Please indulge me while I depart from my usual silly tone. Strange times are upon us.
Lisa and I live a few miles from downtown Manhattan, directly across the Hudson River from the site (and it is still stunning to have to phrase it this way) that used to be the World Trade Center. I worked in the North Tower briefly in the early and mid-90s, both before and after the 1993 bombing, and we routinely took the PATH train through there; indeed I went through on the 10th on my way to Chambers Street Wines, and, having been discouraged by a driving rain, was planning to go again on that day.
I can still saunter easily through the mall in my mind, going up the long, long stairs (escalators really, but I always took the stairs), turning right for the 1 train, left for the exit onto Vesey Street, picking up a paper at the newstand on the way to the N station, getting some bread to take home at the Ecce Panis around the corner from the stairwell. It's unbelievable to me that that is all gone, yet the loss of concrete and steel is nothing compared to the loss of life, so many stories cut short before their time, just crushingly sad. The lives of all Americans have been wrenched horribly into a place that we couldn't have imagined on September 10th. We know that we are extremely lucky to both be safe, and while it feels somewhat selfish to say that none of our nearest and dearest were killed or injured, in that sense we're extremely fortunate as well.
But there are still thousands of our neighbors laying dead in a smoking hole downtown. They don't leave our thoughts for long.
The question that I keep hearing asked from well meaning friends and relatives who don't live here is "Are things getting back to normal yet?" The only answer that I can come up with is yes and no. Several months later a sense of normality is indeed returning, but it's not the same normal as before--normality has been redefined. We no longer jump quite so much at loud noises or flinch as noticeably when airplane engines are heard overhead, but nervous jokes about anthrax and explosions are ubiquitous.
The resilience of human beings is amazing, a cliché I'd always heard but never seen demonstrated so conclusively firsthand. Immediately when we saw the terrible images on television we went to our local hospital (Lisa volunteers and thought she might be of assistance), and joined crowds of people of every background who had just wandered off the streets to come give blood . By the time we finally left the hospital the line was out the door and into the parking lot. Walking home on that excruciatingly beautiful early fall day with that ghastly column of smoke hanging in the air, strangers walking down the street towards the hospital saw our band-aids and waved and cheered at us. Then we hit the phones and the internet. The phones were spotty, the internet never failed us.
One of the things that was a lifeline in the first dizzying days of horror was the groundswell of spontaneous and heartfelt support from friends and acquaintances all over the world, most of whom we've never met face to face. The messages of shock and loss and concern pouring in from countries all across the globe were something to look at in the middle of the night and feel not so alone and lost. I reprint a few of them below (with the authors' permission) out of a sense of gratitude.
I also include the three essays that were most reflective of our mindset immediately after the events; they don't seem to fit in with the more lighthearted stuff.
September Fifteenth, 2001
Continuing, Part One
Continuing, Part Two
Lisa's brief essay (she writes for the FOP newsletter--FOP is a rare genetic disease that she could explain much better than I can) on the sigh of relief we all breathed when 2001 became 2002 is here: Update From New York
So does all this nonsense about wine matter in the face of horiffic tragedy? Honestly, probably not much. But if it does at all it's because what's really at the bottom of the love of wine is the love of family and friends, and of a community of offbeat and enthusiastic people from all over the world who are drawn together by a shared passion.
When we decided tentatively to go ahead with the double birthday party that had been scheduled for September 15th it wasn't long before our doubts about the appropriateness of the gathering vanished into thin air. Sitting and talking with friends and acquaintances for a few hours, drinking some good wine and being together was the first time many of us had felt anything but crushed since the attacks.
One woman, a relative of a friend, kept asking me questions about the winegeek community, trying to understand who we all were and how we knew each other. I tried to explain the strange characters we had met, the friends we'd made, the people from all over the world that we'd never have met in any other context, the almost universal generosity and joy in sharing that is the hallmark of wine lovers everywhere. She took a look around the room and said "That must be a nice thing to have at a time like this..."
She was right.
NWR: OUR THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU Ian Westcott, 12-Sep-2001 00:56
To all the Americans on the board, their families and the American people as a whole our thoughts are with you in the aftermath of this unbelievable, chillingly cold-blooded act of terror.
Our thoughts are with you Andrew Gaythorpe (Melb. Aust), 12-Sep-2001 05:22
Isn't it strange and yet wonderful that such an act of terror can be so heartfelt on the other side of the world. I am in Sydney today, and all day, there has been groups of people standing around TVs watching CNN. The looks on their faces says it all: horror, the difficulty in comprehending what has happened, and the thoughts that go out to all those affected directly and indirectly.
To Steven and others involved. Muscat Mike (Sydney) Mike Collins, 11-Sep-2001 23:27
I was watching West Wing last night and immediately after they announced a news flash,it was of course the terrorist attack. I sat there dumbfounded,in absolute disbelief. As you did Steven, I saw that plane hit the second building. It was like watching one of those movies from a Tom Clancy book. I recently read the one where they did the same thing to the Capital Building. Then they crossed to show what had happened to the Pentagon, more incredible scenes of tragedy.
Please accept my heartfelt sympathy and I hope that there will be no more tragic news from anywhere else. This is many times worse than Pearl Harbour as they aimed at civilians, not military targets.
From Oz to the USA; an enduring image from New York Murray, Aus,12-Sep-2001 13:48
This is a picture of Liberty; Enlightening the World.
Her gaze looks foward to the future, her torch is not dimmed.
[Image of the Statue of Liberty]
From Oz to the USA; an enduring image from New York Alex Rychlewski, 12-Sep-2001 15:24
As you know, Lady Liberty was a gift from France. Just a word to say that despite the pretty regular squabbling between France and the US, the solidarity with America at this time is *total*, up to and including the Communist Party.
France has reinstituted the "Vigipirate" program fearing terrorism against both US and French targets in the coming days.
The first 4 pages of today's local newspaper, the Sud-Ouest, had nothing but news about the attacks. Although there was some surprise that this could happen (lack of warning and defense of such sites), there was no smugness, an "I told you so" attitude, or the feeling that it couldn't happen here...
From New Zealand...
Thinking of you all Sue & Neil Courtney (NZ), 11-Sep-2001 18:55
We are in shock from the other side of the world, that something like this could actually happen.
Our thoughts are with all our friends in the U.S. and especially to those who have lost friends or family in these terrible attacks.
Sue and Neil Courtney
From New England...
Agreed. Theresa Regli Iverson, 11-Sep-2001 20:20
I'm still in shock that I found out about these tragedies from a phone call from a friend in France -- I was buried in my work and oblivious.
"You will recover, and you will rebuild," he said at the end of the conversation, "And we will help you."
From South Africa...
Yes, please! Rudolph Erasmus, Johannesburg, SA, 11-Sep-2001 15:10
I've just heard from a collegue what has happened - I thought at first he was making a horrible joke!
Our thoughts and hearts are with those affected.
IÕm so relieved to see from this thread, that you all seem to be okay.
Wishing you all "sterkte" (strength) to get through this awful tragedy.
Wish we could do something to help.
With much support from SA
Rudolph and Margie
Seemingly most of you are safe... yixin
...thank goodness for that. My flight to the States has just been cancelled, but my family's in shock - we watched it on TV as it unfolded (9pm in Singapore, 12 hours ahead), speechless. So far several friends are still missing, but am keeping digits crossed.
NWR: Swiss Conspiracy feels with you NYers and Americans! David, 15-Sep-2001 20:18
There's not much I'm able to say other than that both Albino and I were glued to our TV sets on Tuesday (the whole day until I fell asleep, badly I might add, after I had heard the Cruise Missiles that hit Kabul had been sent by Afghani rebels - I had been scared stiff someone had perhaps overreacted). There are no words to express the sadness people over here feel. I happen to know quite a few American citizens, in particular my parents are at present visiting my godmother who lives in Vermont (if flights aren't cancelled my parents should be back home next week), including New Yorkers, also including people I haven't heard from since. The complexity of thoughts rushing through my mind in a situation like this is definitely too much for me to grasp do justice to trying to express any of it in words. Among many things we're quite afraid of a possible war in the Middle East, while of course everybody sees the necessity of measures to be taken against terrorism at once, no matter where, where from, by whom and for what reason (provided there could ever be reason in it).
Just let me emphasize many people feel with our American friends and hope for the best outcome this tragedy can possibly have.
Greetings from Switzerland,
To the people in Manhatten Andy:
My greatest respect for keeping up civilisation in such horrible times.
To the people who have personal losses: My deepest condolences. May time, if ever something, heal the wounds. Today, at noon, everything stood still. No buses. No trains. No nothing. It was a moment of silence for the victims. People went standing in the middle of the street to express their sympathy for the victims in Manhattan, Washington and Pittsburgh.
All my best wishes... VS
...to everyone around NYC and Washington. As a journalist who (too often) has to cover terrorism on this side of the pond, and as a former New Yorker, I've felt even greater anguish at this undescribable savagery.
Just want to send Fredrik, 13-Sep-2001 12:44
my sincerest condoleances for all the victims of the terrible catastrophe. Hope every one we met while in New York and USA in our travel there or at this web site is well and fine, and that life will return to normal as soon as possible.
From Lina and me; you are in our minds and we hope the best for all of you.
Fredrik, Barcelona Spain.
Sympathy from Norway Sigurdur Bjarnason, 13-Sep-2001 07:02
I feel a need to express my sympathy with alle the offers, and all affected (and thats all of us). I am moved by all the engaged expressions on this board. Friday is going to be an official griefing day all over Europe. In Oslo there has been lot of people visiting outside the American embassy, leaving flowers. I am hoping there will be some kind of quiet demonstration against all kind of terrorism, which I could participate in here in Bergen.
Terrorism can't pull down the people's united heart! Thomas, Vancouver, 12-Sep-2001 18:56
My wife and I went to red cross, Vancouver this morning to donate blood for our fellow American, the hall is full of people to donate and we have to put our name and contact for another appointment.
Dear American, your fellow Canadian are with you all !!!
TN: Wine in the time of tragedy Stefan Kaaf, 12-Sep-2001 08:34
Thor and all of you in the USA, feeling like being unable to find words for this, we are with you in our hearts. Just as our Chancellor said yesterday: This is an attack against the civilized world - rise!