By Andrew Porter: I wrote this a few months ago—after Congress member Giffords was wounded and that little girl was killed in Arizona. It seems appropriate to share it with you upon the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden.
I was doing my usual tossing and turning last night while I tried to get to sleep, my mind going its usual rapidfire way, refusing to calm down.
So, why does 9/11 still resonate with me, far more than it does for so many of you?
Maybe it’s because the World Trade Center is about a mile and a half from where I live. I always hated the buildings for being so ugly, but I never thought someone would try to destroy them. On top of that, when Waldemar Kumming was staying with me the week after the 2001 World SF Convention, somehow the WTC towers were always there. They were in the background when we went to the top of the Empire State Building, and when we took the Staten Island Ferry. And on the taxi ride to Penn Station, the driver went around the tip of Manhattan and right up West Street, right next to the WTC.
And then, less than a week later…
On that horrible day, the stench of the burning buildings was heavy in the air, and it stayed there!!! for another FOUR months, because this neighborhood is downwind, usually, from the WTC. I’ve described it as a combination of burning plastic and dog urine. So on those beautiful fall days when the air was crystal clear, everyone here had to shut their windows and turn on their air conditioners, because of the Stench. It was so bad for so long that I ended up escaping at the end of the year to Lyme Regis and London, just to get away.
On that day, burnt chips of paint and papers were literally raining from the sky in my neighborhood, and thousands of people covered in gray soot walked over the Brooklyn Bridge into my neighborhood, en route home, because the subways were shut down. People here were trying their best to wash them off. It was like that scene in the remake of War of the Worlds where Tom Cruise is trying to shake off the dust of the people vaporized by the Martian death ray.
My local fire station on Middagh Street lost several trucks and a dozen firemen there. They were one of the closest fire stations , so off they went, across the Brooklyn Bridge, to their doom. There’s still a giant mural painted on the doors, showing the WTC. I see it every time I walk on the block, which is every few days. Here.
And even now, when a plane flies over on the way to land at LaGuardia, I still look up, unconsciously. Is it flying the right height? Too fast? Too low? Nope, it’s okay. Nothing to worry about. I remember during the 2002 worldcon, when the convention center was on the flight path in to the San Jose Airport, and all the New Yorkers were ducking when those planes came in — too low, too low! — while no one else cared. Weird NYers. Ha ha. But I was honestly terrified.
And in October 2001, when I went to the World Fantasy Convention in Montreal, with the lobby bars shut down in the Delta Centreville because so many conventions had cancelled out, there, a block away, was the Montreal World Trade Center.
Every time there’s some sort of TV program on 9/11, I can’t watch. My eyes fill with tears. The memories are still too close to me, bringing everything back. And now, of course, the new Freedom Tower is being built. I can see the top, with the construction cranes, every day, when I go down to the Promenade to take a walk. You can see it from the ground up from the Fulton Ferry landing. It’s already about 50 stories high.
So that’s why the death of 9-year-old Christina Green resonated for me. Born on 9/11, a life so full of promise, so precocious, cut down during another horrible, fateful day which has traumatized so many other people.
Very touching essay. Thanks for sharing.
Very nice, Andy.
I am not a professional, but suffering from it myself for other reasons, this certainly seems like post-traumatic stress disorder to me. I hope Mr. Porter (who I met at the ’76 and ’77 Midwestcons, although he has no reason to remember me) is able to find the comfort and help to get past this.
My best wishes to him and to other New Yorkers still suffering this pain.