Tag Archives: 9/11

Where were you on 9/11? Cynicism, Humanity and Musical Theatre

11 Sep

7421_253672350690_736815690_8885821_7422316_nFirst posted on 9/11/11:

To be honest, I’ve become a little jaded by the extreme overflow of coverage of the 10th Anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. Having every major and minor news outlet asking me to write in and tell them “How 9/11 Changed My World” has hardened my heart and made me care very little about my or anyone else’s experience that day.

I’ve become sickened by the political football that 9/11 has become. The fake sentiment from everyone trying to sell a “World Trade Center Memorial Coin made from gold found at the site” or “a vile of dust taken from the streets of New York on that sad day” has trivialized what happened to a point where you forget that we were actually there that day. I look at 9/11 now as this foreign thing that was experienced by some politicians and insurance companies and not the people who were there.

I was there. I could have been working in the World Trade Center that day. I knew people who were killed. I have a right to my experience.

I got home at around 1am after recording for the anime series, Magic User’s Club with Michael Sinterniklaas. I got a call from my temp agency at about 6:30am asking me to go work for Cantor Fitzgerald – a place I had temped before. They were located on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center.

There was an open audition at the York Theatre – a reputable off-Broadway musical theatre company that I really wanted to go to. Unfortunately, I hadn’t worked in 3 weeks and needed to pay the rent. I thought about it, realized I moved to NYC to be an actor and not a temp and I called the agency back and told them no.

A few hours later, I was sitting in the basement of the York with a few hundred other out-of-work actors waiting to line-up and get our scheduled times for the day of auditions. A girl ran into the room and screamed “The World Trade Center’s just been hit by a plane!” The jaded New Yorkers stayed in their seats except for one or two people who got up and ran out.

Someone had a small handheld orange radio they turned up to full volume and held above their head in the middle of the room. It was quiet as we all strained to listen. I kept thinking (and to this day, I don’t know why this is where my head went), that this must be some kind of War of the Worlds situation and someone was punking us.

News of the second plane hitting got people the tiniest bit more upset – not enough to abandon the audition, but certainly some gasps. Moments later, we lined up, got our audition cards and times for later in the day and headed out of the building.

The streets were in pandemonium. People screaming, running, trying to catch cabs. We were in midtown on the east side and the theatre wasn’t too far from a building I’d spent several weeks temping at. They were on a high floor and I recalled the view of WTC from the office windows. I shot up the elevator to see if I could catch what was going on from there. It was an extraordinarily clear day and the view was remarkably crisp. They had a TV playing the news stories with closeups of the towers and moments after I arrived, we watched one, then the other tower collapse. The room was silent.

After what happened, I was both terrified and sad. I don’t remember fearing another attack or thinking something else might happen, but there was certainly some shock that was setting in. My brother managed to get through to me on my cell phone to make sure I was okay. He posted that I was okay on some website that listed “survivors” of the attacks. For years after, that was one of the only things that came up when I’d Google myself.

I didn’t know where to go or what to do next. It quickly dawned on me though, that the audition wouldn’t be happening. The trains weren’t running. The buses were all packed to capacity and I lived at 204th Street in upper Manhattan, so walking would have been tough. So I wandered around midtown for a while. I remember sitting in WorldWide Plaza with some friends. None of us knew what to think.

I looked up Broadway and there was this massive sea of people – just walking. So I joined them in my long walk home. As we walked, I stopped at a McDonald’ss on 56th and Broadway and met and had a chat with Rocco Landesman – a fairly legendary Broadway producer. Then I headed back up Broadway. Thousands of us – trying to use our cell phones, in shock walking uptown.

My boyfriend at the time was in college in Boston, but he was raised in Brooklyn. His father was a firefighter and his mother was trying desperately to get in touch with him. He was able to get through on my land line and asked me to call his family, which I did. I couldn’t tell them who I was when I called, but it turns out his father was okay. His mother’s car had broken down and he had to drive her to work before heading to the fire station, which was among the first to respond. He ended up losing most of his colleagues.

The following few days were spent volunteering, temping down in Union Square, and taking frantic phone calls from my roommate. He didn’t take the whole “don’t panic” thing too well. Every time they’d raise the threat level, he’d go buy 5 more gallons of distilled water – at one point we had 22 gallons in our kitchen. He’d call me every time he saw some cops with AK-47s to let me know his location so I could tell his family where to look for his body. I, on the other hand – I think in reaction to his sheer terror – stayed pretty calm.

What I remember most in those weeks – the images that remain strongest in my memory are the “Missing” posters plastered all over the city – particularly Union Square, which was undergoing some renovation. There were literally thousands of pieces of paper with photos attached – taped to anything standing. As the days turned into a week and then two, these walls of posters turned into memorials. Flowers and candles strewn all over the ground, quotes in chalk on the sidewalk “We Remember,” and the now-trite “Never Forget.”

It only lasted about a month, but for that month, New York City was the kindest, gentlest place you could imagine. People all held doors for one another. If you saw a police or fireman on the subway, hat in hand, you’d go over and say “Thank you” or “I hope you’re okay.” This feeling of great humanity informed every step we took. Then the politics of it all settled in and we were at war. The humanity transformed into fear. The cops with the AK-47s hit every corner and every subway station and we lived in a police state. The raising and lowering of threat levels coincided with elections and polls and it became clear to me that “We Remember…the people” had forever become “Never Forget…the attacks.”

Advertisements

Where were you on 9/11? Cynicism, Humanity and Musical Theatre

11 Sep

To be honest, I’ve become a little jaded by the extreme overflow of coverage of the 10th Anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. Having every major and minor news outlet asking me to write in and tell them “How 9/11 Changed My World” has hardened my heart and made me care very little about my or anyone else’s experience that day.

I’ve become sickened by the political football that 9/11 has become. The fake sentiment from everyone trying to sell a “World Trade Center Memorial Coin made from gold found at the site” or “a vile of dust taken from the streets of New York on that sad day” has trivialized what happened to a point where you forget that we were actually there that day. I look at 9/11 now as this foreign thing that was experienced by some politicians and insurance companies and not the people who were there.

I was there. I could have been working in the World Trade Center that day. I knew people who were killed. I have a right to my experience.

I got home at around 1am after recording for the anime series, Magic User’s Club with Michael Sinterniklaas. I got a call from my temp agency at about 6:30am asking me to go work for Cantor Fitzgerald – a place I had temped before. They were located on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center.

There was an open audition at the York Theatre – a reputable off-Broadway musical theatre company that I really wanted to go to. Unfortunately, I hadn’t worked in 3 weeks and needed to pay the rent. I thought about it, realized I moved to NYC to be an actor and not a temp and I called the agency back and told them no.

A few hours later, I was sitting in the basement of the York with a few hundred other out-of-work actors waiting to line-up and get our scheduled times for the day of auditions. A girl ran into the room and screamed “The World Trade Center’s just been hit by a plane!” The jaded New Yorkers stayed in their seats except for one or two people who got up and ran out.

Someone had a small handheld orange radio they turned up to full volume and held above their head in the middle of the room. It was quiet as we all strained to listen. I kept thinking (and to this day, I don’t know why this is where my head went), that this must be some kind of War of the Worlds situation and someone was punking us.

News of the second plane hitting got people the tiniest bit more upset – not enough to abandon the audition, but certainly some gasps. Moments later, we lined up, got our audition cards and times for later in the day and headed out of the building.

The streets were in pandemonium. People screaming, running, trying to catch cabs. We were in midtown on the east side and the theatre wasn’t too far from a building I’d spent several weeks temping at. They were on a high floor and I recalled the view of WTC from the office windows. I shot up the elevator to see if I could catch what was going on from there. It was an extraordinarily clear day and the view was remarkably crisp. They had a TV playing the news stories with closeups of the towers and moments after I arrived, we watched one, then the other tower collapse. The room was silent.

After what happened, I was both terrified and sad. I don’t remember fearing another attack or thinking something else might happen, but there was certainly some shock that was setting in. My brother managed to get through to me on my cell phone to make sure I was okay. He posted that I was okay on some website that listed “survivors” of the attacks. For years after, that was one of the only things that came up when I’d Google myself.

I didn’t know where to go or what to do next. It quickly dawned on me though, that the audition wouldn’t be happening. The trains weren’t running. The buses were all packed to capacity and I lived at 204th Street in upper Manhattan, so walking would have been tough. So I wandered around midtown for a while. I remember sitting in WorldWide Plaza with some friends. None of us knew what to think.

I looked up Broadway and there was this massive sea of people – just walking. So I joined them in my long walk home. As we walked, I stopped at a McDonald’ss on 56th and Broadway and met and had a chat with Rocco Landesman – a fairly legendary Broadway producer. Then I headed back up Broadway. Thousands of us – trying to use our cell phones, in shock walking uptown.

My boyfriend at the time was in college in Boston, but he was raised in Brooklyn. His father was a firefighter and his mother was trying desperately to get in touch with him. He was able to get through on my land line and asked me to call his family, which I did. I couldn’t tell them who I was when I called, but it turns out his father was okay. His mother’s car had broken down and he had to drive her to work before heading to the fire station, which was among the first to respond. He ended up losing most of his colleagues.

The following few days were spent volunteering, temping down in Union Square, and taking frantic phone calls from my roommate. He didn’t take the whole “don’t panic” thing too well. Every time they’d raise the threat level, he’d go buy 5 more gallons of distilled water – at one point we had 22 gallons in our kitchen. He’d call me every time he saw some cops with AK-47s to let me know his location so I could tell his family where to look for his body. I, on the other hand – I think in reaction to his sheer terror – stayed pretty calm.

What I remember most in those weeks – the images that remain strongest in my memory are the “Missing” posters plastered all over the city – particularly Union Square, which was undergoing some renovation. There were literally thousands of pieces of paper with photos attached – taped to anything standing. As the days turned into a week and then two, these walls of posters turned into memorials. Flowers and candles strewn all over the ground, quotes in chalk on the sidewalk “We Remember,” and the now-trite “Never Forget.”

It only lasted about a month, but for that month, New York City was the kindest, gentlest place you could imagine. People all held doors for one another. If you saw a police or fireman on the subway, hat in hand, you’d go over and say “Thank you” or “I hope you’re okay.” This feeling of great humanity informed every step we took. Then the politics of it all settled in and we were at war. The humanity transformed into fear. The cops with the AK-47s hit every corner and every subway station and we lived in a police state. The raising and lowering of threat levels coincided with elections and polls and it became clear to me that “We Remember…the people” had forever become “Never Forget…the attacks.”

 

You said you’d never forget.

9 Sep

So this post isn’t about finding LGBT equality or news of some injustice towards LGBT people. But it’s part of my story and part of who I am today, and I wanted to share it.

On September 13, 2011, I found myself in an uncharacteristically patriotic mood. Having been in New York City and having escaped the same fate as thousands of other New Yorker’s, I made my way to the Javitz Center to see what I could do to help.

Over the course of the days and weeks that followed 9/11, the fear, the hope and the community that pervaded the cold, hard city was palpable. I’d never felt so much compassion among strangers as I did in those few weeks. It quickly changed when we went to war and again became politicized individuals – but for that one brief shining moment, we all came together in a way that makes even the most cynical heart melt.

The following is something I wrote after a day of volunteering downtown. I was a lot younger then and so much has changed since, but in considering the anniversary of 9/11, I’m choosing to honor the naive, gentle, bright eyed young man who wrote these words almost 10 years ago.

September 13, 2001

It’s been nearly two days now since the tragedy which took sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of this great city. I call it a “great city” because despite, or rather, IN spite of the horrors that have befallen us, not only do we go on, but we go on with more strength, courage and love than we’ve ever had.

Today I had the unique honor of volunteering to aide the firefighters, EMTs, police officers, military personnel and other volunteers who have arrived from all over the country. I helped distribute food to the heroes who make me proud to be an American.

There was a time, not very long ago, when I would giggle at such a patriotic statement. For me, it’s always been a statement that evokes President’s Day Car Commercials and third grade filmstrips about Washington crossing the Delaware. I’ve had very real moments in my life when I’ve been a bit choked up by something patriotic…I was able to visit the Smithsonian in Washington DC, back in eighth grade, that’s where they display the flag which Francis Scott Key was watching as he wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.” I felt truly proud to be an American then. Then a few years ago, I was doing a show in Media, PA. On a day off, I went to visit the historical sights of Philadelphia. I was in Independence Hall, where the Declaration was signed. Not only was I proud to be an American, but, I also experienced a strange sense of deja-vu.

Then today, after being on my feet for close to ten hours, and many of the would-be volunteers had been dismissed, I took some candles I’d packed in my bag (for reasons I was unaware of), I lit the candles, passed them around to some of my fellow volunteers, grabbed the American flag from the side of the truck and began singing the words Francis Scott Key wrote so long ago. By the time we’d finished, many voices had joined us, and those that did not had their eyes closed and their hands over their hearts. I don’t know why I did it, I just felt like it, and I am thankful to be an American, where I can do it if I want to.

After they began to close up shop where I was located, I headed to Penn Station to catch the train home. In front of the station, I saw some visibly ragged guardsmen. I walked up to them and thanked them. They then returned the thanks, recognizing me from the triage. I then headed down to the basement of Penn Station to catch my train home. In the corridor, sitting on the floor in front of a locked down marketplace, there was a man. He was a construction worker or a firefighter I think. I could tell from his dusty apparel, he’d spent the day at ground zero (as it is being referred to). I walked up to him and asked him how he was doing. He looked up and as a tear rolled through the caked on dust on his face, he said “I’ll be fine.” I said “Is there anything you need?” He responded…”My kids.”

I told him how sorry I was and expressed my gratitude for all the work he’d done…and this man…This man who had spent the last 50 hours straight risking his own life to save others’. This man who continued to work, despite his own sheer exhaustion. This man who was searching through the wreckage to find his children, apologized to me for not being able to work longer. THIS IS A HERO. And this is a man who makes myself and hopefully anyone else who reads this, proud to be an American.

If you are in New York and you see a man or woman with dust on their boots or a firefighter, police officer, EMT, or a military officer, please, take a moment to thank them and ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them. These are heroes.

Take a break from bickering over who’s to blame, what George W is going to do next, and about impending war. Take a moment and throw a thought or a prayer to my heroes, who will continue to work through tonight and many more nights to come.

thanks, Jamie

Some days, I really miss the kid who wrote that.