It was a beautiful day. That’s the first thing anyone who lived through it will tell you – warm but not hot with a seamless sky – what pilots call “severe clear.” Only later did you realize that it had to be that kind of day for what would take place to occur.
It was a Tuesday – as is today. I began my day as senior cultural writer for The Journal News at 7:30 a.m. by interviewing the witty, erudite William Ivey Long, the costume designer for “The Producers,” about the Chrysler Building, which was turning 75 that October. (The Broadway hit featured a gown shaped like the building.) He had a busy day ahead of him so I kept the interview tight and rang off as I usually do, “Enjoy the day.”
By the time I got to the office – wearing a yellow pink-floral dress with a matching buttery color sweater – everyone was gathered around a TV in the newsroom, never a good sign. It appeared that an errant plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Then a plane crashed into the South Tower and we knew it was no accident.
After that all hell broke loose. As the Towers fell and we realized that this was a concerted terrorist attack that embraced the Pentagon and an aborted crash into the White House, we began dialing everyone we knew outside of New York City, where we still couldn’t get through. I called my hairdresser – with whom my beloved Aunt Mary, who raised me, had an appointment and asked her to break the news to her gently when she arrived. I fielded phone calls from people who were on the road to the city or had seen the attack happen and took their contact information. Some just wanted to talk.
We decided to put out a special edition – in 15 minutes. I had covered the loss of TV transmission during the first World Trade Center attack – Feb. 26, 1993 – so it made sense for me to pull out those notes and talk about what the loss of the North Tower, which had the antennae, meant. (The South Tower, the “social” tower, had the observation deck.)
The mail arrived. There was a package for me from the Arts & Entertainment Network that contained a video – remember those? – of a documentary of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. I reeled from the eeriness. But I had no time to dwell. After I finished my story, I remembered that I had a letter in my purse that I hadn’t mailed.
I looked at it for a minute and thought: I’m going to walk to the Mail Room and mail this letter – an act of faith in the future – and everything I do will proceed from this.
– Georgette Gouveia