The view from Diane’s Lower Manhattan apartment before September 11, 2001.
(The author is a member of the White County Historical Society who was born and raised at Pangburn. In July 2001 she published “Something Money Can’t Buy,” her memoirs about growing up in White County during the depression. She now lives in Little Rock.)
The view from the window of Apartment C, 111 Third Avenue in New York City will never be the same after September 11, 2001.
It was 8:30 in the morning when my telephone rang and my beautician asked, “Are you up – and watching the news?”
“I’m up, reading the paper.”
“You need to turn on the TV; a plane has hit the World Trade Center.”
“It’s on all channels.”
I turned on the TV and at the same time called my youngest daughter Diane, who lives in Lower Manhattan and not far from the scene of the disaster. The World Trade Center had always been beautifully framed in her kitchen window.
When I called, she and her family were on top of their apartment watching the Trade Center burn and collapse. She said her husband had seen one of the planes fly over their apartment on the way to the Trade Center. She assured me they were all right, but she could talk only for a minute because some of her patients might need to talk to her. She is a counselor and needed to be available to them.
Soon, my older daughter Melanie called to say she had been told to close her real estate office on Madison Avenue and send everyone home. She said, “Mama, I think I would be safer at the office than at home.” She lives near the U.N. Building. By this time, Air Force planes were circling the city, so I told her I felt she would be safe at home.
I was scared, sad, angry and confused but I didn’t have time to deal with my feelings because the telephone kept ringing. People from all over were calling to ask about my girls. I hardly had time to eat or go to the bathroom. I was so humbled by all the concern expressed by so many people. People I had not heard from in ages called. The calls continued into the night, and many people who didn’t call sent e-mails.
Diane called again that afternoon to give more details. That was the last time I heard from either of my daughters until Friday night. That was a long time of anxiety for me.
Friday night, Diane said she could not enter her apartment without a photo ID, and her clients had not been able to come for their appointments. She bought an air purifier because the air quality was so poor, and she offered her services to corporations to counsel their employees. Her three-year-old daughter Lauren was concerned about the safety of the firemen who worked near them. They would wave to her when she passed the fire station. She hasn’t been told that half of them are missing. Diane’s husband has a client who had an art studio on the first floor of the Trade Center. Diane’s whole family has been very near the tragedy and they are all feeling pain.
Melanie told me she went back to work Thursday but the office did not plan to be open on the coming weekend. It’s just as well. I can’t imagine that many people would be buying real estate.
Diane called again late Saturday night, and the tone of her voice told me she was greatly troubled. She was emotionally drained from talking with the people who had been traumatized by the disaster. Her family and two others had gotten together to eat and let the children play. Lauren had not been able to go to Union Square Park where she usually plays. That is the park where you see all of the flowers, candles and pictures of the missing.
When one of the three husbands joined the group late, he mistakenly rang the wrong doorbell, and a man wielding a knife greeted him. He was mistaken for an Arab because he is Indian. What a tragedy!
Melanie called Sunday night to voice her fear of further attacks and especially of a biological attack. She asked if she should leave New York, and I told her that was a decision that she would have to make. I would love to have her come home, but I am not wise enough to know what is best.
I can’t begin to fathom the depth of the sorrow and grief of those who have lost so much. It is deeper than the hole left by the collapse of the World Trade Center. Life in American will not be the same after what happened on that Tuesday. More than the view from the window has changed.