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Out of the abyss there is a cry in the dark.
It starts softly, faintly
Piercing the silence.
It grows louder
It seems to come closer
Until it becomes a deafening scream.
Then it passes
Fading to a whimper
Another visit of that nightmare gone
Then just silence.
This is my memory. This is my grief. This is my mourning.
Friday morning, I stood alone in a field of flags. Crying. Remembering. I was surrounded by 2,976 American flags blowing gently in the breeze.
3051 children lost a parent that day. Their average age was 9 years old.
I walked through rows and rows of flags in a field of rain soaked grass, I began reading the markers: citizens, police officers, firefighters…. and their ages…. 34, 41, 32… 21.
21. Lukasz Milewski.
Lukasz immigrated to America from Poland in July– just two months before. His parents came one year earlier, leaving their two children behind to finish school while they prepared a new home for them in the land of opportunity. When he arrived, Lukasz immediately found a summer job working in food service for Cantor Fitzgerald at the World Trade Center. A start of a new life. America.
Only two short months. His American Dream was cut short. Stolen from him.
This is just one story. One heartbreaking story– of many– that would not reach their natural conclusion. His opportunity, his voice, his life– silenced.
The passing of fifteen years has done little to take away the great empathy and sadness I feel for the many lives lost on September 11th, 2001. My heart goes out to the families whose futures were forever changed– whose hopes and dreams were so unexpectedly taken from them.
Life goes on.
I pray that they have found peace.
I pray that they have achieved some level of happiness.
Life goes on.
We will always remember.
But life goes on.
These are the stories we must tell. We can’t be silent. We must be the storytellers. Stories of hopes and dreams. We must honor them by passing down their stories of courage. We will never forget.
Every year on this date I take time to remember, grieve, celebrate and honor the many heroes and those that lost their lives on September 11th, 2001. Thirteen years have flown by but the wounds are deep. 2,977 innocent people died on that day and they, as well as their families deserve to be remembered.
In addition, more than 1,400 first responders have also died since 9/11. There are many more that are sick and suffering.
I think it’s important on this day of remembrance to also remember the heroic men and women that have served our country and those that gave their lives in the days since 9/11 to protect our freedoms. To date, more than 8,000 American and Allied soldiers have died in post-9/11 wars.
How will you remember this tragic and historic day?
Here is a link to a list of ways you might participate in the National Day of Service and Remembrance.
The photographs I’m sharing here are images I took on the official opening day of the museum at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City on May 21, 2014.
You can see more images I shot that day by clicking here.
A lot has changed in our world since then. Some good, some bad. I can honestly say I don’t feel any safer today than I did immediately after the attacks. I will say though, that I think America needs to be very cautious and not let fear and hate win over reason when it comes to national security and our place in the world. War does not equal justice and war does not always protect us in the way it is intended.
In today’s world, it makes us a bigger target.
I miss the unity I felt in the days and months after 9/11. We came together as a nation then. With all that is happening in this country and around the world, we need that now more than ever.
I woke up around 4:30 am and walked over to the Times Square Starbucks and got to watch crews setting up outside the Good Morning America studio for the Dancing With the Stars After Party.
It was overcast this morning but the rain held off, only drizzling occasionally throughout the day. We met our friends at 7:30 am and headed down for what, I was sure would be the most memorable part of our visit.
National September 11 Memorial & Museum The Museum was originally supposed to open in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in 2011. Bureaucracy and funding got in the way, delaying the tireless efforts– but here we were, May 21, 2014, the official opening day– and I was lucky enough to be there.
When we arrived at the Memorial site, the hallowed ground where the World Trade Center once stood, still known by many as Ground Zero– I was taken aback to cross the street, round the corner and find the Memorial Plaza open with free access. I visited the Memorial twice before, while it was completely fenced in, keep out anyone that did not have a pass or a ticket. In fact, this historic site had been completely caged in since the horrifying events of 9/11.
Now it has been set free. Open to the world. A beautiful public tribute to the many people that perished that day.
As we walked across the massive plaza, bagpipes were playing. The press were set up in a long row near the museum to capture the ceremonial unfurling of the National 9/11 Flag before it was carefully folded and carried past us through the museum doors.
We were among the first 50 members of the public to enter these sacred halls. I say sacred not only because of what the museum represents but also because it houses a repository of some 8,000 still unidentified human remains.
The museum is beautifully laid out. Upon entering, you must first go through airport-like security. From there you enter the sprawling entry hall where you are greeted by two twin steel tridents, salvaged from the North Tower facade, rising up against the glass framed backdrop of the memorial plaza towards the sky. This is just the beginning, leading you into and all-encompassing journey of sight and sound, taking you back in time to one of the darkest days in American history. It is a sobering reminder for those that lived through it– an important memorandum for those who were too young and the many future generations to come.
I think you can visit the museum and experience it differently, depending on your mindset. It would be easy to become completely engulfed and have a very emotional experience. Or, as I chose, for my first visit– to view the museum as a spectator. I viewed much of it through the lens of my camera; wanting to document everything I saw. This visit I wanted to be an observer, or a witness; I wasn’t there to grieve.
I don’t want anyone to think I was trying to ignore or avoid an emotional experience– just being there was an emotional experience for me. September 11, 2001 has had such a profound effect on my life, I knew this experience would be another milestone in my personal journey.
I’m not sure how guided tours would work here. Much of the museum is laid out to stimulate a very solemn, personal experience. No photography is allowed in a number of areas. Dim lighting spotlights the exhibits, salvaged from tons of debris and personal effects donated by the families of victims. You are led on a cerebral and visceral journey depending on your emotional state.
The next time I go back, I could easily spend a full day taking in the full experience. Allowing myself to feeling the overpowering emotions bottled up inside. Allowing myself to grieve. The eyewitness accounts, media documentation, personal effects and thousands of stories of life and loss– are all here in remembrance.
The Cripple of Inishmaan Daniel Radcliffe is featured in this production written by Martin McDonagh. We saw Radcliffe’s outstanding performance in Equus a few seasons back. Even though he’s considered the star of this, he’s really not on stage that much. Other characters spend most of the the time talking about him in his absence.
There’s a chunk of the second act where the characters are watching a movie, conversing and commenting on the film. I completely missed the correlation here. It didn’t seem to go anywhere to further the thin plot.
There are some great moments and fine acting in this Irish black comedy. I’d compare a lot of the banter back and forth to that of a Mamet play.
Overall, though, it just wasn’t my favorite piece.
Casa Valentina Written by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Joe Mantello, Casa Valentina is a fine theatrical work. Michael and I both agreed it could use some fine tuning towards the end but it’s a fascinating story.
Based on actual events, the action takes place in 1962 in the Catskills where a small group of married men gather to “escape being men”, dressing and living as women. It explores the conflicts of their mostly secret lives, their relationships and their own deep seated prejudices.
The ensemble cast is outstanding. I was most impressed and moved by Gabriel Ebert’s (Tony-winner last year for Matilda) sensitive portrayal of Jonathan/Miranda, completely at odds with his identity. Tom McGowan (Modern Family) as Bessie, is a strong, larger than life contrast– always the life of the party.
I kept forgetting that Reed Birney was a man. His Strong-woman portrayal of Charlotte is mesmerizing. John Cullum is completely adorable as Terry and has some of the best, unexpected quips.
Patrick Page and Mare Winningham lead the ensemble as husband and wife, ‘comfortable’ yet deeply conflicted with their unusual arrangement. It is their storyline, above all else, that we felt could have used a little more exploration.
Casa Valentina is a very funny, yet moving story. It’s one production that I would highly recommend.
Visiting the National September 11 Museum on Opening Day (May 21, 2014) was my pilgrimage of sorts. It was a solemn, emotional and a very personal experience for me. I’ll writing more about the experience in my next post. Here are some of the images I captured on this historic day. (The taking of photographs is off limits in many areas of the museum.)
Today is a day of Remembrance. Eleven years ago the world changed… at least my world changed. Every generation has defining moments that go straight to the core of their being. September 11th, 2001 in mine. I thought I’d share an excerpt from my play, September’s Heroes in honor of the occasion.
To the Wife of Falling Man:
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before.
For over 10 years you’ve awakened in the middle of the night, crying, reaching out to the emptiness in the bed beside you. Reaching out for the man that you adored. Gasping for breath between sobs and clutching the pillow where he once so peacefully slept.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before… saying your last goodbyes. You’ve played those moments over and over in you head…things that you thought…things you should have said. Just another morning… a beautiful, extraordinary September day.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before… the moment you heard… time forever frozen on that day. Playing over and over… slow motion in your head. The pain you felt… the pain you feel today.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before…rushing across the room… embracing your child when they were sent home from school. Looking in your child’s eyes… his eyes…his eyes…I can’t imagine what you thought, or what you said.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before…reporters at the funeral asking for you…asking you to identify pictures… pictures you’d already seen… pictures that made you turn away. Pictures of your brave, daring falling
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before…the story you created to get you through the day… day after day. What had happened…what it was like… playing like a movie in your head.
You and I had only met once, so very long ago. The fact that you honor me, remember me in your movie… flatters me to no end.
It was just another day, like so many before. It was only Tuesday but he was excitedly telling me of the weekend plans you had in store. When the chaos broke out, explosions ripping through the floor, your brave and dashing hero, covered me… shielded me… protected me… as if I were you.
He helped me up… and it was if we floated… almost like a dream. Death and destruction surrounded us… and nothing in between. As we stood shaking… trembling, staring out through the smoke and the fire. We knew this was the end. Knowing we would never say goodbye. Staring… staring… staring through the hole… at the clear, blue September sky.
He grasped my hand so tightly and walked me towards the light. He turned ever so sweetly… and said, “This is for my wife.” He embraced me and he kissed me standing on the brink of time… a single tear rolled down his cheek, and he turned back towards the sky. I knew then in that moment what he was going to do. I looked at him, so peaceful… all his thoughts on you… he was gone in one quick moment… but he didn’t jump, he flew.
The scene ends so abruptly… goes instantly to black… but no credits role… just emptiness and silence… the silent screams deep in your soul.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before… you take a deep breath… you remember… and life goes on once more.
— from September’s Heroes by Jeff Linamen, originally produced October 2011, Bartlett High School.
Thursday was a huge day for us, to say the least. It’s hard to believe how fast the week has gone and I can’t say I was looking forward to returning home.
I’d gotten our passes for the 9/11 Memorial prior to our trip and we were the first group of the day. You have to go through all the same security procedures as you do when you fly, so the process takes a little while and you can not enter the site without passes.
Having had my play, September’s Heroes produced by Bartlett High School last Fall, this visit held a special importance to me. I will be forever emotionally tied to the tragic events of more than ten years ago and needed to pay my respects and hoped it would help my ongoing grieving process.
Currently the memorial is surrounded by construction on all sides. The new World Trade Center is quickly climbing into the sky adjoining the memorial and the 9/11 Museum which is set to open later this year. Right now, you can visit the two mammoth pools that mark the footprint of the original North and South Towers of the original World Trade Center. Surrounding both pools are all the names of those that lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, including those at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
The moment that hit me hardest was finding the name of Kevin Cosgrove, who’s devastatingly powerful 911 call from the South Tower, up to the moment it fell, was the inspiration behind one of the segments of my play. Seeing his name brought back all the memories. I walked around both pools, trying to read all the names, never wanting to forget that moment. It will always be a part of me.
When we left the memorial, we headed down to Battery Park and decided to take the ferry to Ellis Island. I hadn’t realized that Michael had never been to the park. The damaged Sphere from the World Trade Center Plaza is displayed there and you have a great view of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.
We got tickets and went through security (again) and boarded the ferry. The Statue of Liberty is closed for renovations at the base level, so we opted to stay on the boat (you can still walk around Liberty Island) and just go to Ellis Island. I’d been to the statue before, walked up to the crown, in fact, but in all my trips to New York, I’d never visited Ellis Island.
I believe most of the buildings surrounding the main building are being renovated. The main building houses Registry Hall where new immigrants to America waited for processing. There are a lot of exhibits in rooms surrounding the great hall, full of pictures and information about the many years when Ellis Island was a working, entry point into the United States. As far as I’ve been able to research over the years, none of my ancestors came through here. There are many ways you can search, by computer or with assistance (and an appointment) for records of those that arrived.
One of the reasons I chose to visit on this trip, is my work on the production of RAGTIME at school. I hoped visiting would give me some additional knowledge I could bring back to the students of Bartlett High.
There is a scene in the show that depicts the immigrants arrival and I found a lot of good information about how the immigrants lived once they had been processed and struggled to survive in their new world.
A funny side note– while we were waiting for the ferry back to Manhattan, one of our New York friends sent Michael a text asking him if we were ready to slit our wrist yet… knowing we’d seen two heavy plays the day before, and then visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Ellis Island (maybe you had to be there).
We had enough time to stop at our hotel and freshen up before our final show, number twelve… the Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.
This was not a good choice to end our trip.
The best way I can describe the show is a huge mish-mash of costumes, time periods and effects… or a big conglomerate mess. From hip hop and Glee to time lords (or Star Wars) and leather…. it didn’t appear anyone could make up their minds what to do with this production. I felt that with all the technology they were using, this was the worst lighting of any show we’d seen. They didn’t even use their CNN-style scrolling ticker effectively. Just a mess. I won’t even get in to the casting or the switching of who sings what… Just an emotionless mess. I’d wished we’d seen Godspell instead.
As is our tradition, we stopped on the way back to the hotel and picked up a pizza from Famous Famiglia in Times Square and called it a night.