September 21, 2001

It's been 10 days since the Trade Center came down. I have been deeply sad and terrified. My gig last night was tough, like playing injured, but people came together. I felt within myself a twinge of a strength I have long suppressed. A calamity can rip the scar tissue off ancient wounds and provide strange opportunities to grow.

Had a business meeting tonight, lawyer and record label. Was in bed moaning and throwing up all day. Exhaustion, both physical and mental, topped off with too much heart-numbing booze at the gig last night. Rallied for the meeting, set out confident and balanced. Business makes me uptight, but after last week, who gives a shit? We all met and talked for a long time about the tragedy and our worries about the future. The record guy lost someone; he went to the memorial last night and bottomed out.

We talked about business and it went very well. Said goodbye on the corner of Broadway and Bleecker, and I pointed my bike downtown toward Ground Zero.

Last night at the gig, some friends told me you can now get close enough to see. I was obsessed all day but too ill to go. Now I went. It was 10 pm and the city was quiet, as it has often been since the attack. I rode to Canal Street, where the barricades repel the cars. The cops allowed me to pass on bike. At Chambers, they barricade the bikes but you can continue on foot. I locked my bike up by City Hall.


The area smelled like India, smokey dirt hanging in the air. Probably a combination of dust from the rubble and heavy vehicle exhaust. They've done an incredible job of hosing down the streets, but there's still a thin layer on everything, again like India.

My friend John's street, appropriately enough called John Street, was all ripped up; power workers worked on power lines feeding juice to the site. John's building was shrouded in grime. Past the church was the first view, an enormous twisted piece of metal dangling from an adjacent building. The angle seemed unlikely. I couldn't tell what I was looking at.

At Maiden Lane you could see more. This is all from Broadway, still a couple blocks away, the view limited by buildings lining both sides of the street. With the floodlights on, it looked a lot like it does on television.

At Liberty, you could see the train-tracky bent metal exoskeleton clawing toward the sky like a gnarled hand. The smoke and the night and the floodlights made it look mysterious and ominous, a strange landscape from an Arthurian legend or maybe a Heinlein novel. It's bigger than it looks on TV. I hear they may pull it down on Tuesday.

At this distance the air starts to smell like when a rat dies under floor boards. I thought again of India, where the smell of death is part of everyday life. I thought of all the turbaned heads on the news, men with beards from a part of the world that I love, who will now be reflexively viewed as The Enemy. People like my close friend and music partner, who isn't Muslim and is fanatical only about music, will encounter misplaced hostility because of the hijackers, who are all dead.

Knots of people like me peered through the fences, pensive and sober and loving. A mom explained things to her teary daughter, probably 12 years old. Photographers snapped, but there wasn't much to snap from that angle.

Like practically everyone, I have been devastated for 10 days. Tension, irritability, fear, and a very broken heart... I felt stronger after the business meeting and wondered if I'd get upset again at the site, but I had to go. As it turned out, I felt calmer than I have in days. Seeing it planted the seeds of a healing acceptance.

Walking back to my bike, I saw one of my wife's favorite Odd Job stores, closed up tight and smeared with ash. I passed the street of the Knitting Factory, New York's notorious new music nightclub, sealed up for days because no one can get there. I thought of concentric circles of victims: the families of the dead, the businesses in the area, the eyewitnesses from a distance like me, everyone watching on television. The closer you were, the more it hurt.

As I approached the final barricade at Canal Street, a 3-wheeled bicycle rickshaw cab was bringing a couple people down to the site. In the night mist, with no traffic around, it seemed again like I was back in India, where this is a very familiar sight. My worlds are somehow joining into one, I thought.

There's a lot of love in New York right now. A lot of fear and a lot of crap too, to be sure, but with each day the atmosphere of panic dissipates a little, giving way to a deep but placid depression. The stillness isn't all bad; people here need some peace.  The cops and rescue workers are getting a lot of love which, I discovered tonight, they are giving back accordingly. They truly deserve our gratitude.

I'm glad I went to Ground Zero. Somehow it gave me hope that life in New York will be tolerable again soon. That, of course, barring further attacks. Peace is the most important commodity of all; you don't completely know this until you have experienced the alternative. Sometimes we fight for peace. I just hope we fight correctly and do not commit crimes equalling or surpassing those of the terrorists. Enough innocent people have died already.

Peace & love from New York City

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