Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where I was, and wasn't - on 9-11. And you?

Where I first landed: Bike Friday in Eugene, Oregon USA

I had just arrived in the USA, and was interning at Bike Friday, Eugene, Oregon.

Every morning at 8am was a sales meeting.

I was transitioning from being a nite owl in Central America to a morning person in the USA, and judging from the empty chairs around the sales manager's cubeless cube, I wasn't the only one.

Nonetheless, I managed to get to the shop by 7.58am, park my bike in the garage at 7.59am and wandered through the small break room where, unusually, the TV was on.

One of the new salesguys, Michael Kelly, was standing in front of it, staring.

"What are you watching?" I asked.

"World Trade Center," he said simply.

I saw the smoking towers on the old fuzzy box (even then, this was a clunky old telly with a bubble screen) but it didn't register. I thought it was a special effects movie and Michael was indulging in a bit of pre-work viewing. I mean, everyone in 'merica turns on the raucous box first thing and turns it off last thing at night, right?

I went into the salesroom and the sales manager was sitting in his chair, looking like he's been there a while. As we assembled, he laid it on the line.

"Now you all know the sales meeting starts at 8am sharp. There is never any reason to be late."

We looked at each other guiltily, and started the day.

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An evocative image from photographer Masayo Nishimura's show, Uptown Bound
"You mean you had no emotional attachment to it?"

Sepember 10, 2011. I've just popped by the photo exhibit entitled Uptown Bound by photographer Masayo Nishimura, whose work I own.

In the spring of 2000, Masayo was photographing inside the uptown stations of the New York subway using a medium format camera and a tripod when she was stopped by a policeman. At the time,  Masayo was unaware of regulations prohibiting the use of tripods in stations. The images she captured in that brief 30 minutes are a lasting memoir of a time prior to that fateful day. During an exhibition of these very images in September 2001,  911 happened.

... the fifth day into the exhibition, on Tuesday September 11th in the late morning when I woke up, the twin towers of WTC had already disappeared from the Manhattan skyline. The world I lived in and loved for past fourteen years had suddenly disappeared. The gallery was located just a few blocks away from the WTC. The show had to be temporarily closed due to circumstances shutting off everything in Manhattan south of 14th street. Now those works have become a symbol for me of the innocence of New York City before 911 which I have loved so dearly since I moved here two decades ago. From Uptown Bound

It surprised her that I was not deeply affected by the tragedy at that time. I explained that I had just landed in Eugene, Oregon, had never visited New York in my 39 years on the planet, and the only buildings in NYC known to me were the Empire State and Chrysler tower - from pictures. Nor had I watched much television, let alone American TV, while living in the jungle and traveling in Central America and before, that, the UK on my bicycle for a number of years.

I must have seemed doubly out of touch, because recently I sent her an email asking if, while she was in Japan, she could bring me back a certain soy sauce bottle I'd spotted in there in 2009. The moment she got the email was the very moment the tsunami struck. With the time delay between Japan and the USA, the news had not yet arrived in my inbox.

Masayo's work is once again, exhibiting from Sep 8-16th, 2011 at Gallery 502a.

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My first ever visit to NYC was 2002:
riding the Bike Friday Twin Air tandem in the Five Boro Bike Tour with host Mike Schuyler.
Bike Friday was certainly affected by 911. When people stopped flying, they cancelled their orders for a travel bike that goes in an airline suitcase. I was asked to write a piece about it. It's now disappeared from the live website, but you read it here on Wayback Machine.

My very first visit to the Big Apple was not until a year later, 2002. I took the company's signature Twin Air tandem in its single suitcase to ride it. A Bike Friday couple, Mike and Christie Schuyler, very kindly put me up in their tiny Bleecker Street studio, on an aerobed that filled the living room. It is generous customers like this who enabled Bike Friday to stay viable throughout that difficult period.

Mike and I rode the Twin Air tandem in the tour. One evening, he took me for a very long walk and stopped at a fence covered with notes and thoughts seeking lost family and friends in 911.

Here's a photo gallery of that first visit.
Here's the story on Wayback Machine.

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The Isle of Mull, Scotland
Four years earlier, I was standing somewhere in Scotland - was it Stornaway on the Outer Hebrides? Was it the Isle of Mull?  - calling up a friend in Australia from a phone box. Against the wall of a small magazine store, still yet to open for the day was a wire cage bearing the current headlines: New Recipes for Busy Mothers.

Something like that.

"Princess Diana died," he said the voice from Downunder.

"What? You're kidding me," I said, hearing one thing in one ear, while my eyes were registered something else. The time difference here, was a mere few hours.

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Scott Malcomson graces our bookclub with his presence.
A few weeks ago my book club, through a UN connection, were privileged to have the author of Generation's End, Scott Malcolmson join us. Only after reading this excellent book, did I finally get a cohesive view of the events surrounding and leading up to 911.

I intend to read it again.










2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lynette, thanks for sharing. I am glad the "UN connection" led you to meet Malcolmson and get a better sense of what 911 meant...to me it is so much more than a NYC city event; it captured the post-cold war tensions of our world and transformed it deeply...
My 911:
I was living in Cairo and happened to work in a building called...the World Trade Center...so after the shock of thinking that a plane crashed on our building (I couldn't hear or smell anything, which was strange for a ten-storey building...), I spent the rest of the day and night staring at my TV screen, in desbelief and sorrow...knowing the world (and history) had gone mad again...

Glenn said...

I checked out Masayo Nishimura's gallery of photos that you provided a link to. The stations look so stark that the people seem almost out of place.