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Remembering 9/11

September 7, 2016

[On the one-year anniversary of 9/11, The River Reporter printed a section titled “Release and Recovery” to mark the occasion. As editor Laurie Stuart wrote at the time, the idea was loosely based on a dance concept created by Doris Humphrey, who “was interested in the fundamental importance of tension and relaxation in the body... Unlike [Martha] Graham, who stressed the tension in the cycle, Humphrey located the height or recovery as the focal point of her dances.” For the section, readers were invited to send in their writings as part of the 9/11 tribute. This piece was submitted by our River Muse columnist Cass Collins, who was in the city on September 11, 2001. We reprint it this year to commemorate the event’s 15th anniversary.]

There was the gauzy realization that children would be hungry. As the first tower fell from view, I fed them blackberries we had picked from our bramble in Narrowsburg that weekend, and peanut butter sandwiches.

As the water ran brown from our battered, lower-Manhattan pipes, I sent our older son and his girlfriend to get water from the deli. Few coherent thoughts were able to form in my shaken psyche, but food and water were clear. Feed the children, stay away from the window, set out crayons and paper for the younger ones. Lucy, a friend’s daughter whose father was missing but later was found, drew a picture of her dream the night before. She had told her parents about it as they waited for the elevator that morning. In the dream, a plane crashed and burned someone’s name in the lawn in front of her Battery Park City home. She could not read the name, then she woke up. Now she was drawing the ring of fire she had seen in her dream, as the World Trade Center burned outside our window and her father waded through ashes up to his ankles outside.

Later, we were all sleepwalking up West Broadway looking for dinner for our assembled family, made up of relatives, friends and neighbors. We traveled in hastily assigned gangs of fathers and mothers and children, as if an army sergeant had put us together, unconcerned by who was who. We found dinner at The Cupping Room, one of the few survivors of the old SoHo of trucks and artist pioneers.

People moved in slow motion and smiled, if they had to, with a glazed look. The waitress took our orders, cautioning that they were running low on supplies. I remember ordering a bacon cheeseburger, medium rare and thinking it was okay to die of a heart attack. It was preferable to this uncertainty.