Archive for the ‘9/11’ Category

Letter From New York 05 13 2016 Thoughts on mortality….

May 14, 2016

It is Friday the 13th, a day feared by many as unlucky.  It has neither been lucky or unlucky for me, so far…

The cottage is ripe with the good feelings from a lovely dinner party last night.  There were six of us.  We had appetizers, soup, salad, fish, lamb or pork or both, baby gold Yukon potatoes, sautéed carrots, green beans with butter and ice cream and berries for dessert.  People arrived at seven and left after midnight.  A good time was had by all.

I am now in my fourth load in the dishwasher.  We had cocktails, champagne, white wine, red wine, cordials.  It was a long, delightful evening of food and wonderful conversation.  It was a moment of recognition of how lucky I am, to be in the cottage, to have friends, to be alive.

As I returned from the city on Tuesday, I got a text letting me know that Vinnie Kralyevich had died the night before.  He was fifty-two, was on the treadmill, collapsed and could not be revived.  He was someone I worked with a lot about nine years ago and I was staggered to learn he had passed.  I am older and there was another moment that reminded me of my own mortality.

I am at an age when mortality is knocking at my door.  The people who mentored me are growing older and are leaving the scene.  I have younger friends who are cursed with terminal diseases and are leaving me.

For more than fifteen years my friends Medora Heilbron and Meryl Marshall-Daniels have had a weekly call to check in and support each other.  It’s a phone support group.  Medora ran development for USA Network when I was out pitching shows.  Meryl got me involved with the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  I was on the Board of Governors when she was the Chair of the Academy.  Medora reached me on 9/11 just before I lost phone service to check on how I was.

It is a deep and rich sharing, once a week, except when one of us is out of the country.

Medora shared today that Bruce Lansbury, brother to Angela, a producer of great renown and who gave Medora her best break in the business, was suffering from Alzheimers.  Angela and Medora live in the same Los Angeles neighborhood, run into each other in markets but Medora had never introduced herself to Angela but, for some reason, she did this week at the Whole Foods in Brentwood.  She was devastated by the news that Bruce was alive but gone.

It is what all of us fear.  I do.

While I write this, on a day which has been dark and drear, a soft fog is descending around me, enveloping the creek, the end of a rainy, dismal day. And the view in front of me is a bit magical.  One could imagine woodland nymphs dancing in the distance.

However, there are no woodland nymphs dancing tonight in American politics. 

Trump has a butler who is now retired but still gives tours at his estate in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, built for Marjorie Merriweather Post, a cereal heiress whose daughter, Dina Merrill, was an accomplished actress.

He called Obama a “muzzie” who should be hung.  The Trump campaign is working to distance itself from those comments.  A “muzzie” is a Muslim, by the way.

I had a long chat with my client, Howard Bloom, who has just finished a new book, “The Mohammed Code.”  It is an exegesis of the roots of fundamentalism in Islam. We have battered back and forth about the book because it exposes the roots of ISIS and I am hoping will reflect the differentiation between fundamentalist Muslims and the majority of Muslims who have renounced the ugly parts of their religion.

This is the great conversation of today. We must come to peace with Islam and they must come to peace with us.  Not easy but must be done…

Letter From New York 11 24 15 That attitude of gratitude…

November 24, 2015

Howard Bloom.  New York City. Thanksgiving.  Metrojet. Claverack.  Howard Bloom Saves The Universe. Anne Frank. Jason Rezaian. Nancy Wiard.  Penn Station.  Chad Dougatz. Metrojet.

It is mid-afternoon and I am beginning this as I am closing in on New York City, on the train.  I’m down this afternoon for Howard Bloom’s Podcast [Howard Bloom Saves the Universe, look it up on iTunes or howardbloom.libsyn.com/.

I have a breakfast in the morning and then I am scurrying back north for the long weekend.  Trains were getting hard to get yesterday – every other one seems to be sold out.

Depending on when I get finished with breakfast, I may take an earlier train.  I’m eager to be back at the cottage, priming for Thanksgiving.  I have a few side dishes to make for the feast I am attending.

It’s cold today and it is going down to a mere 14 degrees tonight in Claverack.  Yikes!  I am wearing my winter jacket and have pulled out my favorite scarf.

But my hardships are minimal.  I could be a refugee somewhere in Europe as the cold settles in on the Continent while, at the same time, finding themselves feared by the countries to which they have been fleeing.

Earlier today, in a Facebook posting, I saw that Anne Frank had applied to come to America but was denied.  We weren’t very open to Jews before the war.  If that visa had been granted we may have been denied her diary but she’d be 77 if she had lived.

That fact saddened me.

People are wrestling with what to do about refugees.  Some of most liberal friends are now feeling fearful of accepting them.  I have been seeing the postings on Facebook.  There is great support for and there is great fear of refugees, both views understandable in the light of current events.

Jason Rezaian, a journalist for the Washington Post and who headed their Tehran bureau is headed for prison for an unspecified period of time.  Holding both Iranian and US citizenship, he seemed a natural for the posting.  The Iranians have convicted him of espionage.

He has languished in prison since July 2014.

Now, I am sitting just outside the studio while Howard is doing his podcast, discussing with Chad Dougatz, the host, the roots of Islamic terrorism. 

Terrorism, the bane of our time…  Just moments ago, my phone buzzed with a notice that the US has issued a global travel alert due to increased threats of terrorism.

My friend, Nancy Wiard, is traveling to the European Christmas markets.  She sent me a message today from Amsterdam, which is close to Belgium whose major city, Brussels, home for the European Union, is under lockdown. 

Multiple operations are underway in Brussels as I type.

It is believed that the bomb that took down the Russian Metrojet was placed under the seat of a fifteen year old girl, seat 31A.

I didn’t get to finish last night.  Today is a beautiful, slightly chill, afternoon on the train heading north.  I’m seated on the river side of the car and I’m watching the Hudson slide by as I move north.

As I headed toward the train this morning, Penn, not unexpectedly was overflowing with people heading out for Thanksgiving.  It, too, had more than its usual contingent of police and soldiers.  In the fourteen plus years since 9/11, I have yet to accept their presence as the new normal.

But, it is, and during Thanksgiving the city is on a higher alert level.  More police, more soldiers, more…

Yes, the world is a grim place.  The Turks have shot down a Russian warplane which kept, according to them, violating its airspace.  Let’s just ratchet up the tensions, why don’t we…

However, I also read an article in the NY Times this morning about the positive health affects of being grateful, so I am attempting to settle myself into my “attitude of gratitude” mode.  It will be a healthier place for me.

It is two days from Thanksgiving and tomorrow I will be prepping my contributions to our annual feast of gratitude and I will do my best to remember all the many things for which I am grateful.

Letter From New York 11 22 2015 The world goes its crazy ways…

November 23, 2015

Anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Lionel White. Pierre Font. Brussels. Paris. National Registry for Muslims. Donald Trump.  Marco Rubio.  Jeff Cole. George Stephanopoulos. Jeb Bush. Ebola. Liberia. Earthquake in Afghanistan.

It is the 22nd of November and for some reason I remembered that today is the 52nd anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy.  When I was reading the Times this morning with my first cup of coffee, it struck me.

I was in middle school and the principal came in and whispered to the teacher, who told us and we were all sent home from our Catholic School and began a mourning that I am not sure we are over.

It was a grayish day today and on the chill side but tonight there was the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen in my time here.  The sky was a lush red that filled the horizon.  I attempted a photo but it didn’t do the colors justice.IMG_1062

Also, the deer have returned.  There was a family of them scattered on the road, on my property and across the street at Lionel and Pierre’s home.  Standing proudly in Lionel’s yard was a young buck, watching as his family crossed the road in front of my very slowly moving car.

While I listen to jazz and wait for Lionel to arrive for Thanksgiving week festivities, the world itself goes on its crazy way.

Brussels seems to be in a virtual lockdown and a series of raids have been held during the course of the evening.  The city is on the highest level of alert, the Metro will not run tomorrow and schools are closed.  People are being advised to stay home and inside.

In Paris, they are searching for a third suspect and some are saying many “red flags” for the attacks were missed.

The world has changed, again, since the Paris attacks.  Trump is talking a “national registry” for Muslims.  He also claims that on 9/11 “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered as the Towers fell.  He claims to have seen it himself, on television.  Really?  George Stephanopoulos reminded him that the police say it didn’t happen.  But it did, George, but it did.

The Washington Post did an evaluation of the top Republican candidates and estimated that the nominee is likely going to be Marco Rubio, which my friend Jeff Cole suggested when we had lunch six weeks ago.

Jeb Bush comes in at number 5.  Number two is Donald Trump.  Is this really happening?  I have stopped laughing because The Donald might just pull it off and that is a really scary thought.

The Paris attacks have changed the tone of our electoral campaign and will continue to influence it as we progress toward this, to me, most bizarre of electoral cycles.

Sadly, Ebola has re-emerged in Liberia and 153 people are being watched to see how it develops in them.

There has been a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Northeast Afghanistan, bringing even more misery to that land of misery.

Thankfully, the jazz is soothing and the fire cheery.  So I end the day, curled up in the comforts of the cottage, Tempting as it might be, I am not yet retreating into blocking out the news of the day.

When I was younger, globe trotting, I felt like a citizen of the world.  I still feel that way.

Letter From New York 09 11 15 Memories of 9/11

September 12, 2015

At the moment I start writing this, the Acela train I’m on is gliding out of Wilmington, Delaware, heading up to New York where I will, hopefully, transfer on to a train going to Hudson. We’re running very late, the result of some unfortunate soul having been hit by a train ahead of us.

It is a warm day, beautiful. And all day today it has been on my mind that today is the 14th anniversary of 9/11. Across the aisle, a pair of women, one from Houston, one from Iowa, are chatting about 9/11 and there is a strange resentment I feel about them casually chatting the way they are.

I’ve wanted to lean over and say: please stop; don’t be flippant. I was there.

It is an inescapable part of my life, which I return to every 9/11 and odd days in between when something will trigger a return.

I was getting out of the shower when the earth moved and I thought there had been a small earthquake. It was the first plane, hitting the first building.

There was the phone call from my partner, Al Tripp, asking me if I knew what was going on? No, I didn’t. Turn on the TV. I did. And we talked for a few minutes, my watching on TV what he was seeing from his office window. We said good-bye.

Going outside, I walked to the corner, which gave me a clear shot of the WTC. Just before turning the corner, a man walked down Spring Street, his hand covering his mouth. I knew then that what I would see, rounding the corner, would be unspeakable.

It was. There was a gaping hole in the Tower and smoke flowing out of it, like blood from a wound. The first refugees were coming up West Broadway, crying and looking lost, though not as lost as those who would come later.

Somehow I was back in my apartment. Either on my land line or on my mobile, before mobile service finished, my then friend Andrew phoned me, to tell me his wife Cheryl was down at the WTC. He had told her to walk to our apartment; he asked me to be there for her.

I waited. She arrived, just as the Towers collapsed. We watched on television as it happened. We looked out on the street as the crowds ran, terrified, down Spring Street, people screaming.

Then there was the silence. Cheryl eventually left to make her way home, to wait for Andrew. When he called to check on her, he berated me for having let her go. There had no been stopping her.

Cheryl and Andrew were shortly reunited. They phoned me and insisted I join them. My partner was trapped on Staten Island; I was going to be alone for the night.

Going up to the corner of Spring Street and West Broadway, I wondered how I would get to their mid-town apartment. A bus came by. It was filled with people from the Financial District who had walked and then caught the bus. It stopped and I got on. I went to give my Metro Card. The bus driver put his hand over the card reader and shook his head. There was no room to sit. Businessmen were frantically attempting to make mobile calls. Some went through. Most did not.

There were two African American women sitting on one of the bus’s benches. We were stopped near 14th Street. A very old man was attempting to get up and approach the bus; we were about to pull away. The two women stood and told the bus driver to stop and open the doors again. They exited the bus and brought the old man on, a process that must have taken five minutes.

They gave him their seats. He had been trying to get home from a doctor’s appointment but he couldn’t make it to any bus in time to get on. They elicited from him where he was going and communicated to the driver. He nodded. We proceeded.

The next thing I recall, we had pulled up to another bus and our bus driver got off and conferred with the other driver. He got back on and went to the elderly man. The other bus driver would be sure he got home. The two women picked him up and carried him onto the other bus. The two drivers nodded at each other, two fighters in the same battle determined to carry out a mission. I have no doubt that man found his way home.

I still remember those women. I still cry when I think of them and that bus driver, so determined to perform a duty that they had not expected to fall to them. I felt humbled to be human.

Eventually, though I have no clear memory of leaving the bus, I found myself in mid-town, walking toward Andrew and Cheryl’s, walking stunned through streets filled with others as stunned or more than myself. People cried, people walked staring ahead, people walked as if they had no idea where they were going or where they had been.

Sometime while at Andrew and Cheryl’s it became an imperative for me to be at home. It was nonsensical. My partner was on Staten Island. But I became convinced I had to be home if he got there. I needed to be there and over great objections, I launched myself out into the crazed streets of Manhattan.

Walking for awhile, I finally found a livery service car that said he would take me as far south as he could go, which turned out to be 14th Street. No vehicles, except emergency vehicles were allowed south of there. The only people allowed to walk into the area were those with ID that showed they belonged there.

As I stood in the glare of floodlights and endless police cars were their lights flashing, opposite a line that went to eternity of dump trucks meant to start carting the debris away, I thanked God that my new New York driver’s license had arrived with my address on it.

Showing it to a police officer at a checkpoint, he nodded and let me go and I walked and walked and walked and walked until I climbed the stairs to our apartment.

I didn’t turn on the lights. The eerie ambient light of spotlights and police cars was enough to see. Sitting down on my bed, I put my head down and cried.

Overhead were the sounds of fighter jets, circling the city. The sound of them against the absolute silence of the city was beyond surreal, alone in the dark, I was inhabiting some strange world, and thrust into what was a nightmare from which I was not sure I would awake.

Somehow, I finally slept, waking early, walking out onto Spring Street in Soho, a normally bustling street of commerce. It was dead quiet. Papers from the Towers blew through the streets; the acrid smell of Delhi in the winter was in the air, a mixture of burnt rubber and acrid smoke.

It was as if I was alone in the world; like the last scene in ON THE BEACH, a movie about the end of the world, buildings intact but all living things dead.

Much of the day after, I spent sitting on the couch, waiting, not reading, not watching TV, just waiting for Al Tripp, my partner, whom I called Tripp. Eventually he returned.

I’m not sure now. It seems to me he got off Staten Island, into Brooklyn, walked the Bridge to home. I do remember him standing in the door of our bedroom and walking to him and putting my arms around him and holding him for a long time, feeling his living presence, aware that many that morning would never again hold their loved ones.

It has been fourteen years. I’ve waxed long tonight. Thank you for bearing with me.

I’ve noticed, sometimes, when people find themselves at dinner parties with those who were in the city that day, there is a need to share our experiences with each other, an ongoing, collective healing by telling our stories once again, as if, by each telling, we relieve ourselves of the burden of that day.

My brother once said to me in the days that followed that he was sorry I was there. On the contrary, I feel grateful to have been there.

I was a witness to history. Listening to the jets overhead, I knew the world would never be the same and it has not been.

It was a privilege to have been on that bus and witness the humanity of those two women. I saw the poor old man but was too much in shock to interpret his needs. They were. They responded. They rescued him. Wherever they may be today, I say a prayer of gratitude for them and what they did that day. As I do for that bus driver and all the other people who that day, did their best while their world was blowing up around them.

It is years later. We have now endured what seems like endless years of war. We do our best on some levels to pretend it is not happening. But it is and it all began then.

It is important to learn from what has been and it is important to let that inform where we go.

Thank you.