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Last Updated: February 27, 2002
September 14, 2001: By Alex Marx

It's again late and too many days later. The muse has left town and only now slowly returns. This is a fairly depressive entry and I am not proud of it. I should know better. I've contemplated not sending this, to wait and try again. But, hey, you have to try, for better or worse. I hope I haven't let you down.

Today was our first "normal" day and I have a lot kicking around in my head from the weekend. That's for tomorrow. And I haven't forgotten the pictures. Just haven't gotten to them. I will.

If you're new to this list, the entries are chronological starting from the bottom. Each entry is separated by a dashed line and is marked by the date, starting from 9.11.01.

I have also cleaned up some of the more egregious grammar and spelling mistakes, and I thank you for having patience with my sloth. I will try to be more careful.

And again, thank you for your feedback and thoughts; it's been uplifting and eloquent beyond belief. I am trying to compile all of them, and with your permission, would like to post them on a temporary web site my friend Lisa is designing for this diary. I won't put anything on without asking first.

There has even been some negative feedback that has inspired a lot of soul searching. Something to write about. Maybe I should have done that instead of this....



It’s Friday and the 14th, but I am really writing this days later. I’ve been hard pressed to write. I woke up late again, maybe 10ish. I think the planes overhead woke me up. It’s too close to the sounds of Tuesday.

I have promised to have lunch with a friend from my improv class. He’s 19 and only been in town about 9 months. We’ve bonded but I feel like an old fogie always giving him advice, but he seems to want it… We are supposed to meet at 1:30 but I want some time to write as well. But I seem just to waste time, checking and answering emails, phone calls, checking the news. Anything but be productive. 12:30 slips to 1:30 then 2:30.

They have finally taken down the barricades from 14th and Houston Streets. Traffic is now allowed to Canal St., which has become the northern limit of the recovery zone.  The Police Command post across the street from me on Canal and Church has become a beehive of activity and some top brass, a dozen or so cops and a few State Troopers man it. Traffic to and from ground zero are in constant motion up and down Church Street. Large trucks carrying huge boxes of equipment head south, empty trucks come back.

The logistics of this effort are staggering. Think about it. You have a small army of workers; security, support, medical, labor, fireman, cops, EMT, doctors, volunteers, clean up crews, engineers, politicians, etc. Thousands upon thousands are at work in a small area. There seems to be no real central direction, yet everyone seems to be making progress.

And you have to feed, house, cloth, provide sanitation and showers.

There is heavy equipment parked all over the city, ready to start the real cleanup once the Search and Rescue phase is finally called off. Food is in constant supply, hot and cold meals 24 hours a day. Water, drinks (Red Gatorade!), hot coffee, tea ready and available everywhere in the secure zone.

All sorts of equipment to support the rescue workers are becoming more and more available. Socks, work boots, jackets, flashlights, batteries, gloves, rain slicks, picks, shovels, buckets, masks all flow in endlessly.

Some supplies are oversupplied; some are in short supply. There is a lot of confusion as to what you’re supposed to donate today. This morning all they wanted was heavy equipment, no more blood, no more food, no more boots. Tomorrow, who knows what they’ll need. I’m sure it will show up, in force, and donated. Volunteers, in many cases, off duty cops and firemen, will split it up and deliver it.

If we go to war, we know we’ll win for we’ll bury them in cardboard boxes before they know what hit them… A large part of our victory in World War II was that none of the Axis powers could keep up with our production; we drowned them in materiel. After the war we dumped tons and tons of planes, tanks, guns, ammo, uniforms, everything, into the sea. We couldn’t store it all…didn’t want it all. And we knew that the new technology made everything that came before it instantly obsolete. Who needs a P-51 when you have a jet?

Who can beat Red Gatorade?

Think of all the issues and obstacles that need to be addressed. You have power out in the most important part of the city, the financial district. Tremendous amounts of communications and processing facilities are dust. Thousands of businesses are office-less; tens of thousands of people are homeless. Your transportation system is blocked going south and coming north. Your ports are closed. 

Do your Stock Exchanges still have systems that work? Your largest bond broker lost three-quarters of their employees. The world’s largest banks and credit-card processors are running from disaster recovery sites, do they work?

Then you have to deal with keeping businesses in the city. You need to help those businesses that are still in the area from going out of business because they have been shut down for a week and there are 50,000 less people to shop.

Over 300 firemen are gone, and their equipment destroyed. Police have taken big losses too.

The President is in town.

Oh, and don’t forget we’re in the middle of an election year, we’re supposed to change mayors in the middle of all this…

It all works, for better or worse, it’s getting done. Our mayor is everywhere, our governor is everywhere, and our two senators are everywhere. Somehow, in some unknown way, it’s all coming together. And it hasn’t even been 3 days. Flow…

Chaos Theory comes to New York and discovers the American Way…

I finally settle on lunch at 3:30 despite the fact I haven’t written a thing. Even though Canal St. is now open to traffic, we have to head uptown, north, to West 4th Street where the subways are now terminating. Layla is cleaning her place and is having a night out with friends. Dinner, a show, and a nightcap. It’s a welcome change from the from the past few nights…

Even though the checkpoints are down, the streets are, well, quiet, sparse. Many of the ritzy Soho stores are open, but their biggest crowd is their own employees. It is quiet, the narrow streets sad and depressed. The clear sky, marred only by smoke, somehow lights but doesn’t illuminate. We walk quietly up the street.

At Houston St., previously a checkpoint, the usual Friday cross-town traffic jams are invisible. It’s deserted, except for a line of big generators parked on the curbs and by the median strip. Even they’re quiet, awaiting their discovery (“hey, we got  noine generaaters on Houston” ) and a chance to come to life; to bring life back to a wounded city.

Here and there pedestrians walk, but they are quiet, it’s a solemn and quiet respect.

Layla is suddenly sad and depressed. Last night’s foray has not brought the same peace, the same sense of helping the first night brought. We are walking through the morgue and it’s depressing.

She wants a café and it’s 3:15. We stop at a local place, normally packed and noisy, now there are only two others inside and we have a choice of a million tables.

Although we’ve helped, despite the deception required to do so, despite the response, both our own and yours to our first night’s mission, it all seems so inadequate and useless. The results are intangible and there is still ground zero. We couldn’t change that, we couldn’t wake up and it would be all better, a bad dream, a new Bruce Willis flick, Penn and Teller’s best illusion yet… And the grim reality was yet to be realized.

Everywhere families hoped that their loved ones would turn up. Posters were beginning to be taped to every surface.  We saw the white dust, concrete, plaster and DNA and understood. But we didn’t believe. We didn’t have hope, and we didn’t believe. We knew reality, it wasn’t a movie set, Bruce wasn’t going to walk from the rubble and kiss the blonde. Why didn’t anybody else see this? 

They did, they do. But they have hope.

The hero’s who now live at ground zero have hope. It drives them beyond all normal endurance.

In war, you battle because you give up hope.

Here you battle because you have hope.

And in hope there is humanity.

And we have that in abundance.

Welcome to New York.

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All Portions Copyright © 2001 Alex Marx