{ missing pieces }

Million Dollar Skyline View

I ran upstairs to the roof on Tuesday to see the gaping hole in the right tower of the World Trade Center. It was 9am, and we'd just received a call from my boyfriend's mother, who lives about four hours away in the country and was watching the news.

"There's been a plane crash."

I'd overslept by about half an hour that morning – or I would have been at work, outside, downtown on Broadway.

The WTC towers stood directly across the water from our building, which is eleven stories high and sits on the Brooklyn side of the East River. It is a tiny microcosm of community and artistic endeavor in a polluted, industrial neighborhood. A lot of us gather on the roof each night to watch the sunset, which sets behind the skyscrapers of Manhattan. About a month ago, our upstairs neighbors got married there.

It's got a million dollar skyline view.

Yesterday I looked out at that first tower burning and thought "My god, a lot of people just died in that plane crash."

Just then, another plane flew low around the building. I still can't believe that shortly thereafter, I saw it slice right into the other tower. Like a hot knife through butter.

The girl next to me sobbed.

That, that was not an accident.

I haven't yet been able to feel anything other than shock. The only words out of my mouth then, and now, were "WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?" My internal rewind button is overworked.

A news photographer who lives in our building was shooting frantically, operating two cameras at once, screaming from behind his lenses. Later on, his footage showed up all over CBS, the only station that wasn't wiped out by the total destruction of New York's tallest manmade mountains.

I could see what looked like fleas jumping off a giant dog. They could have been windows. They could have been people. According to the news reports and eyewitness accounts, they were both, as well as millions of sheets of office paper, which later rained on Brooklyn. When the buildings tumbled, collective screams rang through my building – all eleven floors and a rooftop. I was wearing my bathrobe throughout all of it.

I could not call my family. I spent the entire day on the internet while shell shocked neighbors wandered in and out of our apartment. I smoked two packs of cigarettes.

The local bar was crowded early in the afternoon – they were out of everything else, but thank god they had enough booze – there was still more than enough to care for us late arrivals. We toasted someone's lost friend, cheered the firefighters when they went by. Got sloppy. This is New York, and we all had opinions. Loudly. Emotionally.

Later, heavy demolition machinery lined our street – the construction workers, all beefy born-and-bred New York boys, had fear and sadness in their eyes, waiting to be given orders to head into the city, into the rubble. I wanted to hug them all, or bless them. Over five stories of rubble. Thousands of people. Thousands.

Later on, we could add exhaustion to the things we could read in their faces. Over and over again they would tell us, "There is nothing left here. Nothing."

Today I went into Manhattan. It's a ghost town. It is an eerie deja vu – throughout Guiliani's reign, I have had many delusions of grandeur. If I were Mayor, I once said, I'd eliminate all daytime traffic except commercial and emergency vehicles.

I should be careful what I ask for. There is, for lack of a better expression, a palpable silence in the city.

People wore gas masks today. An entire empire is stumbling, sitting in the middle of the streets with its head in its hands. Trying to figure out how to sneak downtown past the police barriers. Cycling down Broadway in the great wide open, documenting, gathering at impromptu memorials, or going berzerk in the streets – mumbling, waving guns. One guy held an American flag in one hand, and a brick in the other. Anyone wearing hospital scrubs is regarded with heavy, reverent stares.

I'm breathing asbestos. The Yemenis in the deli are telling everyone they're Gypsies – all of us with obvious Arab blood are tentative. Four of my fish have somehow picked this time to die. Everything's closed in the city that never sleeps. America, especially New York, is not used to being treated like the rest of the world.

Dori Mondon

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