Gotta Keep Moving...
by Fredrick Cooper
Wednesday, September 12, 2001.
Tough people live in this tough town. I told myself that last night as I sat here till 8:30 PM, trying to will myself to Brooklyn. That's what I told myself as my "Q" train crossed the Manhattan Bridge last night. (DOES ANYONE KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE BEING THE ONLY ONE IN YOUR SUBWAY CAR FOR AN HOUR??) That's what I told myself this morning, when my boss told me he needed someone at work. My sister thinks I should go to a trauma unit to desensitize, but in case you don't know already, I'm a bit stubborn. I actually think I'm good at this self healing thing. (NEED PROOF?? Pick up a novel called "Six Days In January..")
Gotta keep moving. That's what I'm telling myself, even though the Century 21 where my express bus left me some 8 minutes before death is now a memory. A European man in the Chinese restaurant last night told me that "WE WERE ASKING FOR THIS.." It took everything in my power not to strike this man.
Were we asking for the innocent lives of thousands to perish? People who were at work, drinking coffee, laughing, telling loved ones to "have a nice day," then have their own days and lives ended.
Were two people asking for this fate: Jumping out of an eighty-something floor window, holding hands, having to choose this way of mortality that being engulfed by flames?
Were 300 firefighters and officers asking to die while gallantly trying to save lives?
Were many kids, husbands and wives asking for unconscionable, unjustified, inexplicable abandonment?
Was I asking for vivid memories? A Pregnant Woman, crying to me for release brought on by shattered nerves? I found a restroom for her at a Reade Street Parlor. There, I even found time to crack jokes with patrons about the Denzel Washington Movie (The Siege) and how I has determined to find the 6th Cell.
Was I asking for the memory of being on Broadway with a correction officer at 10:25, telling people to swim upstream by foot because you couldn't trust mass transportation. Was I asking for what happened five minutes later: A crashing sound, then the smell of new smoke? Was I asking for the vivid picture of unnerved police officers streaking by me, saying "They got the Brooklyn Bridge", a woman saying "They got another plane coming, They're gonna kill us all." Even the officer by my side took flight as I remained calm. Tough people live in this town, I thought.
Gotta Keep Moving. A pizzeria on Prince Street is where reality set in for me. I called my Ex, to see if she was OK, for she worked at 388 Greenwich Street. (Two block away from that venue is now covered with debris and dirt.) I didn't even panic when there was no answer. A couple of calls later, I found that the Staten Island Ferry she was on returned to SI once the second plane hit. God is real Good, I sighed.
A white woman next to me may not have been so fortunate. Beet Red and crying, after she hung up the phone she collapsed into my embrace. Her son worked in 2 WTC on the 84th floor, and she was unaware of his whereabouts. As tears began to fall from my eyes, I offered a brave smile. "He's OK," I uttered, then left the store. Gotta keep Moving.
Tower Records, on East 4th Street was my next stop. Was I asking for the vivid memory of people embracing on staircases upon entry, crying profusely. Or the red-eyed lady who inspected packages with tissue crumpled in her left hand? On the news the showed a man who somehow escaped one Tower fro the 82nd floor. I prayed for that woman on Prince Street once more.
Was I asking for planes to fly by in the sky as I approached 8th Street? You could see the fear in people's eyes. Was I asking for the lingering picture of a woman wearing a ripped gray dress, covered in dirt, in a debris-stenched stupor, determined to get home. I offered to buy her a bottled water but she said no. I could see why. Following suit on her drive: Gotta keep moving.
Approaching 23rd Street/B'dway, you could see the Empire State Building. Was I asking for the worry I now felt, knowing that that could possibly be a new target for these barbarians? Was I asking for the worry I felt for my brother, Jeff, who was at my job because he knew I was at Court? Through it all I tried to remain composed. Gotta Keep Moving. Tough People live in this town.
Was I asking for security guards, who know me from the many hours at Proskauer, interrogating me upon entry of my building as if I flew the F*&^%$ planes? Was I asking for the tears shed as I dropped my bag in relief as I saw my brother, who had been crying himself?
Was I asking for the tears I shed for my formely black, now charcoal grey suit last night? I couldn't pick up the phone last night. And after Bush's speech and the WTC 7 collapse, I just turned on ESPN2. Did I ask for the tomb-like ride on the "Q" train this morning? Was I asking for more tears when on the Manhattan Bridge, I saw the Trade Center no more?
Was I asking for the conversation with a survivor this morning, who told me, upon escape she saw firefighter and police rush by her into one of the towers, and how she passed people with mouths agape, just watching. And how five minutes later, the tower collapsed, and all those people could very well be dead now?
Was I asking for the vodka I now sip to ease the pain? Eventually, it'll dissipate, for I gotta keep moving. Tough People live in this tough town. Even if they are at the brink.