October 01, 2001


Laminated poster of the twin towers, anyone? Available on street vendor stalls along with your flag pins, red white and blue ribbon loops right on Fulton and Broadway. Never-seen-before scenes of carnage! 11 o'clock news or linked by your intrepid bloggers. Shrines with burnt-out candles, dead flowers, rain-bedraggled missing posters, and streaked and dripping penned platitudes and poetry.

Kinko's today, waiting for Heather F's 391-page manuscripts to be bound for the Guggenheim (axiom of applying for grants; it takes until the post office closes on deadline day, no matter how much 'time you have'). People making their band flyers, graphic-art mockups, formatting their resumes. meanwhile 100 assorted Congresspeople in yellow hard hats "tour the site." Liz Taylor, Muhammed Ali "tour the site." Celebrities and politicians and heroes striding amid the rubble.

Writing that works for me right now: Zeldman's journal (glamourous life links). Times article on the chaos and randomness of the initial rescue scene. Comes closest to capturing the haphazard personnel (bike messengers tagging body parts; specialized rescue emts cooling their heels on the west side highway; casual vandalism, total contamination of the later sacrosanct 'crime scene,' and elastic time). The latter I know from both the Clarkson work and from Tuesday the 11th when I stood at Washington and North Moore for six or seven hours, near a triage center, waiting for all the lined up ambulences and fire engines to be given the all-clear to go in (anyone not directly on the scene already had to wait until about 6 pm when WT7 collapsed. I watched the fire leap from floor to floor, zigzagging at a rate of about a floor every five minutes), waiting for the injured to come for care and comfort (all the ripped-open bandages, makeshift guerneys, stacks of ivs and sterile dressings, every sort of volunteer cleric, nurse, medical student, doctor) and not one patient. those hours felt like minutes. Why was it getting dark? And why was everyone waiting, rushing from Pennsylvania and Rhode Island in a blare of sirens, to wait in a line of flashing lights that stretched for miles. The utter arbitrariness of cordons; duck into a bar at the right time, and you were 'legitimately' in one zone, pockets of even casual-seeming passersby in increasingly dense dust, crowds further down, the cadre of police manning my barricade paying a delivery guy for a bag of takeout food on the street, him turning around and walking back into the cloud; the mix of mundane and urgent; the crowds of guys on bikes with cameras, angling over and over for a break in the cordon, a cute gen-y guy with no shirt on rollerblades writing in the inches of dust on a parked rescue vehicle; the stringers with notebooks interviewing anyone, everyone, a guy I thought I was just talking to as a person trying to get my name for attribution, then losing interest when a woman near me claimed to have been inside one of the buildings. A sense of pockets and pockets of such penned, impotent voyeurs and would-be rescuers in little deposits closer and closer to what must, surely, be frantic activity. We couldn't all be waiting like a post-apocalyptic de Chirico, could we?

I find myself wanting information of a hard, detailed, and specific nature. Why, if all of America knew there were other hijacked planes in the air, were people in WT2 urged to go back to their desks? Didn't someone from the FAA or whatever call the civil defense emergency hotline or whatever and anyone think to notify the security/emergency people at WT2? And this engineer-guy interviewed on some news show... said he knew immediately the burning jet fuel would melt the steel supports, that collapse would be quick. They didn't have that information on-site? Firemen; aren't they supposed to have experts on how fast/how far a fire will burn? And who set up the ground cordons? Why was the triage center right at the base of a burning building? Who let all those off-duty and retired guys put the plastic flashers on the dashboards and race on in to add to the chaos (I saw scores, hundreds of them speed by. City buses commandeered by squadrons of police.) How many people from the surrounding area died from curiosity? I want diagrams, time-lapse 3-d cutaways of who wa where and who they spoke to and where they went and where they fell and why. A labyrinthine Rashoman of an hour and a halfs' events. The kind the relatives are attempting to construct; the last cellphone signal, the last sighting. Inevitibly, the loved one was last seen "staying behind to help others." How many people from, upper floors got out? How did they do it? Floods of survivor accounts just add more questions. I want a computer-model interactive diagram where I can change the variables until everyone is rescued. The game would be "get them out alive." The elevators that still worked, the ones that became hurtling fireballs. The escape door that leads to a rain of debris; the one that offers shelter. The eyewitness stories of sublime foolishness; the radio reporter who jumped into a cab and ended up running from debris three times, each time smashing open a boat, a store, in order to shelter. His report was billed as "one reporter who helped rescue victims," but as far as I could tell, he ran, he ran back, he ran, he ran back, he took a cab to his mother's.

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