Remembering 9/11

Upside Down Downtown, 2001, Collage on rag

Twenty years ago, the night before what we now all call 9/11, I was having dinner with a friend from the gallery with her little black and white puppy, Tuxedo.  We ate in the kitchen at the back of my floor-through loft at 156 Chambers Street.  There were two ceiling-high windows that were filled with the North Tower a few blocks south.  One of the things that we discussed were the Artist Studios in the World Trade Center, a program developed for artists to have space to work and magnificent views over our beloved city.  My gallery had arranged for me to get one of those choice spaces and yet I kept putting off doing the finishing things needed to make it happen  In a dreamlike state, whenever I was asked about it I’d automatically mouth:  “Well…it will take care of itself….”  but for some reason I could never get myself to do that last thing I needed to do to make it happen, some paperwork I recall or maybe just a phone call.  It was like I went into a hypnotic disconnect whenever it was mentioned.  Yet it was a real opportunity, one I wanted.   My gallery friend, again, urged me as we were drinking red, eating pasta with tomato sauce as the North Tower smiled down on us.  She said to get on with it, that she had already spoken to the director of it who was waiting for me to complete whatever I hadn’t.  “It’s yours!” she emphasized, “Just do it!” “Well…it will take care of itself….” I blankly repeated.


It is things like that come back to me as we honor all who perished and who living were forever changed, hurt, and scarred.  The smallest incidents seem now to glow with meaning.  It may be the nature of tragedy that we seize on anything that gives us an explanation of our supreme connectedness.  My friend is now thriving in Texas, Tuxedo has already gone to God, as have all of my pets from then and here I am living out in the country in the Hudson Valley far removed from Tribeca and the reminders of those events.  That evening sitting with my dear friend, enjoying our meal, patting her sweet new puppy, and catching up on things, marks for me the last moment when things were normal.   I feel so lucky to have lived before that day and to have known life before Terror overtook us.

9/11 again

Untitled Proof, 2019, Linocut on Newsprint, 12″ x 12″

It’s 9/11 today and the scorched memories return as always a few weeks before until they are fully formed on the anniversary of that awful morning and its aftermath.  I have been working on a linocut series all year but this weekend decided to take a rest from it and do some other plates which were more severe and geometric.  This one was the first.  It pleased me.  This morning, though, it looks to me like a memory of that day and those maimed towers.


A comment on the WTC Museum


Torso in plastic tub on West 36th Street, night

Spotted last night on the street, it struck me as funny for the visual shock of the extreme plastic white, in the dark. But this morning reading more about the WTC Museum, its crass gift shop and that it has an admission charge, I want to use this image for another purpose:   to remind you, Reader, of how far we have come from that awful day in 2001 where our values were adjusted that morning to what was the essential as humans, caring for each other no matter what it took.  We learned that heroes weren’t rock stars or handsome jocks with jawbones and  terrific smiles on the screen, but people just doing their jobs and being in the moment helping each another.

This shot now starts to make me think of the body parts, the stink of death on the pile, the months of acrid smoke that hung in the air, the dust that seemed to get into everything we owned.  No more irony, we said.  No more forgetting our values, we promised.  No more thinking about money and possessions when the only thing that means anything is those we love, we affirmed.

Back to normal really meant more money, more extreme profit-taking, more stealing from the homeowners with mortgage scams that would soon collapse like the towers on the innocents.   And now we come to the WTC Museum on a site which should have become a simple park open to everyone instead of a new chance for more money for the profiteers.  A Museum designed to break your heart with objects that bring everything back as if you are living through the awful day again.  A gift shop.  All this for only $24 admission fee.  Is there no shame?