Thursday, July 19, 2007
What happened yesterday?
it was my turn to stay late. i hadn't eaten any lunch. i knew they'd buy dinner if i stayed after 7pm and it was already well after 5:30pm so i wasn't going to sweat it. sushi, i remember thinking. we should order from yama. i've had their salmon sashimi and it was really quite good. everyone was drifting into evening work mode. all quiet on the midtown east side front.
suddenly, there was a beep and then one of those distorted, abrubt, way too loud what-in-the-world-did-he-just-say announcements by the building management to stay inside. and then someone said excitedly, look out the window. and there was a horde of people out in the middle of the street, moving uptown en masse like well-dressed bison, on lexington avenue. some people were just standing there. some people were moving fast. there were businessmen in filthy expensive suits directing emergency vehicles through the confusion. women in office-to-evening outfits were kicking off their high heels and -- not running -- sprinting. there was fear in the street. you could feel it.
everyone had their cellphones out. everyone was taking pictures. everyone was making little movies.
except me, of course. i didn't charge my photo/video capable palm last night so my battery was dead. no matter. no one else could use their cell phones, either. someone was crying softly at the other end of the hall. i heard this white girl copywriter speak up like a sister and say, loud: i'm not going to die for this job! that's when i remembered: didn't they tell everyone that they could go back into the second tower on 9/11? i thought, who says we're safe in here? what do they know?
why were there people just standing there in the middle of the street?
(this was in front of the public library on fifth -- a few avenue blocks away, but still...!)
pandemonium everywhere. crazy. everyone was looking down lexington avenue at something that we couldn't see because we were looking onto the street. even the people who were running were looking over their shoulders in a freak-out panic, the way they do in horror movies, to see if the monster was gaining on them. wrong angle, to be sure -- but we caught all their reactions. and some people got really scared. i don't think i was scared. but it did freak me out.
stephen stood next to me and blurted, "it looks like invasion of the body snatchers!"
everyone jumped on the internet for information. someone scrambled to make their transistor radio work. i was glad that i had flat shoes on, so i could walk the 100 or so blocks to my place in west harlem. at least i didn't live in new jersey or long island. i'd need a boat to take me home.
all of a sudden, it felt like 9/11 all over again. it certainly looked like it.
it was a transistor explosion at lexington and 43rd. it spewed fire, asphalt, bricks, raw sewage, water and filth so high into the air, and it just kept going and going, the smoke kept rolling, the brown murky water flowing down the street, the asbestos filling the air like yankee smog, the billowing, rolling, stench. and everyone in the street, standing there, taking pictures and making movies.
i didn't stick around for act two. my coworker (the one who said she wasn't going to die for her job) and i walked west, then all the way up past lincoln center to fairway, where we got some comfort food and took the bus home from riverside drive.
somewhere along the way, i asked her if she'd ever been on a farm and she said yes. i said, you know how if you don't drive farm animals into the barn, they won't go -- even if it's raining hard? they'll just stand there in the muck and get soaked. that's what these people looked like. human cows, just standing there. she couldn't stop laughing at that one.
i couldn't laugh. i was wired, i was starving and i was way too relieved that i wasn't a cow.