Friday, September 12, 2008

Remember to Remember

Not long after I appeared in Playboy, I was invited to a big party the magazine threw for itself at Windows on the World. I rented a fabulous dress, black and sparkly; my date rented a slightly less fabulous limousine, white and prom-y. And there we were, hobnobbing with Donald Trump and Bryant Gumbel and a bevy of blondes, and enjoying the view. The bound commemorative issue in the goodie bags had my picture in it, and on the news that night I was shown stepping out of the prom-mobile.

I remember thinking how much had changed since I had interviewed for a secretarial job at a bank in the World Trade Center some years before, how strange it would have been to work there every day, and how much I preferred returning under those circumstances.

The towers were also among the buildings I inventoried as I looked back at the skyline from the taxi taking me to the airport for my move westward a few years later: "I met so-and-so for lunch there, and went to a meeting there, and that's where that Playboy party was."

So on September 11th, 2001, when someone called from the East Coast to tell me to turn on the TV, I burst into tears and then did the only thing I could: as soon as I'd established that most of my friends and family were okay (it took me all day to locate one sister, who I now realize was newly pregnant then, but everyone was, fortunately, fine), I went to work.

The freeways in LA were oddly empty, and when I got to the studio lot, it turned out that only the other execs had showed up. We divided up the names of station managers across the country and spent a few hours calling them to let them know how to set their transponders for a CNN feed and advising them that children's programming would continue as scheduled. Some of us said Kaddish. Then we went home.

But home for me felt like New York, and I wanted to go back immediately; surely there was something useful I could do. Instead it took me six weeks, and when the taxi from the airport stopped on the slight crest before the 59th Street bridge (everyone entering the city was still subject to search then), I gasped as I saw the skyline, as familiar as my own face in the mirror, and what wasn't there.

I was glad to see Obama and McCain put the campaign aside for a few moments yesterday to honor the fallen. My honoring went like this: I went to Ikea Brooklyn after work, then took the water taxi back to Manhattan for the express purpose of seeing the Tribute in Light, which also makes clear what isn't there, and punches a hole in the clouds, maybe to let the angels in.

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