{ missing pieces }

Making Sandwiches

It's unbelievably sunny and temperate here. The last two days have been the best weather imaginable. Still, it's eerily quiet, and everyone knows why. The single thought – the World Trade Center is gone – packs more drama than the few words seem capable of carrying. Not just a building, but all that transpired, those inside, the airline passengers, passerby, neighborhood residents, other area workers, and what it represents on an iconographic level.

There's this big hole in the landscape that we're accustomed to reading like braille. When disoriented in lower Manhattan, everyone turns skyward and used the WTC as a point of reference, it's the biggest thing we know that's always in the same place, visible from everywhere. On Manhattan's compass, it's true south. Maybe it seems so nice out because we have more sky exposed than we are used to.

In the future when people ask "Where were you when it happened?" I wonder if I will answer truthfully. I was at the gynecologist having my annual check up. I came out and went to Broadway at 12th Street to get a cab and people were starting to pool in the street. Just as I had gotten someone to tell me what happened "Something in the World Trade Center exploded," there was a collective gasp, and I turned to look up and saw both towers burning. The second plane had just plowed into the other building. All I wanted at that moment was to know where everyone I loved was.

Last night I did the only thing I could think of to help. I made sandwiches. From where I was, there wasn't much to be seen, dirt, rubble and a lot of second hand news. Rescue workers weren't very forthcoming about what they were or were not finding. But having worked since early the day before, they had to eat to keep up their strength. More mobile volunteers broke into local stores taking bread, meat, cheese, flashlights and batteries to keep the coffers stocked. They brought them up to where about ten of us were told to stay with large folding tables and cases of bottled water, Gatorade, juice, coffee, and whatever else anyone dropped off to provide food and drink for the police, firefighters, and other rescue personnel. Then, at 5:30am, when a new crop of people arrived, we were put into minivans and driven to 23rd Street.

Making sandwiches wasn't my idea. In a typical New York City style chain of relationships, my friend Mike's best friend's wife Margaret called and asked if I'd go with her and a couple other people. She told me to bring ID, and stressed that volunteers who were being brought into the area were strongly encouraged to leave their cameras at home. From our post near Borough Hall, we were kept far from the action.

Margaret lied to get herself a slot at the volunteer table. Somehow, she thought she'd be closer to the action. Her husband Ray works at Morgan Stanley and Morgan Stanley is gone now. She wanted to do something proactive until 5am when she could report to the Farkas conference room at NYU hospital and begin waiting to hear concrete news. Every time someone would try to say something comforting to her she would brandish her mustard spreading knife and say: "Shut the fuck up and make your sandwiches."

Leslie Harpold

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