Five Years Ago

Five Years Ago

Andy Cohen reflects on the events of 9/11.

I wanted to write about what an amazing weekend I had, but then I woke up and remembered. And it's amazing how you can access a feeling you had five years ago so clearly as though time never passed.

Exactly five years ago this morning I woke up hungover from an amazing I-Love-NY-night. I'd gone to the Michael Jackson tribute concert at Madison Square Garden followed by a midnight dinner at Pastis. We walked out of that restaurant arm-in-arm around 1:30, breathing in the perfect temperature and the always awe-inspiring sight of the World Trade Center standing directly in front of us about two miles away. We all remarked how beautiful the night was and how much we loved New York. (We really did.) It was a magic night.

So I was hungover that next morning but it was a stunning day: The perfect temperature, bright sun, and calm. I was drinking my coffee trying to motivate when Bruce called and told me to turn on the TV. He was walking to the subway in Tribeca and had just seen the first plane crash into the building. It was literally seconds after the crash and there was nothing on any of the morning shows.

I walked onto my fire escape over Hudson Street. The WTC was at the bottom of the street and there was a hole in one side of it with smoke. We thought it was an accident. He got on the subway to go to work. I stood out there watching the fire and called another friend. As we were talking I saw the second plane and a ball of fire. I stood on that fire escape and saw the buildings collapse but from where I was standing (two miles away?) it was eerily totally silent.

You could not hear the buildings from a couple miles away but they were so huge you could see everything. I talked to my neighbors on their fire escapes and it was like we were watching something that could not be happening. And it was quiet. I don't know how to describe the rest of the day and weeks besides that it felt totally dulled -- like it should be loud outside, but you couldn't hear anything. It was silent. You should be screaming but you can't get anything out. There was a flood of people walking upstream that day from downtown with chilled looks on their faces.

Walking around, everybody was so shaky and sad and everything felt more dulled. Posters sprung up all over the neighborhood with pictures of missing people. We kept running into this brother and sister who were hanging out by St. Vincents Hospital hoping to find their father. We walked as far downtown as we could get that night and found papers and weird scraps blocks away from where the building had been. It smelled like toxic. We wanted to help and didn't know what to do.

For weeks after, the city emptied out like I'd never felt before. Only the people who lived here walked the streets and people were looking each other in the eyes, connecting and scared and horrified. You felt like you could cry anytime. The vibe in the subway for weeks was muted and scared and muffled. The air smelled downtown for months. Everytime you heard a firetruck or an airplane you winced. The New York Times was twice the size as normal and required reading.

Oh, and George Bush and his team started wearing flag pins. Five years later I am happy to know that I woke up having had another I-Love-NY night last night. And remembering that period of life in this city five years ago it makes me appreciate all the more how fragile it all is and how lucky we all are to get to live here, experience this city, and have I love NY moments.

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