Since this is the first time I've been in the same place for more than a few hours since Tuesday morning (it's now Friday afternoon), I thought I might take the time to share a bit of what I experienced that morning. I know it's way more than you probably wanna read, but I think it helped me to get it all down.
On Tuesday morning I was already up and checking my email when I heard a large boom. Since this was basically the sound a decent size truck makes going down Fulton street I thought nothing of it. But it woke Patricia and she let out a blood curdling yell for me to come to the back of our loft. When I ran back I saw out our back window the unbelievable sight of World Trade Tower One with a huge hole in it and fire pouring out. After turning the TV on to find out what had happened (nobody even seemed to know at first), we (along with my step daughter Taryn who'd been staying with us)were staring at this and watching an eerie trail of papers floating directly from the hole into our back courtyard.
We continued staring in disbelief when a huge gaseous ball of flame claimed our entire field of vision and literally threw us back onto our floor in horror. This was of course, the second plane. By this time we didn't know what to do. We live less than three blocks east of ground zero and we didn't know whether this was just the beginning, whether we should stay put, run for our lives, or what. As time passed we started gathering a couple of things and prepared to be able to leave at a moment's notice. As we were discussing what to do, I decided to check out our front fire escape to the street below where I could hear some people had gathered. It was already an incredible sight - it looked like it had snowed two inches of gray snow allover everything. Then I heard people screaming followed by a huge horrible rumbling and the sky went pitch black.
The first tower had collapsed. Luckily we had decided to close our iron back shutters by this time - having seen the video of the ensuing onrushing black cloud I don't know what might have happened to us if we hadn't. But we also knew we were - at least for the time being - trapped. Then when the skies cleared a bit we had another round of discussions that also included by this time our upstairs neighbor Barbara Mayfield, whom you may know. We just didn't know what was more dangerous - to stay put or to go out. We didn't know if we were surrounded by fires, noxious gases, terrorists on the ground- whatever. If you could see, by this time, (and this was just one of the more unreal aspects of the situation - we kept making a twenty foot walk between seeing the thing out our back window and the networks that we were relying on for information about what might be actually happening like people who bring portable TV's to a ballgame for the play by play) on TV a loop of video showing a jumbo jet plowing into the WTC then what was _too bizarre_ to imagine might happen next?
And yet, _nobody_ on the TV was telling us WHAT TO DO! It was as if they forgot that people lived in the area. We called our local police precinct and they said that they didn't know what to tell us! That our guess was as good as theirs! No contingencies, no apparent relevant disaster scenarios, no nothing.
Then again - the same building shaking rumble and black sky as we realized the second tower was falling. By now we were huddled in the middle of our kitchen floor. Those towers were tall enough that if they had fallen in our direction we figured they would reach us, so for a few seconds we really wondered if this was indeed happening.
Then it got all quiet again. But by this time soot and smoke was starting to seep in and we realized that we no longer had a choice and decided to find out what was going on outside.
Well, since you are looking for the "artist's" perspective I don't think it will surprise you to hear that the only thing I grabbed - the only things I deemed irreplacible were two cases of CD's full of the projects I've been working on the last three years. Plus the most recent draft of an article-that was already past due - for a German New Music magazine. Everything else just cost a lot of money - guitars/computer/keyboards/etc.
Unfortunately, my wife Patricia (Smith) would not have that luxury of comfort. Being a painter, she had to leave behind a lifetime of work not knowing what would become of it all. I don't know how you measure this kind of stuff against the loss human life, but it is a very real way that she has measured and expressed her's and I pray that she will be able to "reunite" safely with her paintings sometime soon. It broke my heart a little bit when I was looking in her bag for something later that day and saw that she had grabbed a couple of sheets of slides so she would at least have a momento -some proof - of her almost impossible dedication to art, should something happen to our home.
We decided to head for the Brooklyn bridge with the intention of walking across to Brooklyn and trying to get to a friend's home on the other side. Wrapping wet towels around our faces we ventured down a flight of steps and out our front door. Well, it was like every end of the world disaster movie. Beekman Hospital personnel - who were finally the first people who gave evidence of having a clue as to what to do for us - gave each person that passed a mask with a clear plastic visor One beautiful, clearly unaffiliated guy was risking who knew what at that point to actually go around with a shopping cart filled with gallon bottles of water to give out in cups he also supplied. We saw pockets of people turn into dozens and by the time we reached the bridge there were hundreds of people all walking up the entrance ramp trying to escape to what we perceived as safety. In the movie version there would have no doubt been somber strings sawing away in the background. But this was NYC for real and the scene became a kind of rolling party with office workers, local business people and residents all keeping each other's spirits up and of course a million cell phones going. Nothing obnoxious or loud - just the best attempts at normalcy we could muster considering the insanity of what was going on.
We were greeted on the other side by even more beautiful people giving out water and welcoming us to Brooklyn. It was as if we had just landed from another planet - or probably a more accurate vibe would be as if we had just gotten "off the boat". We were refugees a mile from home.
You had asked about performances cancelled, etc.. Well, I was scheduled to perform at the Den on Saturday night joined by trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah and Tom Chiu (who has his own wild story) as part of the CMJ Marathon. It was postponed until mid-October, but by Tuesday night I had already determined that unless and until I heard otherwise I was going to get there somehow, borrow a guitar from somebody and wing the most life affirming set of sounds that I could pull from inside myself. At that point it was no longer about ridiculous career goals. It would have to state in as strong a way possible that I had been one of the lucky ones, that I was grateful for that, and that it is never too early to _make_ the healing begin.