I left my job 2 days ago. I was the lead in a successful Off-Broadway show, but it was time for me to move on. I was burnt out and my understudy was chomping at the bit to fill my shoes. I agreed to let her start a week earlier than originally planned.
It’s Tuesday, September 11 and I have an audition lined up. I did the hair, the make-up and found the outfit that best represented me for that particular job. My loft in Bushwick, Brooklyn has an amazing view of Manhattan. The entire wall is industrial window from waist height to ceiling. I feel lucky to have it, since I only pay a dollar a square foot per month. I would argue that it has the best sunrises and sunsets in the city.
This morning the sky filled with grey smoke. It was curious, I took notice, but I was in a hurry and had to get on the train. On my trek to the L Train, there were more people than usual. They were either looking up or fiddling with their phones. I passed a few but as I got closer to the train station these normally confident New Yorkers seemed confused. I joined the masses and asked if the trains were running.
I looked towards the Manhattan skyline and realized the smoke was centralized around the World Trade Center, the centerpiece of the view that I love. The opening credits to more movies than I can count. It was also the opening sequence to my young adult life. No one knew what was going on and at that moment the rumor was that the Towers had been bombed. The word on the street soon changed to planes. The mushroom cloud around the buildings grew, but to those of us on the other side of the East River, it was time-lapse photography, like watching a devastating flower bloom on the Nature Channel. At this point I realized that I was in the middle of a tragedy. The city had been shut down. The only traveling this morning was from a great height.
That night, not knowing what to do with ourselves, my friends and I gathered on a rooftop to share food and just be together after the day’s event. All of us told our stories and tried to make sense of our emotions.
I noticed our host had a blanket growing from a pair of knitting needles. I commented on my desire to learn the craft and she offered to teach me. I thought to myself, “I couldn’t possibly focus on such a mundane task on a day like today.” Then I thought, “Why not.”
I took to it very quickly, and was amazed by the calm the yarn gave me as I wrapped it around the points. I was making even knots row by row, creating structure with knits and pearls. The yarn and I sat quietly in the eye of the storm.
My life is different than it was two days ago. New York is different than it was two days ago. The world is different than it was two days ago.
That was 10 years ago… and I’ve been knitting ever since.
A lot of life has happened since then. A month later I moved out of the city. I started teaching in higher education, got married, had babies, and got divorced, but it still feels like it happened last year. I was lucky that day, I wasn’t near the attack and I didn’t know anyone who was hurt or killed by it. I did, however, have a front row seat. The surreal quiet, the irony of the beautiful sunny day tarnished by the grey mushroom cloud – the unforgettable smell and the comfort knitting gave me are forever attached to my core.
Now, when I look at my college students who were children at the time, I think of my parent’s generation and the questions that connected them regardless of race, gender and lifestyle. Where were you when John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King was assassinated? We have our own question.
When I tell the tale of my life to those same students, the World Trade Center sits prominently as a chapter in the middle of that story. The fabric of the cosmos changed that day and me with it.
September 11, 2011 at 10:31 am
This is a perfect piece of writing—your best. It’s beautiful, poignant, even though it’s centered around tragedy. Thanks so much for telling this story. Love it, love you.
September 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm
That means so much to me. Thank you. You are the best.
September 11, 2011 at 12:10 pm
great article Scully…yes, such a strange day…
September 13, 2011 at 11:28 am
Nice article! I was in college at the time and remember in great detail the phone call that came from my mother that morning yelling, “turn the tv on, it’s history in the making!” I was confused, but that’s exactly what it was history in the making and I was glued to the tv watching it all unfold. It truly is hard to believe it has already been 10 years!