John de Guzmán From Where This New Yorker Sits johndeguzman.com twitter.com/johndeguzman1
Author’s Note, 8/25/2011:
10 years after writing this, I still get swept up in how this prose flooded out of me in a timemarked with insomnia, fear, loneliness and desperation. Two days after 9/11/2001, I sat at acomputer and I wrote. An hour later, I was done. If this were any other of my written works, I’d itch to edit phrasing and flow, but not this piece. I can’t help but honor the conditions that made me create this exact piece. This exact piece. Artistsnever consider their art works done? I do with this one. It was done once it crawled acrossscreen, the letters chasing the blinking cursor.We lost lives and buildings on 9/11, and we lost perspective in the chase for revenge. Regardlessof domestic policies and far-reaching wars and their successes and failures, there are still thoseof us who tear up walking by the World Trade Center and frown at tourists taking their photos in front of it. There are those of us who still drop our heads when someone at a bar says, “Youwere here on 9/11, right? I saw it on TV. Crazy.” No matter what shockwaves travel around theworld as a result of what happened to us here, there are some of us still here, still shocked.When you fall in love with NYC, you can’t help it. You get pulled into this beautiful, vibrant,accepting, progressive city. All you can do is put your faith in your city, your love, and hope yourscars heal as hers do. Never forget.
FROM WHERE THIS NEW YORKER SITS
The next night all I wanted was human contact—primal, indubitable, close human touch—butthere was none. Instead I was accompanied by irritating air, tainted by an odor that was roamingManhattan, the consequence of water scorching as it touched the twisted blazing metal of NewYork’s toppled Twin Towers. So, I was forced to settle for my own arms for human contact, myeyes stinging and my nose accepting its violation by the stench equivalent to a million electricfires, and I wept, never feeling so alone in all my life.Then I heard the media’s announcements of the evacuation of the Empire State Building, and Irolled off my futon, so drained that I appeared callous to the thought of another Manhattan iconcollapsing, this one into my apartment, and headed into the streets again where I was haunted bytwo things.
The visual memories. Countless images. Turning on the television after Howard Stern’sannouncement and seeing smoke and flames thriving in a place where they were not supposed to.Ever. And that gaping hole, where floors, ceilings and walls were no longer barriers, no longerexisting. I immediately pictured these humans, adrenaline-drenched, pressed by divine heat onone side and divine distance on the other. And I pictured how they would be forced to elect thedistance, the quarter-mile fall to rain down with the debris.Then the second plane, creating a flaming universe that climbed into the atmosphere, absolutelytainting the gorgeous clarity of the day and bleeding another fertile black river onto the blue sky.So I went to work. What else was I to do? Temping at 42
Ave., stopping at everyintersection to join New Yorkers gaping south at the source of our sick Mesopotamia. At work, Iturned up the television for the crowd in Martha Stewart’s own office. Nothing changed fromthe second I saw that first gaping hole: it was a steady pressing fear and absolute incredulity.