To honor the memory of 9/11, Hunger Mountain publishes two pieces by writers who were both in New York City on that Tuesday in 2001:
“Our New York, Too, Will Disappear,” a craft essay by Jessamine Price on Cynthia Ozick’s 1999 essay “The Synthetic Sublime.” Here’s the first paragraph:
“The Synthetic Sublime,” by Cynthia Ozick, was the first essay that ever made me cry. It was early winter, late 2001. I was living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on the salt-breezed fringes of New York. All four windows of my apartment looked out onto airshafts; every view was of red bricks crisscrossed with fire escapes. Even though the neighborhood was several miles outside the usual student and artist districts of Brooklyn, the rent was still too high for a graduate student, so I had a roommate living in the dining nook attached to the kitchen. We built a homemade wall of pressboard to separate her bed from the refrigerator. But despite the high rent and hour-long commute to classes in Manhattan—despite the faint, bitter smell when the wind blew from the wreckage of the World Trade Center—still I found myself loving New York. Cynthia Ozick’s 1999 essay, in which she calls New York “the synthetic sublime,” offers a stew of explanations for the irrational adoration the city can provoke. The essay arrived in my life at a moment when I was furious to conquer the world and write my name on walls—a moment, too, not long after September 11th, when I felt unusually sympathetic toward the messiness and money, the stuffy subway stations and windy avenues, the corner pizza guys and the downtown stock traders.
To read more of “Our New York, Too, Will Disappear”
And “We Are Not Alone,” a review gone sideways by John Proctor on The Best American Essays 2002, the first post-9/11 volume of essays. Here’s the first paragraph:
Most of us living in New York City on 9/11 were not in the World Trade Center, many of us nowhere even near it. I was working in market research on 25th Street and was supposed to start teaching night classes to new immigrants that evening. I left work after the second tower fell and walked all the way back to my apartment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn—through roadblocks and makeshift water stations, past bars full to capacity, then home over the Manhattan Bridge. I didn’t leave my apartment for three days.
To read more of “We Are Not Alone”
*photo credit: John Proctor
Several years ago, and again the other day, when I have given freshmen composition students the prompt “9/11 and Me,” a reflection from their young selves about their memories of that day—like my generation’s experiencing as gradeschool kids the assassination of JFK—a student in the class has had some close connection. The first time, it was a kid’s neighbor who lost someone. This week it was a girl who lost her aunt. Even if by next year or the next students would still have some memory, I’d never subject anyone to that exercise again, not after seeing the girl break down this week because of what I’d forced her to relive. These are kids from smalltown Ohio, and in both cases someone was hit very hard by those attacks.
Thanks for sharing this experience, Richard. I guess that day is a day each of us needs to return to willingly. After 11 years, it still reaches so far–your freshman would have only been 7 or 8.
I lost a classmate who was a father of 4 that day. Thanks for remembering.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget, Sarah. And I didn’t know anyone who died personally.