I left the house in the peaceful and crystal morning at, 7:30 for a rare breakfast uptown at Michael's, so a publicist could pitch me ideas. The room was filled with stars, including Calvin Trillin, who could not know his wife Alice would die later that night after a long illness.
There was something wrong when I finally left near 10am. Outside a clutch of electrical workers were fixed to the truck radio. "What happened," I asked.
I walked towards the subway trying to digest this fact. Two planes. One building down.
Thrown out of the subway before it left the station, I joined the march downtown on 5th when the second tower disappeared, as if in a well oiled magic act. The gasp of horror, my voice with the rest, was at once hushed and deafening.
When I arrrived home, I ran to my rooftop to see the truth.
Ronny called, filled with a panic, fearing I had been at Century 21 or on my bike further downtown. “I’m leaving for you, now,” he said.
“But the bridges are closed!” I said.
He was sure he’d make it from Jersey City, up to the GWB and then back downtown. He was heroic, and if he said he’d make it to me, he would.
Then I sprinted to a friend who owned a TV. I needed to see what I would have seen had I been grinding my coffee at home that morning. After about ten minutes of the continuous loop of planes being absorbed by the towers, I said, that’s enough. I went home to pace all day and keep track of those I loved.
The night the Towers fell, my nearby close friends gathered on the rooftop of my tenement apartment, about a mile north of the devastation. We were close enough to feel the grit and smell the smoke, yet the direction of the wind kept us from being showered with debris. With us was a friend who worked for the Clicqout Champagne company. Thinking this might be the end of the world, and allowing for the possibility that this would be our last opportunity to drink whatever great wines we had lying about, she had brought over a few bottles of older vintages of La Grande Dame rosé. We drank them with thirst while breathing the toxic purple smoke still blowing from the site we couldn’t rip our gaze from. It was in this moment I thought: Steve. I grabbed my phone and called a man who would know.
“Has anyone heard from Jessica about Steve?” I asked though I knew what the answer would be. Steve’s new job as cellar rat for Windows had invigorated his life and revitalized his marriage.
John told me that they took a brush of his down to check for DNA. And Chris was in one of the planes,” he added.
Steve, Chris, Jessica, John and I have known each other for decades, part of an extended family of Morris dancers. We're family. The best family I ever had. What were the chances that two men, linked by love of dance, who were friends, who danced on the same team even, could be killed, one in the air and one in the building. Statistics are meaningless in the face of fact.
It was 7:00 and I still hadn’t heard from Ronny.
We all watched the smoke. I thought of what I could scavenge in my 'fridge for a last meal.
The irony of drinking Champagne—traditionally a celebratory wine—at such a time was not lost on us. Ronny showed up at 7:30 in the brilliant dusk. He had an amazing ride, he said, “Riding down 5th Avenue, hands free. In the silence.”
The silence and beauty of the day was diabolical.
In a while the bottles were gone, and I scrounged around for something more for us to drink on this last day on earth. I tried to choose wines bearing in mind our possible doom. Why save the good stuff? I started to pick out the bottles that I wanted to drink up in case I had to evacuate. The first bottle, a Sagrantino, tasted like sawdust; another Burgundy tasted like mud. It didn’t take a genius to see that sorrow had soured our taste buds. We collectively decided that nothing would taste great that night. And did the best we could. We stayed with the irony, and I pulled more bubbles out of the icebox.