Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

Blue is my favorite color. Blue like the ocean, or a cloudless sky; azure blue can be brutal and beautiful all at once. Twenty years ago today, September 10th, I walked out my front door in Rumson, NJ and looked up to see a Great Blue Heron glide across our garage, swooping down to the river. He looked to be a pale grey compared to that azure sky.

The garage at the time was home to my son’s band. There was a drum set in one corner, speakers, microphones, a rug and some old furniture. A big yellow street sign, “Hope Road,” was hung on one of the walls – later the American flag would cover the doorway.

I used to serve the boys in the band bagel dogs, chips and soda. We weren’t into “healthy eating” yet, I was still happy if the Rocker took time to eat a meal with us at all. I tried not to nag about finishing up his college applications, and wondered aloud if he really wanted to go… it turns out he did.

In retrospect, my worries seemed so small.

Would the Bride be safe in a basement apartment in DC? We had just helped her move on from college to her first job at the Federal Trade Commission. Her Public Policy major had prepared her for this paralegal appointment, I wondered if she would be bound for law school.

Every morning I’d send her a quick email – just to check in. I once asked her if my daily notes were too intrusive, and she said no, she just didn’t always have time to answer me. But she loved getting them; I wish I had archived all those notes. I tried to be poetic, and positive. So many words have been lost over the years.

On the bright blue morning of September 11th, I called her on the government’s office line. Something was happening, something monumental. Planes had flown into the Twin Towers and maybe the Pentagon. Daddy was heading to the marina in Highlands. Did a helicopter crash on the Mall? There was another plane missing. She and her co-workers left their federal building and walked to their homes, not wanting to use the subway.

Her birthday became a National Day of Mourning. Monmouth County NJ lost 147 souls on 9/11, including a neighbor on Buena Vista Avenue, the street where we lived. And a high school classmate of hers, and his father.

I never thought in my wildest dreams, that a group of home-grown, “misinformed,” stop/the/steal crazy conservative terrorists could ever breach the People’s House. Could accomplish in a few hours what Bin Laden spent years planning, only to be denied in the last hour of 9/11 by REAL patriots who died in a field in Pennsylvania.

And now these Domestic Terrorists are coming back? While Nashville celebrates Pride Weekend September 18-19, DC will host another… what? Rally, Protest to free the Terrorists, ie Traitors, an Insurrectionist Mob? Will they bring guns or rely on flag poles and bear spray again?

President Biden’s ultimatum yesterday to anti-vaxxers was long overdue. Hearing last night that the Justice Department has decided to sue Texas for their blatantly illegal heartbeat bill was also a welcome reprieve from the news of late. Have the Democrats finally found their footing? Can we turn our country into its purple-blue mountain majesty. Take this test to know where you stand:

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Weekends blur into weekdays after retirement. Routines become malleable after moving from the country to the city. Today we might go out for lunch, or we might not. September is always a busy time of year, but with impromptu wine and cheese parties popping up, where we meet our new neighbors – “Oh, you moved from Chicago two weeks ago?” – and try to remember their names and their dogs’ names, I forgot what day it is, until I remembered.

The phone call from Great Grandma Ada, telling me to turn on the TV

The shock of standing alone in Rumson, across the shipping lanes from Wall Street

Calling the Bride in a government building in DC, then she suddenly hangs up

Listening to her voice hours later, after she walked back to Adams Morgan

Calling my sister Kay and my nephew Robert, who live in Manhattan

Waiting to hear from Bob, who was waiting for casualties at a dock

Waiting for the Rocker to return from high school, not knowing where he was

Driving on empty streets to the Red Cross to donate blood

Talking to a neighbor, who was walking her baby frantically up and down, up and down the street and rambling about knitting booties for rescue dogs

This morning the Bride told me she was having a hard time waking up. It could be because she worked yesterday and then afterwards threw a party at her house. It could be because it’s an overcast, cold day in Nashville. Or it could be because waking up to this day every year brings our fragility into sharp focus. Because sixteen years ago we woke up to a nightmare followed by funerals with empty coffins.

We remember our neighbor on Buena Vista Avenue who perished in a Tower. We remember our friend’s mentor who was a judge on one of the planes. This morning we vow to #NeverForget all those innocent people who lost their lives going to work, the rescue personnel who perished and became sick from digging in the Pit of millions of tons of steel and the ash of human remains. And their families. We will always remember.


Picture from National Geographic archives – 6 months after 9/11 while the Pit still burns


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It was a constellation of events. The Bride and Groom had a wedding to attend this past weekend in NJ, very close to Great Grandma Ada and Great Grandpa Hudson’s home. And even though we were just in Nashville for the Love Bug’s pirate birthday, we wanted to continue the love, so we drove north. At one point I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, driving on 81 and 287, I forgot how many cars and trucks drive so close and so fast. Guess I’ve become a VA driver. Good for Bob, he still loves to hustle on the road!

The Bride wanted to introduce the Bug to the Big Apple. Taylor Swift is her number one crush of the moment, and she knows the singer moved from Nashville to NYC. She was hoping for a celebrity spotting, and so we ventured over the George Washington Bridge and down the East River. The same route that was embedded in my memory, when my family would take the bridge to visit my sister, Kay, on the Upper East Side.

What we hadn’t factored into the weekend’s equation was our only free day for New York was Sunday, September 11th.

I did not sit and listen to the names, because I know one of the names.

I did not write about 9/11, because I lived through that day. Waiting for the Bride to call me from DC. Wondering where the Rocker was since he had left his high school, along with his friends. Worrying about Bob, who was helping to coordinate disaster relief at a marina.

I did not play a video about boat rescues, because my friend was on a ferry that returned with ash covered people.

Since we only had a short time on Sunday, we decided to stay uptown. Men in saffron colored robes approached me, and I waved them off like a true New Yorker, but said “Sorry” like a Virginian. Pigeons fluttered in the glorious sunlight that streamed through the buildings. I asked my Bug if there were more pigeons or people in NY, and she smiled and said, “People.”

But actually the city was strangely quiet. Reverent. And it wasn’t until I recapped our day for Bob – at the Metropolitan Museum and visiting Aunt Kay – that tears filled my eyes. Because we went straight to the museum’s rooftop, where I was intrigued by the Roof Garden’s “PsychoBarn.” http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2016/cornelia-parker

A facade, the Queen Ann farmhouse looked as if it had dropped out of a Kansas tornado into this spectacular setting. Like a stage setting, It is “Simultaneously authentic and illusory.” The artist was alluding to a child’s fascination with transitional objects; something that helps to “…negotiate their self-identity as separate from their parents.” I told the Bride if only it were yellow, instead of red, it would have looked like my NJ home.

And as we gazed across the trees of Central Park, at the skyline of NY, I felt a certain nostalgia. But also an overwhelming sense of calm, a serenity usually reserved for my mountain view. I told Bob it was only right for us to be there, on top of a tall building in the center of one of our most beautiful cities, on this sacred day.   img_5189






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I was always a Stones girl. The Beatles did catch my attention in high school, and the boys all cut their hair into Beatles’ bobs. But they were too upbeat in the beginning, too melodic. My first memory of being moved, really moved by a song was hearing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” over the loudspeakers, echoing across the lake at Camp St Joseph for Girls. Yeah, preteen girls and boys separated all summer by a lake. It became an anthem for our generation. One of the highlights of my adult life was seeing the Stones perform at the Meadowlands for my 50th birthday.

So of course I’m going to rush right out and buy (or maybe I’ll just click and send on my laptop?) the Love Bug Keith Richards’ new children’s book, Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar. Richards’ daughter Theodora, named after her Great Grandfather Augustus Theodore, did the illustrations.

The characters and story required no embellishment. Theodore Augustus “Gus” Dupree, Richards’ maternal grandpa…was a big-band jazz musician who had seven daughters and owned and played a number of instruments. And he often took grandson Keith, also the name of the boy in the book, on outings like Gus & Me’s journey through London’s streets and a music store. http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2014/09/08/keith-richards-keeps-it-all-in-the-family-for-kids-book/15121597/

It’s that eight year old brain that can determine a life’s work. Richards loved the singing cowboy, Roy Rogers, he was the super hero in his life, and it took a real hero like Gus to show him that he didn’t need the horse or a gun to have fun.

I remember putting the Rocker’s first guitar in his hands at that age, after enduring two years of violin lessons. Listening to him practice with his Corgi howling beside him.

The Music Corner of our Family Room

The Music Corner of our Family Room

This Thursday, September 11, the Parlor Mob will play in NYC at the Gramercy. The Rocker will be stage right again, playing the guitar and the keyboards. I know he remembers his first guitar and I hope he likes these old pictures from middle school. 9/11 is always a sacred day for me, a day to sit quietly and reflect. But my son’s soul was forged during that heartbreaking time; he ditched high school to watch the Towers burn across the shipping lanes from Sandy Hook with his friends. Playing in the City is a love song from our boys. We will never forget.

His First Guitar

His First Guitar



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I remember once going out to dinner with the family, and arranged before us on the table were your typical paper placemats. Except that on these cute little mats were a number of what looked like high school portrait pictures. The mats were titled something like “Before They Were Famous.” There in the corner was the key, and you had to match the picture with the star. So long before smart phones and portable gaming devices, long before reality TV produced celebrities, a family had the chance to actually interact by guessing which adolescent girl was now Cher.

Tonight, if you’re lucky enough to live in the New York metropolitan area, or have access to WNET channel 13, http://www.wnet.org, you can tune into a documentary at 10:30 that shines a light on some of our generation’s most acclaimed modern artists.  But it’s like a dream within a dream, because we get a glimpse of the early life of these men, before Studio 54 threw stardust around them, through the lens of a friend and photographer, William John Kennedy.

Full Circle: Before They Were Famous
FULL CIRCLE: BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS is the story behind a series of photographs of Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana taken by William John Kennedy in 1963/64 just as the 2 artists were on the cusp of fame. It includes terrific footage of a rare interview with Robert Indiana at his home in Vinalhaven, as well as moments with Ultra Violet and Taylor Mead.
The Director of the Warhol Museum, Eric Shiner, is interviewed and we gain his insight while we watch the evolution of an artistic icon. But if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the musical score of this film, and those of you who know him may recognize a certain something.  Because the music was created by my son, the Rocker, and like any good mom I’d recognize that sound anywhere. From the moment he picked up a violin in first grade, and our Corgi accompanied him, throughout high school with his band in our garage, I’ve become his biggest fan.
I was thinking about him yesterday, on the anniversary of 9/11. Because I knew where my daughter was; I had called her in DC to tell her what was happening and I knew she had left the federal building she was working in and started walking back to her apartment in Adams Morgan. And I knew where Bob was; he was waiting with rescue personnel at the dock in Highlands, NJ for burn patients who never came. But I didn’t know where my son was. He was supposed to start his first after-high-school job on that beautiful Fall day, and they had called to tell him not to come in, but I couldn’t find him.
He was out at Sandy Hook with his friends on the beach, watching the plume of the Twin Tower’s smoke drift out to sea. And the collective trauma of that day was familiar, that sense of suffering brought me back to 1963 when I learned that our President had been shot while I was in gym class at my NJ high school. What does that say about a generation marked by such a tragedy?
Because even before his band, The Parlor Mob, became famous, before the world tours and the Paris Vogue cover shoots and the iTunes Best Rock Band of the Year award, I was always proud of my son for following his own heart, for playing outside of the lines. As the Bard likes to say, and I may have quoted this in his senior yearbook, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

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On this Day

We remember the fallen, and give thanks for the love of family and friends. May the differences among nations and religious ideologies only serve to strengthen our commitment to peace


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The same night as the earthquake, the August 23rd Virginia once in a hundred year’s event, I heard the first aftershock. I didn’t feel anything, but around 8 pm I heard what sounded like our emergency-back-up generator coming on. That very well used machine sitting next to the heat pump on the north side of the house, always tests itself on Thursday afternoon. It wasn’t Thursday. This had been my first thought when the big one hit earlier in the day, before thinking the house was about to explode from a gas leak. Talking with my MIL, Ada, on the phone, I paused and considered running out of the house…again.

Since then we’ve had more than a dozen. What is the purpose of an aftershock? Is it just a “gotcha” moment, some earthly comedic effect, warning us not to get too comfy with the idea that all is well? Maybe it’s simply a ripple in the fault line. Ada called me on the morning of September 11th to tell me to put the news on; the local channel was gone by that time, so I put on CNN. I called my daughter, who was working in DC for the FTC. A newly hatched graduate of Duke’s Sanford Public Policy program, she walked back to her apartment in Adams Morgan. My son left high school, to sit on the beach with friends and watch the billowing smoke run down the shipping lanes. Bob gathered EMS crews at the marina to wait for patients who never came.

The Bride’s September birthday became the National Day of Mourning.

Our Jersey Shore community lost so many people on that day, a decade ago. We attended our neighbor, Michael Tucker’s funeral; one of many empty caskets. The investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald was set to open a satellite office in the next town; Rumson lost thirteen people, and Middletown over thirty. I was turned away at the blood bank (it was full), so I delivered food, helped to organize a fundraiser. I remember thinking I was glad to have stopped writing a weekly column for the paper, because there were no words. The aftershocks, the effects of that day are felt now whenever I fly, or look up at a plane, when I see flags on bridges or read about first responders who worked on the Pile developing cancer. They are felt in the two wars we have begun, and the many wounded warriors and brave lives lost. And I pray for peace.

“I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.” – John Adams

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