling number of violent clichés, such as committing the country to a "monumental struggle of good vs. evil" and "striking back with a hammer of vengeance." It's nice to know our government is willing to ignore their duty to act "as the better part of our nature" and lower themselves to the level of those who sell T-shirts by the roadside picturing Calvin and Hobbes peeing on the Ayatollah Khomeini.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 Today, Hollywood pulled two upcoming films from the fall release schedule: Arnold Schwarzee- gger's terrorist-themed Collateral Damage and Tim Allen's Big Trouble, which features a nuclear bomb being smuggled into an airport. This is the same Hollywood who for years has denied that the violent content of their movies has any bearing on real life. Apparently, they've changed their minds or else just think we're too stupid to differentiate between reality and fantasy. And while concerts featuring Janet Jackson, Ben Folds, and U2 have been cancelled, the Miss America Pageant on September 22, will go on as scheduled. Meanwhile, in the always-levelheaded world of religion, Rev. Jerry Falwell said today that the ACLU, abortion providers, gays, and the federal courts that have banned prayer from schools are the real reasons America has been attacked. He noted that these groups have left us "spiritually vulnerable," and while he doesn't believe God "had anything to do with this tragedy," the big guy upstairs permitted it, because our sinful ways "lifted the curtain of protection." Ohhhh so that's where our yeast infection came from!
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 Today Billy Graham, Jr., minister and son of octogenarian evangelist Billy Graham, Sr., blatantly contradicted Jerry Falwell, when Graham, Jr. told a national television audience that it was not God who caused the terrorist attack as Falwell had posited, but in fact, "the devil." The fracas inspired international theological debate as the faithful tried to decide whom to pray to and whether there was any way to blame the whole thing on the Mormons.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15 The existential hair-pulling over Falwell's comments continued today, as editorials questioned their "appropriateness" and Falwell back-peddled. Here, for examination by the jury, is a little excerpt from the chat in question, between Falwell and right wing fruitcake Pat Robertson, on that bastion of well-reasoned opining, "The 700 Club":
Mr. Falwell: "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be minuscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."
Mr. Robertson: "Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."
Mr. Falwell (a few minutes later): "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the A.C.L.U., People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"
Pagans and feminists? Blame us for veganism, bad bumper stickers, and bead stores if you must, but terrorism? That's just the sort of ignorant religious jingoistic fanaticism that got us in trouble in the first place. We hope there is a God, Jerry, and when you meet her, we hope she's eating tempeh and listening to the Indigo Girls.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 Think you've seen it all this week? Check out the patriotic ode to the ATM on the website atmmarketplace.com. It isn't a coincidence, the site contends, that many countries in Central and Eastern Europe only began installing ATMs after they became democratic countries. They are God's tools. Satan uses checks.