Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Celebrating bin Laden's Demise From Afar

When certain momentous events take place in the States, I can't tell you how hard it is to be here.  Or rather, how hard it is to not be there. I lived in NYC on 9/11.

My story? I woke up and saw that the commuter traffic outside my bedroom window, which normally formed a steady stream of walkers up 6th Avenue, had stopped with everyone looking south.  I went up to my roof where a group of construction workers from a nearby roof told me that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center.  Seconds later, we watched the second plane hit the second tower.  It sounds cliche, but a cold chill went through my body when I realized this was no accident.  Something very bad was going on - and while I didn't know what exactly it was, I knew it wasn't good.

I ran downstairs and realized all my roommates had left for work already.  (Being in the music industry generally meant I was the last one to leave in the mornings!)  I alternatively tried calling my roommate Betsy at work and my dad in Kentucky to let him know I was okay.  Funny story - people in Kentucky hadn't heard the news yet and it just so happened that my dad had a new secretary answering the phones.  She kept trying (and failing) to transfer me - and in turn kept hanging up on me.  The third time it happened I said, "Do not transfer me. I am his daughter.  I am in New York City.  We are under attack.  You need to get up, walk over to his office and physically put him on the phone."  Later, my dad said this poor woman was completely traumatized by the call.

I then connected with Betsy who said that her boyfriend and his roommate (both good friends of mine) were home and that I should go over to their apartment.  I lived in Chelsea; these guys lived in the West Village.  Normally this is a 5-minute taxi ride or 10-minute subway ride.  I jumped in a cab, but we could only go two blocks because of all the confusion and traffic and crowds.  So I hopped out and ran the rest of the way.

From my friend's West Village apartment, we watched the towers collapse.  Complete shock is the only way I can describe how I felt in that moment.  Then, of course, I kicked into major crisis mode and went downstairs to the grocery store and attempted to buy everything I could get my hands on - like everyone else in the neighborhood.

The days that followed were surreal.  I can still smell the jet fuel burning- which lingered in the air for weeks after 9/11.  The fighter jets that flew over our city that night - their ominous sound amping up the fear factor.  Having to show ID to get south of 14th Street.  Just how gorgeous the weather was.  The media always comment on this - but it's true; that blue sky will always stand out in my mind.

It felt like New Yorkers fell into 3 categories - those who walked around like zombies holding handmade fliers with information on missing loved ones (we ran into good friends who were doing this very thing), those who were trying everything they could to help (donating blood, buying supplies for volunteers, cheering on firemen), and those who gathered at spots like Union Square and Washington Square Park to mourn. My friends and I fell into the latter two categories.  We were the lucky ones. So many others had it much much worse.

These are the things I remember - along with the pure fear of "Will it happen again?"  I think it took years for that tangible fear to go away...and I'm not sure it's completely gone or ever will be, for that matter.

So when I hear on Monday that US forces have found and killed Osama bin Laden - I am overjoyed.  And emotional.  And immediately transported back to what life was like on 9/11.  I am also very very sad to not be in NYC for this news.  It doesn't feel right that I'm not there.  My best friend (who- full disclosure, now lives in the NJ suburbs) emails me to say that the mood in the city the next day is unbelievable.  I hate not being a part of it.  Now I'm not saying I would've been partying at Ground Zero at 2am or hanging from a lamppost in Times Square... but I would've been a part of the good news.

Instead, V and I decided to be loud and proud New Yorkers in Discovery Bay.  We donned red, white and blue (for me) and a Yankees cap (for him), headed to the newly opened pizza place run by a New Yorker named Sal (we never need an excuse for this!) and watched MSNBC on Slingbox.  We exchanged excited texts and emails with fellow Americans living in HK.  It wasn't the same as being there, but it felt good nonetheless.

A slice, a Brooklyn Lager and CNN on Slingbox

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