I miss you, New York

5 years ago today, I was jarred out of bed by the sound of a jet airliner crashing into the World Trade Center – six short blocks from my Manhattan apartment.

I moved there for no singular reason, rather a bunch of convenient excuses, really. To live without a car payment, to experience something new, to drink in bars ’till 4am, to escape the seemingly unending heartbreak of a particular girl. I was quite successful in New York City; working for a prominent marketing and political consulting firm. I learned how to depend on subways, how to not get mugged, where to find the REAL Ray’s Pizza, how to get certain bartenders to serve me stronger drinks, and how to blend in perfectly. But my soul was never satisfied, and in 2003 I moved back to Los Angeles. Wiser for having endured such a place, but truly happier with a motorcycle and a beach never more than 20 minutes away.

Most days, I don’t miss New York City. I’m a California Boy through-and-through. In fact, even though half of my closest friends live there, I’ve never been back to visit even once. However, there is one day that I miss NYC every year….

Today.

When the 2nd plane hit, I was standing in my living room, watching the television. We heard the plane collide with the building first, and then saw it on TV. This delay was so unsettling. This was happening only a few blocks away, and yet I was glued to the sound of the television. I shared this experience with a girl who was subletting a room in my apartment while my roommate was in LA. I don’t remember her name, but I hugged her and she cried in my arms that morning. We watched the second tower fall from our rooftop. I don’t really care to comment on what that felt like.

Later that day, we walked around ground zero with wet towels covering our mouths. It was impossible to breathe. Today, I barely remember what she looked like, but together, we walked out of that apartment into a world that had forever changed. We opened the doors to our apartment to strangers – people that had been caught in the storm of debris outside. We offered them towels and band-aids for cuts and bruises. I was talking to one of these strangers in my kitchen – I instinctively apologized to her for my dirty apartment. She laughed – a real laugh. It was silly and completely ridiculous. But she understood I was just as scared as she was. I drank a beer in my living room with a 50-year old businessman who worked at Smith Barney. 10AM – him and I shared a Pabst Blue Ribbon. It was a strange new world, indeed.

I spent quite a while on the phone with my mother. She had visited NYC just a few months prior. On the night of her arrival, she asked, “Well, what do you want to do?” I said, “Let’s walk over to the World Trade Center – it’s amazing.” She had remembered just how short that walk was from my house while she watched the towers collapse on television.

Two of my friends and I walked to ground zero that night. Since my apartment was so near the site, we were already well inside the restricted area. All we could hear were the sounds of firefighter’s locator beacons. See, the firefighters wear a little gadget that emits a piercing noise when it’s not reset every few minutes. In the event they become unconscious and/or trapped, these beacons can alert someone to their presence. A chorus of hundreds of whistles, everyone of them attached to a dead man – screaming from a pile of rubble. I never want to hear that sound again, but I know I’ll never forget it.

I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge that night. 6 miles to my girlfriends house. We weren’t alone on that bridge. Since transportation was effectively shut down, thousands of others were forced to make the same trek. People walked hand in hand that had only known each other for a few minutes. We went to Great Lakes, a neighborhood bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn. In silence, we mourned with total strangers. Most of us didn’t even know what we were mourning.

For days and days, perfect strangers embraced on the street. We were all in this together. Two blocks or two-hundred blocks – it didn’t matter how far you were from the World Trade Center. A piece of our city; our world had been taken from us, and the loss was the same for everyone. We all gave blood and supplies and tears and hugs to anyone who needed them, and we were offered the same.

I had never seen more love than I saw then, and I have not seen it since.

Today, I miss you, New York.

30 thoughts on “I miss you, New York

  1. Paul

    I didn’t realize you had watched the tower fall, and before now I had never heard about the sound of the locator beacons.

    Thank you for this remembrance, which is as moving as anything I have read about that terrible day.

  2. Kevin

    Wow. That was one of the more chilling and gripping stories I have heard regarding 9/11. And I agree, I miss 9/11 too. I miss the onness we felt throughout the country. I would never hope for 9/11 but I do wish for that type of unity in both the Church and across our country.
    I hope you didn’t mind. I quoted you in my blog.

    Kevin

  3. aly hawkins

    What horrible, beautiful memories, Zack. Thank you for writing so lyrically and viscerally…it’s crazy what one remembers in a disaster: the beer with the businessman, the chilling wail of the beacons. All of those moments rolled into a few days. Thank you.

  4. Zack Post author

    Over the years, it’s strange what I can and can’t remember. My friends remind me of things we experienced that day. It’s so strange what the mind chooses to remember.

  5. corey

    I remember a few days later, one of the major networks aired a montage of images from the day of, and few after. The bulk of it was in slow motion and the soundtrack was Live’s “Run To The Water”, I think- which seemed like an obscure pull for a major network. I remember thinking that life had changed at that moment. I sat there shoulder to shoulder with my wife, standing in front of the television, the two of us just sobbing.

    I also remember thinking that this is how the adults must have felt in November of ’63 or in December of ’41. I also remember thinking that the sobbing signified that I was no longer a kid (even though I was 28) with a carefree / naive worldview.

  6. Chad

    My first memory of 9/11 was Matt calling me…

    “Is Zack alive?!!?”

    “Uhhhh… As far as I know.”

    “Turn on your TV.”

    “Oh crap.”

    I remember feeling so relieved when I finally got a hold of Shawn (Zack’s sis) and was told that he was alright. Actually, I wouldn’t leave for work until I got that information, and then I basically spent all day trying to get into CNN’s website… which was… just jammed.

    I remember wanting to write a song for New York, a city which I have spent perhaps… 15 total days of my life, and yet adore, and each of my attempts seemed so…. hollow. Like… I couldn’t write a song even adequate for myself, much less sharing with anyone else.

    I still haven’t written a word about 9/11 in a song.

  7. gretchen

    Thank you Zack for sharing this. Your words bring back haunting images (old and new) so quickly.

    I remember having to face a room full of my 6 year old students an hour after hearing the news, and having to answer a mess of “whys” when I was in a numb confusion myself.

  8. Stick

    I was to going to the music spotting session for a film I was going to be scoring at an edit house in Santa Monica. First, there was a screening room with a full wall sized projector with the CNN coverage running all day, and then we sit down to start and the first scene of the movie we’re about to work on is a slow pan across Manhattan, the WTC front and center. We weren’t sure what to do, and wondered if they’d go back and edit them out.

    Thanks for sharing with us Zack.

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  10. Grammy

    One hour ago I was putting pictures in the album from 1994, Zacque, and you were all over the place. I miss you, sweet boy. Thank you for commemorating this 9/11 with such poignant, personal memories. Love you.

  11. Paul

    The first thing I did on the 5th anniversary of 9/11 was to read Zack’s remembrance.

    The last thing I did was to go with Carrie to see “World Trade Center.”

    Both of these have enhanced my appreciation for life — how precious and precarious it is — and for those we love.

    It has been an emotional day.

  12. Kathryn Paterson

    That was a beautiful response to 9/11–such moving detail, and so well worded. If you don’t mind, I’m going to send my writing class to take a look at it.

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  14. Zack

    yeah, I totally love the new logo. I wanna make out with corey, but he said something like “I’m not gay” or “my lips are lime little chocolate roses” or something like that. I can’t remember. I’m too distracted looking at that fancy logo.

  15. corey

    yeah- the new logo was a bit of a competition between me and a friend of mine. I generally believe he’s a better designer, so it feels good for Zack to choose mine over that other sorry batch o’ poo.

    On a semi-related note, I’ve never-in-my-life done design just for design and last night I sat on the couch for a few hours and did just that. I guess I was hoping to blow off some personal stress with CS3. I wouldn’t normally post that stuff on my professional site, but if it sits dormant for too long, I’m afraid people will think that I don’t work for a living- since I post all my current work on there. Anyway, the humongous painted up corey face makes me a little embarrassed that I posted it on the day when I quadrupled my site traffic (1×4=4… Hi June!).

  16. corey

    thank you. And now that I’ve quintupled my site traffic, I have to go back to my “Updates Every Friday” rule…

  17. corey

    I just realized that the smartest way to increase site traffic is to link to other blogs… Mike, why didn’t you share this with me?

    You are dead to me.

  18. michael lee

    “Michael Lee Internet Consulting and Stuff” is now open for business. I charge $90/hour, but the friends rate is only $90/hour. Book early for best seating.

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