New York City

REMEMBERING 9/11 –A LOS ANGELES PERSPECTIVE

September 11, 2001, as other world-shaking events, seems like only yesterday. Perhaps because the media makes sure we don’t forget our 21st century Pearl Harbor. Being suddenly attacked, as an individual or as a country, is a difficult trauma to face and overcome in life, and some never do adjust. “Where were you on 9/11?” is a more current version of, “Where were you when JFK was shot?” We all share the tragedy, whether it’s one person or nearly 3,000.

My daughter, Heidi, and I were sharing an apartment in Sherman Oaks, California, that September Tuesday morning, which began in a typical fashion. Heidi was out for an invigorating walk before going to work for a downtown Los Angeles attorney service. At 7:30 a.m., I had spread my exercise mat in front of the TV and turned it on to watch Good Morning America before I had breakfast and started work editing a book. I was sitting on the floor when I saw the footage on the planes striking both the north and south tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. It was so shocking I couldn’t absorb it; I was impatient to share the news with Heidi before I broke down completely. Human instinct propels us to turn to others.

World Trade Center before the disaster

A couple of days later, I wrote in my diary, “It was unfathomable to most of us—resembling an especially bad special effect from an action movie, but played hundreds of times over and over.”

That morning I was mesmerized and horrified as I listened and watched the news, which eventually grew to include the Pentagon disaster and the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. Heidi returned from her walk totally ignorant; it was still early and many neighbors were getting ready for work and school.  As I filled her in, we watched the continuous replays and news. A good friend of hers soon called and advised her to stay home from work. At that time one of the hijacked planes was supposedly headed for LA—the one that crash landed in the field in Shanksville, thanks to passengers who fought back.

Because of all the uncertainties, downtown Los Angeles was literally shut down. The terrorists had hijacked planes flying to LA because they would have the highest amount of volatile jet fuel to act as a bomb. Airports around the country were soon shut down because of potential danger.

Suzi, a friend of Heidi’s who worked in the travel industry, had driven to work in Culver City and wondered why the 405 freeway was so empty until she heard the news on her car radio.

It was a strange quiet day of little traffic and no sounds of planes: very unusual because we lived fairly close to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. Many of us felt lost, at loose ends. It was a time of getting in touch with friends and family and watching TV for more news and the scenes of horror over and over again. Shopping centers and businesses closed down all over LA. The scene, the mood, resembled a California earthquake disaster without the physical damage. In this case the damage was emotional.

In our immediate neighborhood of single-family homes, apartment buildings, a strip mall and a supermarket, most of the businesses stayed open. It was comforting for Heidi and I to walk the short distance to the little pizza parlor in the strip mall. People shared stories and observations with each other as we ordered Italian food and watched the small TV, playing nothing but World Trade Center news. It was a day full of tears and tissues.

9/11  WTC Memorial before it opened.

  A year after the disaster, Una, a friend from Northern California, visited Manhattan and walked down to the site. “I was overwhelmed with grief at seeing the gaping hole, this open wound on the heart of America, still raw, so vulnerable.  Walking by the small church next door, posters and photos of missing loved ones were still attached to the fence.  It was a heart-wrenching sight to read each plea for help in finding a loved one.  The wind whipped up, creating a dusty whirlwind of the ashes and dust in the hole.  I wondered whose ashes were being resifted.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Swim in December? In Long Island Sound, New York? By Victoria Giraud

In the early 1950s while my dad was getting his Master’s Degree at NYU, my family lived in Fordham Hill Apartments in the Bronx. I attended PS 33, just off Fordham Road and next to the elevated subway, where I met and made fast friends with Jackie.   We have kept in touch ever since as I moved to Kentucky, Libya, Virginia, Germany and finally to California. Her life has taken her to the Midwest, New England, Hawaii and then she ended up in Northern California. Who could have guessed at 10 years old we’d keep in touch (remember letters by snail mail?) and see each other over the years in various places and eventually live in the same state?  Life is a mysterious journey.

Right after Christmas in 1959, when I was just about to turn 17 (January 1), I took a train from Northern Virginia to visit Jackie and enjoy the excitement of New York City from a more grown-up point of view. Jackie made sure I saw the highlights (some of them with dates)— “Destry Rides Again” a Broadway play; a movie at Radio City Music Hall, which included the Rockettes dancing; a drink at a Greenwich Village night spot, and a meal at the Jaegermeister, a special German restaurant. We even saw “Wild Strawberries,” a Swedish Ingmar Bergman movie—now a classic.

My very pretty friend was dating a few fellows, but the primary one at the time was Gerry, an older man of 21 and a Fordham University senior. Gerry fixed me up with Ray, a junior class friend of his. My dates up to this time had been limited to younger guys, so I was thrilled to pretend I was a college sophisticate, not a high school senior!

The fellows were bright and entertaining and I felt quite comfortable with both of them. Being an Army brat does lend a bit of cachet in life, and lots of experience in zany situations.

One night they took us to a casual restaurant/bar called The Barge, which was right on Long Island Sound. Our dates ordered a pitcher of beer and the bartender didn’t bother with ID for Jackie or me. Not quite 17 and I was out having beer! It wasn’t something I’d tell my dad about, but I would certainly share the adventure with my mother.

Me, Gerry and Jackie at The Barge -- Beer and Babes!

After a beer, Gerry, who was quite the comedian and a bit of a showoff, led the three of us outside to the barely lit back patio, which jutted into the water, to show us the view. It was freezing, but I recall we left our coats inside. He instructed us to watch him carefully and then he ran to the other end of the small patio, jumped over the wooden border and disappeared. Since there was water all around, we assumed he’d jumped into the water. Why?

Was this a stunt or some kind of trick? Although he didn’t reappear for a few minutes, Ray assured us Gerry would be fine.   Before we got too worried, we saw hands and then a head appear as Gerry slowly pulled himself back over the side, bedraggled, soaking wet, panting and shivering.

“I knew there was a small shelf you couldn’t see and you’d think I was an idiot for jumping in the water,” he told us, trying to chuckle at himself before freezing to death. By this time we were all laughing at his mistake as he blurted out, “It turned out that the shelf wasn’t solid and I went straight into the water.”

Trying to warm up after a winter swim

Gerry kept shivering and dripping as we stealthily made our way through the bar and out to the car, trying not to be too loud with our laughter. Ray  found a blanket in his trunk, Jackie added a muffler, and we drove to Ray’s nearby home for a change of clothes for Gerry.

Gerry had literally put a damper on the evening in his attempt to steal the spotlight! It was unusual, hilarious and unforgettable. Amazing what a guy will do for a laugh and to impress his girlfriend! Too bad there was no YouTube in those days. At least we had a camera to document it for posterity.

A December Dunk in the Hudson River

Me, Gerry and Jackie at The Barge -- Beer and Babes!

The Hudson River in New York is not meant for swimming in the winter months. This month’s blizzard on the East Coast can attest to that.

Yet a Fordham University senior got a surprising taste of freezing river water years ago, and I was a laughing witness. Christmas season is a great time for amusing memories.

During the 1952-53 school year, I met my good friend Jackie, when my family lived in Fordham Hill Apartments in the Bronx. I attended PS 33, just off Fordham Road. Jackie and I became instant friends and have kept in touch ever since. She eventually settled in Marin County in Northern California. Life is a mysterious journey!

We wrote letters and exchanged visits over the years. Right after Christmas in 1959, when I was just about to turn 17 (January 1), I took a train to visit Jackie and enjoy the excitement of New York City.

Jackie made sure I saw the highlights (some of them with dates)—a play on Broadway: “Destry Rides Again; a movie at Radio City Music Hall, which included the Rockettes dancing; a drink at a Greenwich Village night spot, and a meal at the Jaegermeister, a special German restaurant. We even saw “Wild Strawberries,” a Swedish Ingmar Bergman movie—now a classic.

My very pretty friend was dating a few fellows, but the primary one at the time was Gerry, an older man of 21 and a Fordham University senior. Gerry fixed me up with Ray, a junior class friend of his. My dates had been limited to mostly younger guys, so I was thrilled to act older and sophisticated!

The fellows were entertaining and I felt quite comfortable with both of them. Being an Army brat does lend a bit of cachet in life.

One night they took us to a casual restaurant/bar called The Barge, which was right on the river in New Rochelle. We ordered a pitcher of beer and the bartender didn’t bother with ID for Jackie or me. Not quite 17 and I was out having beer! It wasn’t something I’d tell my dad about, but I would certainly share it with my mother.

After a beer, Gerry, who was quite the comedian and a bit of a showoff, led the three of us outside to the barely lit back patio, which jutted into the water, to show us the view. It was freezing, and I think we left our coats inside. He instructed us to watch him as he ran to the other end of the small patio, jumped over the wooden border and disappeared. Since there was water all around, we assumed he’d jumped into the water. Why?

Was there a trick: he didn’t reappear for a few minutes.   Before we got too worried, he slowly pulled himself back over the side, bedraggled, soaking wet, panting and shivering.

“I knew there was a small shelf you couldn’t see and you’d think I was an idiot for jumping in the water,” he told us, trying to laugh. By this time we were all laughing at his mistake as he blurted out, “It turned out that the shelf wasn’t solid and I went straight into the water.”

Trying to warm up after a winter swim

Gerry was shivering and dripping as we stealthily made our way through the bar and out to the car, trying not to be too loud with our laughter. Ray  found a blanket in his trunk, Jackie added a muffler, and we drove to Ray’s for a change of clothes for Gerry.

Gerry had literally put a damper on the evening in his attempt to steal the spotlight! It was unusual, hilarious and unforgettable. Amazing what a guy will do for a laugh and to impress his girlfriend!

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