September 11, 2011
On September 11, 2001, I was living in Queens, New York. I had a first grader, a three year old and a five month old baby. I lived in a two family house and had some nice folks living upstairs but other than that, and a sprinkling of friends in Queens, I was alone. I was going through my own personal battle. My family of origin all lived back in the Midwest.
Early that morning I took my first grader to school. He went to a small Catholic grade school in Glendale, Queens. After dropping him off I drove over to the Stop and Shop in Maspeth. I bought some groceries and was in the checkout lane when I overheard the cashiers talking about how a plane hit the world trade center tower.
My first thought was that some little prop plane had lost control and hit the building. When I got to my car I turned on the radio and all the stations were reporting the breaking news. I put my children in their car seats and drove over to Juniper park to see what I could see. I saw both towers burning and thought the one with the huge gouge in the middle with smoke billowing out of it was going to break in half and fall over.
I wanted to get a better view so I drove over to Maurice park in Maspeth and walked to the center of pedestrian bridge over the LIE. Traffic below was at a complete stop except for the fire trucks heading into Manhattan. I decided to go home and get my camera. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
When I got home I brought in the kids, the groceries and turned on the TV. Within minutes I saw the first tower implode. Like everyone else across the country who was watching that day, I was in shock with what was unfolding before my eyes. I decided to stay put.
Soon all the neighbors were outside talking. Some of them were scared for their kids so they went to the schools and brought them home early. As for me, I was glad my six year old was in school and felt he was in a safe place. Besides, being a single mom with three very young ones, I always welcomed school days.
Later that afternoon my older brother was able to get through on my cell phone. He knew I would go in and out of Manhattan for work or art supplies. He wanted to make sure my kids and I were ok. He was relieved I didn’t go into the city that day.
Later that night, after putting my two older children to bed, I sat glued to the television rocking my little baby girl. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be holding her, how precious life was that day.
Today I bought the New York Post. As I opened it up I saw the names of the people I know who died. One of them was my neighbor just across the street from me. Captain Patrick Waters a New York City firefighter. I have memories of him chatting with passers-by as he watered the flowers on his stoop. He was a friendly man who always had a kind word. He had a very nice wife and two boys that went to the same school as my son. For days all the neighbors prayed and held out hope, but unfortunately he died that day trying to save lives in the burning towers. Several weeks later we went to his wake.
The Post also had pictures of several women and their children. They were featured because the children were born shortly after their fathers were killed on 9/11. I immediately recognized one of them. Her older children were at that same Catholic grade school as my son. She looked good. I was glad to see how far she and her child had come. It was a tough year at that school.
This is a painting I did in late summer of 2008. I went down to wall street to paint the bull one Sunday afternoon and found that you can’t even get near the bull with all the tourists. So my second choice was the stock exchange building. This area is completely blocked off to cars since 9/11 and it was wide open.
There was a small police command center in the section of the street that was fenced in. I was afraid I would be stopped by someone since I was carrying an odd looking wooden paint box and a bag with some toxic things in it like turpentine. But no one stopped me. I wandered up and down the block a bit until I decided on this particular view. As a matter of fact, a very friendly police officer came over to talk to me throughout the day and told me all about the security down here.
I thought I’d get a chance to come back down here and paint more but this is the only time I got the chance to do so. I still want to paint that bull on Broadway.
So on this somber day these are my reflections. Thank you for reading this.