Week of September 11, 2001.
“Dear Friends – Like many people, I’m sure, the events of the past week have given me a lot to think about and examine in my own life. I just wanted to take a minute to tell you all how much I love you and how happy I am to have so many wonderful people in my life. I feel truly blessed to know every single one of you. I’m sending all my love to you and hope that you and all your loved ones are safe and sound.” – Francesca
“Hi Francesca – Thank you for your kind thoughts. I’m glad you’re well and coming through this okay. I feel fortunate that my loved ones are safe and sound, and I have so many good people in my life. I hope we all adjust to this and appreciate what we have.” – Suzy
“Well, it took me forever to reply, but I love you, too!” – Monique
“You’re a doll. I hope you spread your love all around right now. I want badly for this to end in NY and not spread to further violence and killing of more people.” – Hans
“Thanks baby. Much love to you and yours as well.” – Benton
“What a nice message. Adam and Jeni are both living in Brooklyn now. Lara Stingley and Connie Tarbox are also in Brooklyn. Stephen Bishop’s little brother Tom (he was in “Oklahoma” as an 8-year old), who has grown into a tap dancer, is in school on Long Island, and my cousin’s son is in school at Fordham, so we had quite a crew to be concerned about. I heard that Connie was in Manhattan and hasn’t gotten back to Brooklyn yet, but Adam went over to Manhattan on Wednesday on the subway to take a bike ride in Central Park. Naturally I scolded him when I heard that! Stay home ‘til things settle down!” – Sandie
“I just got your email today and feel very lucky and blessed to have you in my life too. I love you very much.” – Kaks
“Thanks Fra. I’m glad I know you.” – Jenn
“Hey Folks – I’m in the big apple! Arrived here safely and am trying to get settled. It’s a strange time to be moving out here but I’m sure Nicole and I will learn a lot about ourselves and the world being here at this uncertain time. Be blessed all of you, and keep in touch. Peace.” – Benton
“Just letting everyone know that I’m alive, I love you all, and my email works again.” – Zach
“Amen. I feel exactly the same. Thank you.” – Gary
“I do not know what I would do without you, truly. I am so happy that we are not apart right now – when I think of ‘what if this happened this time last year’ I shake. I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart.” – Michele
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September 13, 2001. San Francisco, CA.
On Tuesday morning two planes flew into the World Trade Center in New York. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon, and another plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. They think it might have been headed for the White House. A couple of hours later, both towers at the World Trade Center collapsed. There are thousands of people missing.
I saw the second tower collapse live on TV. It was terrifying. It has really put life in perspective. My problems seem tiny compared to this.
It was a strange day at work. Most of downtown San Francisco had been evacuated – but since we were in tech we stayed and rehearsed. All day people were slowly hearing from friends in New York. I got an email from Christopher the next day saying he was fine but wanted to get the fuck out of Manhattan. He tried to get a flight yesterday, but all of the New York airports were closed again after another hijacking scare at JFK.
I’ve mostly been scared for Simon. He’s in Azerbaijan right now working at a refugee camp. Although I don’t think Azerbaijan is considered part of the Middle East (its part of the former Soviet Union) – it is very close to Afghanistan where they think the terrorists might be from. Simon is just so young and naïve – I worry about the safety of a nineteen-year-old American boy traveling in that part of the world right now. My parents heard from him last night (he has very limited access to a phone) and he had just heard about what happened yesterday. I hope he has the sense to get himself to London if he can’t get back here (he’s supposed to be traveling next Thursday but all the airports in the U.S. are closed to incoming international flights).
It’s been an amazing few days in this country. Amidst all the sadness, everyone is really pulling together and trying to be nice to each other. The non-stop coverage on TV is a constant reminder of how fragile we really are. It’s so important to cherish life and others around you. You can’t take anything for granted.
In Washington today there was a memorial service at the National Cathedral. Today was designated a national day of prayer and remembrance across the country. Most of the former presidents and first ladies and most of the top government officials, including the Congress, were all present at the service. There were representatives from all the major churches/religions. It was incredibly moving to see everyone together and to hear the prayers and music offered to those who have been lost.
Sitting on the roof of the Geary now, I see four American flags at half-mast. It’s terrifying to think of what has happened and what may still happen – especially if the U.S. retaliates. But I think this has certainly opened a lot of people’s eyes to re-examining their own lives and living in a loving way.
I pray for my brother to get home safe, for Neil and Laura’s family and friends to get here safe for their wedding on Sunday, and for God to provide comfort to those who have lost loved ones – or who are still missing loved ones.
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September 18, 2001. San Francisco, CA.
Neil and Laura got married on Sunday. It was such a beautiful ceremony and so nice to spend a day of love with everyone after such a horrible week.
Of course no one could ignore the events of the week. Thirty guests from Boston couldn’t make it so they gathered at Neil’s old frat house and listened to the ceremony via cell phone (Neil’s brother, Michael – the best man, held the phone during the ceremony) – and Laura’s parents had driven out together from Maine. They had to leave right after the ceremony to drive back. Neil’s brother, Michael, made a really touching speech at the reception, thanking Neil and Laura for reminding us of love in such an intense time of hate.
The final dance of the night was to REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”. It meant something so different in light of Tuesday’s attacks.
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September 19, 2001. San Francisco, CA.
Michele and I can’t wait to move to New York. I think a lot of people think we are crazy after the attacks last week, but I don’t care. We’re still going.
I just keep thinking about April – New York.
April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York. April. New York.
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October 7, 2001. San Francisco, CA.
The U.S. started bombing Afghanistan today. It feels like the whole world is different.
Eric Landisman, our prop guy at ACT, was killed by a drunk driver while he crossed the street in LA on Wednesday. I’m extremely saddened that Eric is gone, and this experience has once again opened my eyes to how fragile life really is. I mean, two weeks ago, Eric was with us in tech. If he had known he only had two weeks left to live, would he have done anything differently?
It’s another reminder to live life to the fullest and try to enjoy each day for what it is. I’m trying to learn to do that.
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February 4, 2002. San Francisco, CA.
I started freaking out with my parents yesterday. My dad started going on again about “what are you going to do when you get there (New York)?” I just can’t talk about it anymore. I can’t talk about the “what if’s”. I just have to keep telling myself I’ll be fine.
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September 11, 2002. New York, NY.
It was kind of an amazing day to be in New York City today. Started off like any other. Woke up to start a new job…Chris came and ate breakfast in my room like usual but at 8:25am when we were packing bags to leave, he looked at my clock and started the countdown to the time when the first plane hit a year ago.
We went to work and the day went on with constant reminders of last year. I had to run errands in the middle of the day for the workshop I’m doing – on the way to the hardware store to get an extension cord for the musical director, I almost ran into a statue of a police dog on 6th Avenue that was covered with flowers. In the deli while getting lunch for the director, they were reading the names over the radio. And everywhere you looked there were American flags. But the strangest thing, that made you remember – because it seemed so out of place, was the wind. It was so windy today – and it’s been so hot and still for the past week. Not today.
On the news they said the wind started up right as they started reading the names. They say it was the souls of those who died. I could definitely feel them in the city today.
I was at City Center all day rehearsing and there was a big tribute in the theater there tonight to all the police officers. The bagpipes started playing outside at about 5:30p – we listened to them for the entire last hour of rehearsal.
Then after rehearsal I left the building to find the wind still blowing.
Today -and everyday since 9/11/01 has been about living a life of love. If nothing else, I learned that last year. It’s a shame that it takes something that huge to remind you to treasure each moment and every person. I sit here with a postcard above my desk that says “Nothing is worth more than this day.” I try to remember that. I am so glad that I am here in New York today, and that I’m doing theater which fills my life with inspiration everyday, and that I have so many amazing people in my life – who fill my life with more love than I could ever have dreamed. I am so thankful. Tanya called me yesterday and said she wanted to spend today with family, so we got together for dinner tonight with Jenn and Nina, two other dear friends – and just appreciated being together, and being together in New York.
Tanya told her actors today at the end of their tech rehearsal that she feels so lucky to be doing theater today when a year ago nobody knew what was going to happen. A year ago everything was closing and uncertain. This fall a dozen shows are opening on Broadway. How fortunate we are to still be able to do what we love after all that’s happened to this city.
Walking to dinner tonight I was struck by how quiet Manhattan was. A lot of people were going to vigils, and I think a lot of people were just reflecting. We talked at dinner about how much Ground Zero has changed – 10 months ago when Tanya first saw it, it was filled with all the wreckage and she saw how much loss there was. When I saw Ground Zero about four months ago, not long before they ended the recovery effort, I was amazed at how much more could have been damaged by those huge buildings falling. A year ago we were all feeling loss, and this year, at least for me, it’s about how much I treasure what I have and really trying not to take anything or anyone for granted.
I watched the skyline appear as my train emerged above ground in Queens on the way home tonight. The Empire State Building was lit up red, white and blue. But yeah, there’s definitely something missing.
I’m so glad that I spent tonight with old friends. Friends and family are everything. Without love there’s nothing.
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September 11, 2005. New York, NY.
My Michele got married yesterday in Montreal. I had to brave two plane flights this weekend to attend the wedding. This morning’s flight swooped low the whole length of Manhattan and over Ground Zero and past the Statue of Liberty until it turned and headed towards La Guardia. I think there was no more perfect way to spend the anniversary of 9-11 than flying in a plane at almost the exact time four years ago when those planes hit the towers. It was especially cathartic for me, being that these are the first flights that I have taken since before September 11, 2001 – in fact, before this weekend, I hadn’t been on a plane in 5 1/2 years.
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September 11, 2007. Salt Lake City, UT.
I spent last night with my beloved family, and friends of twenty years – who, let’s face it, are also family to me. This time of year I always take a minute to reflect on how lucky I am to have the best people in my life, and to thank the universe for the opportunities that have been given to me. I am happy to say that I am exactly where I want to be right now, working on a show that I love and marveling every day at new things I never would have seen if I hadn’t been blessed with this tour. I hope everyone can take a minute today to reflect on all the blessings they have in their lives.
As every year goes by, things get more and more back to normal. I want to make sure I never take for granted the lessons I learned from September 11th. Even though I’m not in New York City right now, she’s in my thoughts.
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September 11, 2011. New York, NY.
It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years. I look back on those writings from when the attacks first happened, and then the first anniversary, and it all still seems so vivid.
With all the sadness associated with September 11th, I also associate such gratitude – because it was the beginning of my intense love affair with this city that I have now called “home” for just under ten years, and it was also when I began really living my life with purpose. I never take for granted the lessons I learned ten years ago.
It has been quite a decade. I moved to New York City less than six months after the towers fell. In the past ten years I have fallen in love over and over again with the busy streets, the electric energy, the snowy winters, the sticky summers, the glorious parks, the sidewalk cafes, the roaring subways, the street performers, the bodegas, the prewar apartment buildings, the yellow taxi cabs, the honking, the yelling, the laughter, the multitude of languages and colors, the music, the theater, the lights, the love, the LIFE. Moving here was by far the best decision I have ever made.
New York City is magic. Then, and now.
Looking back today, I realize that I did it. I grabbed hold of my dreams that day and I haven’t let go since. This city, this life – they are mine. I feel so thankful.
And yet, those feelings are muddled with such grief for those who were not so fortunate – whose dreams were snuffed out in an instant on that sunny September morning.
Today, I had lunch with Neil and Laura, who are in town for a short visit. They celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary in just a few days. They now have two beautiful boys and they are still such a wonderful reminder of love.
Tonight Tanya and I traded text messages from east coast to west coast, where she lives now. I’ll always think of her on these anniversaries.
This morning, I watched the names being read on TV, mostly by children who lost their parents that day, and I cried and cried – all while clutching my belly and the baby girl who lies within. I want a safer world for her. I want to protect her. But I know I can only do so much.
What I do know is that I can teach her to live her life as though there is no tomorrow. That I can do.
I will tell her over and over again to grab on to her dreams and to never let go.
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