Monday, September 11, 2006


(Updated pics)

I'm not usually inclined to post about things like this but this one poked me in the gut harder than these things normally do.

From '85 to '87 I attended university in Rhode Island. My oldest brother, the news photographer, moved into New York about the same time. Not quite New York but Jersey City right across the river. You could step out of his apartment and see the twin towers. There were the great landmark for orienting oneself.

Pretty well every second weekend I'd hop the Amtrack train in Providence, RI and ride the 4 hours or so the Penn Station in Manhattan, catching up on my studies on the way. Then I'd transfer to the Jersey City train across the platform and make my way to my bro's apartment.

We'd play cribbage, talk, eat, smoke too much and spend many evenings and days in the city. Sometimes I'd go myself, other times with him and oter times I'd meet him there. The way into the city was always the same: PATH train from Jersey City station to the main transportation nexus under the twin towers and then catch whatever train or subway I'd need to take from there.

I knew those towers well.

Sometimes I'd go to the top for the hell of it. You simply couldn't beat the view. They had express elevators to the top that'd make your ears pop. The subway station below was filled with great stores and places to eat. My favourite was a BBQ place that served pulled pork sandwiches. I loved those sandwiches and I'd get one every chance I'd get.

A few weeks ago we saw the 9/11 movie WTC. The area where those firemen were trapped was a spot I walked through dozens of times.

The morning the towers were hit, my first thought was for my brother. As a news photographer, he has an instinctive response to big trouble: while others run away he's the one running into it. I knew that morning would be no different.

I tried to call him at his home on and off through the day. Around mid-afternoon I caught his wife at home. Her voice was tight and controlled in a way I'd never heard it before. She told me that he got the call from the New York Times as soon as the first plane hit and he fairly flew out of the house. No, she hadn't heard from him since. My other two brothers and my mother had already spoken to her tool. Yes, she would tell him to call me when she next spoke to him.

After school that afternoon, my boy, then 8 was watching TV. He'd watch the towers get hit by the planes and them collapse like a house of cards over and over again. He was fascinated as we all were. He asked if uncle Norman was in New York.

Yes, I said. He thought about that minute.

"Is uncle Norman dead", he asked. That was the question on my mind too.

"No", I said, "Don't worry about uncle Norman. He can take care of himself."

Very late that night the phone rang and it was Norman. He had gotten trapped on the Jersey side of the river when they closed all the bridges and tunnels into the city. Turned out he was on the edge of the river shooting the buildings and the crowd response from there, frustrated he couldn't get closer but making do the best way he knew how.

(copyright NY Lono 2001)

(copyright NY Lono 2001)
"Do me a favour," I asked him. "Call your nephew in the morning. He'll be glad to hear from you."

The world is a small one.

(copyright NY Lono 2001)

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