9/11 Twenty Years Later

I was born and raised in Manhattan. Celebrated my 18th birthday with my family at Windows on the World. After college, I moved to Soho. Each time I walked out my front door, I could turn right and see the Midtown skyline or turn left and see the Twin Towers. I worked just across the street from them for a time, bought clothes and books in the ground floor shops, picked up coffees and lunches in the food court. That was my reality, my home.

And then one day, it wasn’t.

Scott shook me awake early that Tuesday morning. “Honey, wake up. A plane crashed into the World Trade Center.” A plane had hit the Empire State Building once, in another era, so the words were shocking, but not completely out of the realm of possibility. I turned on CNN.

We didn’t know what to make of it. How could an airplane have gone so off course in this modern era? We didn’t know about the other planes yet. It seemed like a weird, crazy one-off. I picked up the phone to call Mom.

We were on the phone as the second plane hit. CNN caught it happening in real time and I screamed. That was when the world changed. When we knew that this was no random tragic accident, but something much, much worse.

Memory is a weird thing. I Googled the footage and watched it again the other day, to make sure it happened the way I remembered. That I really did see the impact, the explosive burst of flames. I did. CNN still has the link online. It’s a gut punch to watch, even all these years later.

Much of the rest of the day is a blur, but I remember watching the first tower fall. Even as it crumbled, I though, “surely only the top will be affected”. The cloud grew bigger and bigger, and I couldn’t process what I was seeing. How could something so huge suddenly just be gone?

This was before smart phones and ubiquitous connectivity. My sister worked next door to the WTC and walked through it every morning on her commute. She didn’t have a cell phone. We had no idea where she was or if she was safe. She’d been standing between Trinity Church and City Hall, watching, then after the towers collapsed, walked home. It took several hours until she finally arrived at my parents’ house, covered in dust, but safe.

I didn’t know my friend Kath was killed that day. I thought she was safely in midtown, so I didn’t call to check in. I hadn’t heard she had just switched jobs and was working on the 97th floor of Tower 1. We’d met when she came to New York as part of a NY/London community theater production. She fell in love with one of the other Americans in the cast, and a few years later, I was maid of honor at their wedding.

I called her husband when I heard the news. I sat on the floor, helpless, not sure what to say, as we cried on the phone together. Death is a part of life, but there’s no instruction manual for what to do when your friend is killed by a terrorist in the prime of her life. You make it up as you go along.

9/11 is part of history now. The world has changed in so many ways. I’ve seen some people saying, why should we care about 3,000 dead when COVID has taken more than 600,000? And if you didn’t have a personal connection to 9/11/01, it’s a fair question. But to those of us who lived though that day, who felt that pain, who still mourn those losses, we know that the one doesn’t cancel out the other.

We will never forget.

One More #MeToo Story

I’m walking back from the post office on a crisp October afternoon, enjoying the sunshine and thinking random thoughts about what else I need to do this afternoon. My brain wanders onto the #MeToo discussions that have been going on this week. I think about some of the times it happened to me, and am grateful that none of them occurred during my college years. I start to wonder how many of my classmates weren’t so lucky, and contemplate asking the question in our class’s private Facebook group.

So of course, it’s the perfect time for a random guy sitting outside the local library to start catcalling me.

I felt the familiar clench in my stomach.

I didn’t call him out. I didn’t flip him off.

I picked up the pace and walked away from him.

And felt grateful that our building has a doorman in case the guy decided to follow me home.

Another Wednesday in an average suburban town in the USA.

It just doesn’t stop.

The Best Kitten Wrangler Ever

Gimi in 2017
In 2004 we were living in San Francisco, and I was volunteering at the SF SPCA, when I came across a little black kitten named Gimli. One of a litter of kittens names after LoTR characters, Gimi (as we called him) was the least healthy of his siblings and spent a lot of his first few months in the bowels of the SPCA trying to kick his persistent upper respiratory infections.

Eventually, he came out into the kitten rooms, but as with so many black cats, he was regularly overlooked by potential adopters, despite his friendliness and a purr that just wouldn’t stop. I was enthralled by his cute little feet that looked like they’d been dipped in white paint, his soulful eyes, and that nonstop purr. As I came home from my volunteering sessions talking about him more and more, Scott finally said “why don’t we just adopt him?” and Gimi came to live with us when he was just shy of six months old. He thrived in our home and grew into a big, goofy, loving cat. And the purring didn’t stop.

The next year, we started fostering kittens in our home and made a wonderful discovery. Gimi absolutely loved kittens. He would hang out with them, clean them, play with them, and generally mother them in a way I would never have expected. He was never territorial with them, just patient and accepting. Over the year, dozens of kittens have gone on to their forever homes better socialized and more ready for their future lives thanks to him.

Gimi was a social, friendly kitty to humans as well, always coming into the living room with his tail held high to say hello to workmen and guests alike. Even my father, a lifelong dog person, decided Gimi was OK.

Gimi’s health had always been excellent, but sadly we had to say goodbye to him today at age 13, thanks to an aggressive and fast-moving cancer.

He was deeply loved, and will be deeply missed.

Knitting Milestone

SFGiants Fan Hat I first picked up a pair of knitting needles in February 2015. I wanted to surprise Mom with a hand-knitted chemo cap and didn’t think much beyond that.

Much to my surprise, I got hooked on knitting and haven’t really stopped since then. I’ve knitted on airplanes and in hotel rooms. I’ve made more hats than I can easily count, a baby blanket, scarves, shawls, sweaters, and even a tea cozy that looks like an owl.

Today was a bit of a milestone, though: I published my first original pattern on Ravelry (which for non-knitters, is one of the premiere knitting sites & communities on the Internet).

It’s designed for fans of the SF Giants, so I don’t expect it to get a huge number of takers, but I’m still pretty proud of myself.

Here’s the link, if you’re curious.

Branding The Resistance

Or, why I am not wearing red on “A Day Without Women”

One of the few bright spots in the political climate of 2017 has been the resurgence of female activism. Across the country, women who are dismayed (to say the least) about the reality of Donald Trump as POTUS are organizing, running for office, calling their representatives, and creating amazing communities.

The Women’s March in January was a pivotal moment. Millions of women across the USA and around the world stepped up to advocate for women’s right and a host of other related policies. And the iconic symbol of that march was a pink hat.

Women's March (VOA) 03

Bulding on that momentum, the organizers of the march are now promoting “A Day Without A Woman” on March 8th. Great! Keeping the momentum going in an activism community is important, and I’m all for it.

So why did the organizers make a basic marketing mistake? I get that not everyone in the community is thrilled with pink due to the gendered meaning attached to the color. But one thing I have learned in my marketing career is that if something works, go with it. If a completely grassroots effort like the Pussyhat Project generated that much success, don’t throw that advantage away. Own it.

On March 8th I’ll be wearing my pussyhat proudly. I hope I won’t be the only one.

The World Turned Upside Down

US flag at sunsetAs the events of Election Night unrolled, like many other Americans I found myself in shock and disbelief. How could so many of my fellow citizens willingly vote for a future that is so harsh, unforgiving, and antithetical to the things I hold dear?

America has always seemed to me like a safe haven, a place where people of all kinds could live, be accepted, and thrive. America has been very good to my family since we came here, and I have always believed that those things would continue. Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe we’re the fools for thinking things could be better.

A part of me wants to say “screw this, I’m out.” Hunker down and the hell with everyone else. Let someone else carry the burden. But that is not the right answer.

In a time like this, the only thing that makes sense to me is to remember what allowed the Jewish people to survive when the entire world was against us: Staying together and staying true to what matters to us.

We kept the faith. We had each other’s backs and we took care of each other when no-one else would.

That’s what we have to do now. We can’t change what has happened, but we can help each other to endure it.

It’s the only thing that makes sense to me right now.