Bill Grueskin’s Emails About the 9/11 Attacks and Their Aftermath

September 2011In 2001, Bill Grueskin, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, worked and lived in Battery Park City, near the World Trade Center. Here are a series of email he wrote, several of which were later published in newspapers. The first email (describing the experience and dislocation of 9/11) and the fourth (quoting his oldest daughter’s essay about that day) are the ones most cited. Grueskin is now Dean of Academic Affairs at Columbia Journalism School.

Report From NYC, Chapter 1, Sept 22, 2001
Folks, Most of us who were near the World Trade Center that day begin their version of events with what they were doing around 8:45, just before the first plane hit the North Tower. I start my account a few days earlier. It had been a wonderful weekend for my family in our Battery Park City neighborhood. We live on a high floor of our building, three blocks south of the World Trade Center, and had long treasured our view that stretched from the Empire State Building to Staten Island and Brooklyn. That Saturday, the older girls finally learned how to ride bikes, and we bickered good-humoredly with the local shop over a Schwinn that matched their new prowess. We went square dancing near the World Financial Center esplanade, bought Julia, 11, a cellphone at the WTC Radio Shack to celebrate her new independence as a Metrobus rider, and, as the weekend came to a close, my wife Caryl insisted we have a picnic supper in nearby Wagner Park. As we sat out there that evening, watching the sun dip below the Statue of Liberty, listening to our three daughters giggle as they frolicked on the grass, we remarked to each other how lucky we were to live here, and how much we cherished our children, our neighborhood, our friends, our sunsets. Tuesday began in a most unusual way. The girls' nanny took Caroline, 8, to her school in Brooklyn Heights, while a friend of Julia's suddenly decided to drive her to Friends Seminary in Union Square. That meant I had the rare luxury of not taking either girl to school and could just walk two blocks north to my office, instead of taking a subway which would drop me off just south of the World Trade Center--around 8:45 a.m.

At work that morning, I decided to return a few calls, including a pest of a freelance writer who wouldn't take no for an answer. I spent several minutes trying to get him off the phone, thinking of any excuse I could, when I heard a low, groaning thud. I looked outside at the WTC tower, directly across the street from my office, and I saw sheafs of paper fluttering aimlessly to the ground. How odd, I thought. And then I looked up to see flames leaping out of the tower. Immediately, I hung up on the freelancer, called Caryl's cellphone, leaving a message she has preserved. "Something blew up at the Trade Center," I said, just slightly nervous. "Stay away from it." Then, I jumped into our newsroom and the desk had already begun remaking the front page of the website. We sent two reporters to the scene nearby. I figured we were safe. The security people in our building seemed to feel the same way. Stay in the building, they told us. We got a call from a colleague who said that he had seen a commercial jet blast through the building. I didn't believe it. I saw no fuselage, no wing, no engine. Possibly a nutso private pilot, but certainly not a jet. We began assembling some coverage plans for a few more minutes, sure that we had seen the worst. It was an awful sight -- people were already waving their arms futilely from the WTC windows -- but it seemed contained. Then, another groan and a boom. I called Caryl again. "Someone is blowing up with World Trade Center!" I screamed. "Get out of the building. Get out of it now." We didn't set a place to meet. My staff began evacuating, and I looked quickly around my office. It's odd what you choose to bring or leave behind in a crisis. I picked up, then put down my Palm Pilot. I grabbed, then left my house keys and tickets to The Producers, figuring we'd be back by the afternoon. Fortunately, I did bring my cellphone. On the street, it was turning into chaos. Our little neighborhood was an ocean of frightened, bewildered people, most of them evacuated from the WFC, but then, increasingly, populated by workers who had just fled one of the two towers. You could look at the towers with only occasional glances, for gathered on many floors were desperate victims, waving, climbing, and most awful of all, leaping. I saw two people join hands and jump together. Were they lovers, co-workers or simply strangers who needed each other's support as they made their last decision? I couldn't bear to watch, but I felt I had to glance up from time to time to assess the danger. Meanwhile, some WSJ.com staff gathered, and, thank goodness, we found the two reporters who had been sent to cover the explosions. We agreed to meet in half an hour on the Esplanade, near the water, and I raced off to find Caryl and my youngest daughter Ellie, nearly 2. As I ran south, toward our building, I cursed my stupidity. Why hadn't we established a place to meet? Where would they be right now? As I ran, I thought a bit about that Sunday night, about that park that is so open and free of buildings ... and thought I might find her there.

It was, for a few minutes, like a very bad movie. I'd see a MacLaren stroller, but the kid in it was blonde or just an infant. I'd see a woman matching Caryl's height, but I'd look closer, and realize it wasn't her. I dashed up one side of the park and came near the end of the other, when I spotted a familiar shirt in this swarm. I shouted her name, she turned around, and voila, we were united. "Don't leave me," she said, firmly. Beautiful, oblivious Ellie glanced up with a grin and a satisfied "Da-Da! Da-Da!" She was pleased that Dad had the good sense to join her at the park on such a beautiful day when so many other office workers had also decided to enjoy the outdoors. The three of us made our way back north -- yes, toward the WTC -- because our staff had promised to regroup where Albany Street meets the water. We rejoined a few familiar faces, made some introductions, when we heard a loud, thundering boom. A bomb, I assumed. They were bombing us from the air. What could we do? And then that cloud rolled toward us, huge, smoky, and so so fast. We tried to outrun it, as I pushed Ellie's stroller into the crowd. But the smoke and ash from the first demolished tower were faster than we were. Caryl frantically covered Ellie's face while I ran harder, and we ducked for cover in a building near the south end of our neighborhood. The building was established as a sort of shelter, and for a few minutes, we could calm down, wash the soot out of our mouths, collect our thoughts, and hear the other news -the bombing at the Pentagon, the Pittsburgh crash -- but also all sorts of rumors. The Sears Tower in Chicago was down, we were told. People in L.A .were being gassed. As we tried to sort it out, we learned that a boat was about to leave toward the other side of the Hudson. The three of us ran to the dock, Ellie ensconsed in her stroller. We pushed past the men to the front of the line, and I left Caryl and Ellie there so I could race back to the building where the staff was congregated. I wanted some of them on the boat too. I came back a few minutes later only to see the boat casting off from shore, encased in a dense, choking fog. I couldn't see Ellie or Caryl, so I yelled to the captain, "Have you got a baby in a stroller there?" "Yeah, we got 'em" he muttered. Seems that he was annoyed that he'd had to take the stroller too, along with the baby and her mother. As the boat motored away, another loud boom. The other tower was down. The crowd erupted into another panicky run south. But I stopped in front of Wagner Park, the same park we had picnicked in, for a slight breeze had come in from the west, creating a thin ribbon of clear air along the waterfront. For the next hour, I was consumed with a mix of elation and anxiety. I was grateful to see that boat head across the Hudson. But I couldn't reach anyone on my cellphone, and so I couldn't find out how Caroline or Julia were doing. Suddenly it hit me: I had one daughter in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn and one in New Jersey. And I was powerless to do anything for any of them. More boats pulled up to the Esplanade, again taking only women and kids. There were many scenes of breathtaking nobility and cooperation as civilians hoisted people -- often infirm or obese -- into the boats. And there were scenes of astonishing cowardice, as a few able-bodied men jumped over the iron railings to secure their own places of safety, ahead of the crowd.

After an hour of this, I finally made my way onto a ferry, and landed in Harborside, NJ. From there it was a three-mile walk to the pier where Caryl and Ellie were supposed to be. It took three hours – and a tip from an apartment neighbor who’d seen them – to determine they might have been taken to an Army reserve base in Jersey City. I hitched a ride on a school bus and arrived there to see over 1,000 refugees from lower Manhattan. Again, like at Wagner Park just hours before, I scanned the crowd, cursing the moment I had let them out of my sight. For 15 minutes I looked from room to room, and then, just as before, I saw a familiar shirt. "Caryl!" I shouted. Success, finally. Reunited, we were fed some Army bologna and generic peanut butter, and lots of water. A few hours later, we were on a train back to Manhattan, and then on a bus up Amsterdam Avenue, where we were met by my sister and her kids. The week since has been a mix of happiness and overarching anxiety. I see a plane overhead and wonder which building it's going to hit. I hear a siren and wonder what new disaster has befallen us. I wake up in the morning thinking about those poor folks on the doomed planes. A few days after 9/11, Caryl and I were able to get back into our apartment building, escorted by National Guard troops, and given 20 minutes to collect some of our things. The south part of Battery Park is amazingly intact. The flowers still bloom, a few leaves are showing glints of yellow, and a recent rain has washed away much of the soot. Our building, too, stands tall, though the street in front is chock full of twisted steel from the Trade Center. But our apartment is amazingly clean, due in large part to a crew who emptied residents' refrigerators, closed our windows and hooked up an emergency generator to power an elevator. Indeed, our home is like a time capsule. Clocks are stopped, a bowl of shredded wheat sits on the dining room table, one of the girls' bikes is parked out on the balcony. Most New Yorkers don't know quite what to make of us. Unlike Hurricane Andrew (my last major disaster), this one left few people homeless. So, for example, when we boarded the subway Sunday, covered in soot, wearing white masks, lugging huge suitcases, the other riders looked us up and down ... but no one offered us a seat. (Finally, a return to normalcy for New Yorkers, a friend remarked.) We are often asked if we'll move back to Battery Park. Initially, I said that was impossible, but having seen the neighborhood, now I think we just might, someday after the debris is removed, when the smoky haze no longer lingers. I don't really know. We lost a lot here. We lost a place we loved, and a sense of ease to life that I worry we will never regain, and that we will struggle to impart to our kids. Yet, we did not lose much at all, when compared to the grief and despair so many others in our circle feel. Still, more than anything, I feel tremendous gratitude. I am grateful that we survived, that we have family and friends who love and support us, that our children did not witness the worst of it, that we have the resources to pull through. But most of all, I am grateful that on that Sunday night, Caryl and I lounged on the cool grass of our park, watched our children play and the sun set, and told each other then, at that very moment, how lucky we were to live where we did. We didn't realize how fragile that was, but we are fortunate to have been grateful in the moment, not just in the memory of it.

Report From NYC, Chapter 2, October 12, 2001
Friends, A few weeks ago, I asked Caryl what seemed like a simple question. How long will it be before we have a full day in which we don't think about the events of Sept. 11? Will it be a year? Two years? Five? And as I thought about the question, I recalled something I once read -- I think in Michael Herr's book, "Dispatches"-- about the Vietnam War. He referred to soldiers who had that "thousand-mile stare"-a subtle but distant look in their eyes, a gaze that signifies that back there, beyond the immediate moment, is a memory of something that they never fully put behind themselves. And I wonder if we are now veterans, having witnessed a horrifyingly violent scene, and wondering what unimaginable danger lies ahead. It has been a truly awful month. There have been some happy times - a cousin's wedding filled with relatives who bravely flew to New York; a daughter's proud announcement of her highest-in-the-class science score; a drive through the Berkshire Mountains during the height of the autumn colorfest. But not a single such moment has gone untainted. The memory of that day is so searing, the events that have followed have been so traumatizing, that it is simply impossible to define a line of separation between good times and bad. During a period like this, there are no unadulterated good times . How do we keep track of things these days? One way is by counting the times we've been back to our old neighborhood since Sept. 11. The first was mentioned in my last email. It was the Sunday after the attack. National Guardsmen escorted us into our building and gave us 20 minutes to take home some of our belongings. Caryl, a friend and I donned our face masks and backpacks and headed upstairs where we grabbed photos, passports, and a few heirlooms. Caryl and I returned a few days later. A cleaning crew had come through our apartment and, to the naked eye, had done a good job. The dust along the windows was gone, the dishes we had left in the sink were clean and on the drying rack. Heck, even the girls' beds had been neatly made, something that occurs as frequently as a lunar eclipse. Everything had been made to look like we could move back in. And yet, it wasn't quite right. Most of the building was deserted, the neighborhood was a war zone, and hovering over us was a stillness that seemed more appropriate for a cemetery than a home. We left that day feeling both encouraged and uneasy. The next time I went was Yom Kippur day. Julia, 11, and Caroline, 8, hadn't seen the apartment since just before the disaster, so I thought we should visit after morning services. It was a gorgeous day, warm, with a breeze from the south, thus carrying the smoke away from our block. We greeted the doormen with hugs, collected our mail, rode up the elevators and stepped in the door of 44B. The girls looked around, cheery that things looked so

normal, and I phoned Caryl to say we'd stick around for a few minutes, then come back to the Greenwich Village apartment we were using. But as I was about to ask the girls to get going, I peeked in their room and saw each of them lying on their beds, surrounded by their stuffed animals, gazing quietly at their familiar bookcases, toys and clothes. "Do you want to stay for a few minutes?" I asked. "Yes!" they replied. And so I went back to the den and waited for nearly an hour while they just quietly hung out in their old room. They seemed dazed and, I felt, confused over why we hadn't already moved back in. So, unsure whether they were ready for this, I took a gamble. We went upstairs to the health club, with its 360-degree views, and walked outside on the balcony. There, they could peer directly into the maw of the wreckage. There, they could see the dozens of firefighters dousing the smoke that still floats up from the pyre. The girls grew silent. We got back in the elevator, left the building and walked out of the neighborhood, holding hands, saying little. The next visit was on the weekend of my cousin's wedding. An aunt and uncle from Minneapolis wanted to see the neighborhood, and I needed to retrieve a few items. We met in Union Square, got on the 4 train to Bowling Green, and entered through the police checkpoint. I took them to our apartment, and they were dazzled by the view, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the expanse from one side to the other. They literally didn't know what they were missing, for they had never been in the apartment when the Trade Center was hovering just north of our dining room. So I took them on the same pilgrimage as the girls, to the upstairs balcony where they could see the pit of destruction. An expression fell over their faces that was similar to what I've seen in those newsreels of U.S. soliders when they first visited the death camps in Europe. They squinted, they peered, they shook their heads, and my aunt's and uncle's eyes filled with tears. For all the times they had seen this on TV and in the papers, they were not remotely prepared for the scene. Today, Caryl and I visited again to meet with a FEMA agent who sized up our apartment. There we were in our home, watching this civil service worker poke around each bedroom, checking for dust, asking who needed counseling, sizing up our loss against the others along our block. On the way out, we visited with Dennis, one of our most affable doormen. He grinned broadly, engaged in some idle chatter, then cheerfully handed us a 6-page factsheet on anthrax. In upcoming days, Caryl and I have to make a more extended visit, to pack our belongings. We are moving from Battery Park City, and we could not be more grieved over it. Despite vague assurances from health officials, we are concerned that the smoke, and the attendant levels of asbestos and lead, might be too toxic for us, particularly the children. Surely, we also do not envision our family living near this mass grave, while crews work day and night to extract the thousands of tons of steel and debris. We have not taken Ellie back, nor will we. She turns 2 in a few weeks, and we hear that when her friends have gone home to their old apartments, they don't want to leave. We are sure Ellie would react the same way. Nor could

we bear seeing the place with her. We expect that she would run over to her little corner in the living room, with her tea set and knee-high table, and begin to play like the old days. And we would have to take her away, unable to explain why this is something that she will never remember, nor ever experience in exactly the same way again. Life in New York is getting no easier. I read in the Times yesterday about a fellow who became overwhelmed with fear when his subway stopped in a tunnel for nearly an hour. It was a bomb scare of some type. I walked through Penn Station last night and smelled smoke. I headed quickly toward the exit, wondering why no one else seemed concerned. It turned out it was exhaust from a pizza parlor. We have gotten tremendous support from many people--some we barely know--yet have been disappointed by others we might have counted upon. We have tried to get Caroline admitted to Julia's school, Friends Seminary, a Quaker institution founded in the 1700s. The school prides itself on community service, but it turns out that its goodwill extends only so far. They say that 4th grade is filled up, and we must wait two years when there will be more space. So Caroline must continue to take a long subway ride to Brooklyn every day. Meanwhile, people have stopped telling us how lucky we are to be alive. We know we are, and they know we know. Now, we are looking for a new place to settle. We are contemplating splitting our lives between Manhattan and a leafy suburb in New Jersey. That will enable us to keep the girls in their current schools, cut the commute for me, and offer all of us some quiet solace while we repair our souls and get our lives back into some better routine. And so, to return to the original question: When will we put this behind us? I am coming to realize that this may be something we will never get over. We can adapt to it, ignore it, maybe even become stronger for it. But it is as much a part of our lives as the joyous times that are imbedded, gladly, in our memories. The best we can hope for, I suspect, is that someday we will gain a perspective that puts this in the place it belongs, not the place it now overwhelms. Bill

Report From NYC, Chapter 3, Nov. 20, 2001

Folks, A few days ago, I was taking our 9-year-old Caroline to school, and we eased into one of those wonderful father-daughter discussions that has no special purpose - it was just aimless and pleasant. Somehow, we got onto the topic of Hebrew school, and she noted that her last attendance report showed two absences in the last 10 sessions. "What were those for?" I asked her. "Well," she replied, as matter-of factly as always, "one was for Halloween, and obviously I didn't go then. And the other was last week, the day of the plane crash, when I came home early because we thought a terrorist attack would close the subways." She saw nothing odd or even special about missing school after that crash near JFK Airport. And after a few minutes, I was grateful she could be so blasé about it. I've pretty much given up trying to protect my kids' innocence these days, and so if she, like so many people, has reached such a comfortable accommodation with the circumstances we're facing, more power to her. Right? I feel like most of this country has "moved on", as the Bush guys used to say after last year's disputed election. The war in Afghanistan is going better than anyone expected, the anthrax scare is dying down (the news tonight about the elderly Connecticut woman is such an anomaly, no one seems much fazed by it), we've seen all kinds of dire warnings from the FBI and the California governor go unfulfilled, that plane crash last week appears to be an accident - and so maybe, life is getting back to normal. It isn't, of course, for us, but as we've come to realize, we're the odd men out. It has been a bizarre month, less traumatizing, certainly, than the month that preceded it, but in its own way, just as debilitating. We no longer have the luxury of adrenalin to power us through day after day of crisis. Now, we are dealing with the day-to-day reality of this. The past month has been a period of continued displacement. We started in Greenwich Village, but had to leave because the smell and smoke were too much on days when the wind came from the south. So we moved to a hotel suite next to Lincoln Center, and a day or two later learned that a baby had contracted anthrax at ABC headquarters, a block away. Finally, we decided to look for a new home in New Jersey-and voila, the bacteria began showing up at post offices around the state. And then there was some disturbing medical news. Ever since Sept. 11, when I spent about 90 minutes in the smoke after the Trade Center collapse, I've been feeling fatigued - especially when I'd do the slightest bit of physical exercise. I was hardly a triathlete, but could always run a few miles a

day, a few days a week, stopping more from boredom than fatigue. But shortly after Sept. 11, I would dash up a few flights of stairs and wind up gripping the handrail, feeling like I had just run a half marathon. I went to a pulmonologist, who found that the medium and small passageways in my lungs are operating at about 45% of what they should be for someone of my age and size. He has put me on successive doses of steroids, with minimal effect so far. Many rescue workers who are spending day after day at the disaster site are coming down with something they call the "World Trade Center cough" which, unfortunately, Caryl seems to have contracted after spending a week in Battery Park City cleaning and packing up our old apartment. (She and I now pass steroid inhalers back and forth to each other every night, a new form of marital bonding, I guess.) While it's clear that my illness is related to the WTC disaster, it isn't clear what the best treatment is. So we wound up deciding to move to New Jersey. The conditions in lower Manhattan are as unlivable as ever. Fires burn constantly at the site, renewed daily by oxygen as crews scrape away layer after layer of debris. That made the decision straightforward, though the process and consequences were painful. We managed to find a lovely old house in Millburn, about 40 minutes west of the city, and are surrounded by towering maple and oak trees, with a big back yard for the girls to enjoy. But it was awfully hard to get here. The doctor ordered me to stay out of Battery Park, and has recommended I spend as little time in Manhattan as possible. So Caryl did the packing and the move largely on her own, with a major assist early on from my sister Linda, who came in from Denver, and then from her sister Barb, who lives in Cincinnati. It was an unbelievably difficult process. Before anything could be packed, special cleaning crews came in to wipe down every book, every bowl and fork, every appliance. HEPA air filters buzzed throughout the apartment, while Caryl kept the windows shuttered and the air conditioning turned off on unseasonably warm afternoons so the sooty air wouldn't infiltrate more of our stuff. Most of our clothing was whisked away to a cleaners, which, we just learned, is using an ozone chamber to remove dirt and odors. Caryl had some of our belongings tested, and the results confirmed our decision to leave. The most heartbreaking: They found asbestos on the girls' Beanie Baby parrot. (That led to one of the most touching moments since the disaster, when Elizabeth and Jonathan Adler, two children of a Wall Street Journal colleague, donated much of their personal Beanie Baby collection to the girls.) We are still nostalgic for our old neighborhood and still fascinated by our friends' decisions to stay or leave. One family we know decided to move back because they felt their 2-year-old daughter "needed closure." She got it, all right. They spent a week there, couldn't stand it and had to move out. I regularly check a message board for Battery Park City residents to see how people make peace with their decisions. I have been particularly

intrigued by parents discussing how they cope with the environment there. "We have a 6-month-old and have been back for a month," writes one mother, whose screen name is Stephanie01. "I thought we were the only ones with a baby living here. We're trying to move but can't seem to find a place in Manhattan we can afford.... I think by spring the fires should be out and the air quality will be better. I still take the baby outside on 'good' days." The message board also includes a well-viewed series of daily postings by someone named Tom Goodkind, who details the smoke plumes, which rise 10 stories or more, and does forecasts based on wind patterns. He has turned into quite a controversial figure, since many of us find his reports endlessly fascinating, while others - especially people living there urge him to "get a life." Here's a recent posting: "Date: November 16, 2001 Time: 3 pm Location: Washington & Rector - 2 blocks south of WTC site Wind: From Southwest about 15 MPH - from WTC toward Chinatown. Smoke: A few 4-foot clouds. WARNING: AT MIDNIGHT TONIGHT AND ALL OF SATURDAY, THE MARINE FORECAST CALLS FOR NORTHEAST WINDS BRINGING ANY SMOKE TOWARD BATTERY PARK CITY SOUTH." (Check his postings at http://bpc.mobile123.com/comunity/noncgi/Forum24/HTML/000352.html) It turns out, we, too, have gained some notoriety, both from these emails and from my work at the Journal. The Palm Beach Post ran the first two emails, accompanied by photographs from an apartment damaged much more than ours was. New York magazine got them and interviewed me about the issue of raising kids in the post-WTC era. I told the reporter how odd it is to be living in at this moment in time, caught up not in the stuff we used to think was important but at a moment that will become a touchstone for generations. Though he got my age wrong (I feel like I've gotten old, but not this much ...) he got the quote right: "I had thought, up until now, that we lived in an idyllic time insulated from history," says Bill Grueskin, 48, the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Online and the father of three daughters who've lost their home. "Now it's clear that we don't and that it was silly to think that we did. I feel like we're in one of those great historical periods, sort of like in World War II, when you literally don't know how the world is going to end up a couple of years from now. You don't want to be overly reassuring, especially if, like us, you have a daughter who's almost 12 and has a pretty good b.s. detector. What we used to think of as adversity now seems very mundane and banal." Still, life is undeniably better for us now than it has been in months. We feel dislocated because we maintain a presence in the city for the girls, while keeping our main residence here in Millburn, and while I still commute to Dow Jones' office in South Brunswick. But we are finding ways to

enjoy and find special meaning in the rhythms of life that we once assumed were part of our birthright. We managed to squeeze in a birthday party for Caroline at an apple orchard, a birthday party for Ellie last weekend at our new home, and will head to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving with family. We even managed to wake up at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, so we could sprawl out on our lawn and admire a spectacular meteor shower, away from the city lights. And should we get a little too comfortable, there is always a reminder of who we are, of what happened to us - and of what could have happened to us. Last Saturday, as our friends and family were about to arrive for Ellie's party, the lady from the local bagel shop showed up with our order. I mentioned that we had just moved to New Jersey, and used to live near the World Trade Center. "But you're all right?" she asked, gingerly. I told her we were. "Thank God," she said. "My next delivery is to a family who lost their father in the Trade Center. His daughter is celebrating her Bat Mitzvah today."

Report from New York, Chapter IV
“Not so long ago, I lived in an apartment in Battery Park City. There was a park right in the neighborhood where I would play and eat and take Ellie out for walks. During the summer, the air was filled with the scent of newly bloomed cherry blossoms, and everyone would go to the park to have a picnic under them. My father, my stepmother, my sisters and I would bring a picnic blanket and some fruit that was ripe at the time, like nectarines or bing cherries. Sometimes we would also bring a basketball or football. We would throw it to each other, going around in a circle. Battery Park City is right on the tip of Manhattan, so there was an esplanade you could walk along. That was another famous activity among my family: We would pretend we had no worries at all. We would joke and laugh, and the only thoughts in our minds would be about then and there. The water was so close that I could almost taste the salt in the Hudson River, and it would assure me that I was right at home.”
--“When the Unimaginable Became Reality” by Julia Grueskin, age 12, written as a class assignment, March 15, 2002. Excerpts reprinted by permission of the author.

It has been several months since my last report from New York. I had thought I would end with that one. But this is a story that doesn't seem to end. And as many of you have asked how we're doing and what we're facing, these e-mails still seem to be the best way to keep you in our lives. By New Year's Day, we had established a routine - a strange and sometimes uncomfortable one, to be sure, but a great improvement over the constant dislocation since September 11. We had unpacked most of our boxes, settled into our New Jersey neighborhood, gotten used to the long commutes, worked out a schedule for occasionally staying in the city (in a borrowed apartment Caryl calls our “pied a terror”) and managed to squeeze in the holidays, another birthday party and other family events. Throughout, Caryl and I would talk to each other about the events of that day and the ensuing trauma, but we would keep it largely between ourselves. Something that started as the most public of all tragedies was quickly receding into a very private situation, a scene I suspect was being replayed in thousands of homes around New York. Still, it would come up from time to time. I'd call from work, we'd talk about how the day was going, and occasionally one of us would tell the other, "Boy, it's been a real 9/11 day." By that, we would mean that something had triggered a spate of memories, dreams, guilt, whatever. Sometimes the stimulus was obvious--say, a particularly tragic article in the paper, or a replay of video on the 11 p.m. news. Sometimes it was more subtle, or invisible to us altogether.

My lung condition has improved a bit, and seems to have stabilized at a point that is below what I used to enjoy but manageable. I started playing racquetball again, for the first time in years. I continue to follow a regimen of steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs; my pulmonologist doesn't expect to end that for quite a while. Caryl still inhales her dose of Flovent twice a day. Our daughters are thriving. Julia is about to start preparations for her Bat Mitzvah at the end of the year, while Caroline made us proud at her ballet school's open house last week. Ellie, after bawling her head off the first few times at her new preschool, now eagerly looks forward to class twice a week. It was comforting to think, as the new year got underway, that our lives would continue to move in this direction, two steps forward, maybe one step back, but always, relentlessly, out of the 9/11 detritus. Then, in the past few weeks, we endured two distinct setbacks—one out of the blue, and one I should have seen coming. “One day at school, I was about to go to the cafeteria when I suddenly heard: “Come to an all-school meeting.” I shivered. I had never been to an all-school meeting before, and I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be about how much money we had raised for Unicef. The principal started talking. I only heard fragments like ‘No cellphones are working’ and ‘We’ll try to get in touch with everyone’s parents’ and ‘A free lunch will be served to everyone today.’ But I didn’t really understand what the commotion was about. Around a half hour later, I saw my mom in the entrance. We started walking toward her office in Soho. Along the way, she told me what happened in a way easier to hear and understand, and although I could not yet fully comprehend her words, I could get a pretty good idea of what had happened. So then I started to cry.” That unexpected setback came one morning last January, as I was preparing to go to the morning news meeting at The Wall Street Journal. As I was about to head downstairs, a message flashed on my computer screen. The meeting has been delayed a half-hour, at the request of Paul Steiger, our managing editor. I immediately assumed the worst, that one of our colleagues had taken seriously ill or died in some accident. This just showed how, even four months after 9/11, my standard for what constitutes "assuming the worst" was woefully out of date. After a few opening remarks to prepare us, Paul uttered the three words that still resonate: "Danny is missing." Our newsroom has more than 500 reporters and editors, spread across the globe, and yet everyone immediately knew whom Paul was referring to. Danny Pearl. There are two reasons. A gifted writer and reporter, he stood out, even in

such a talented newsroom. And, he was every bit as warm and funny and thoughtful as the obituaries portrayed him to be. I edited several of his Page One stories, and, a couple of years ago, ran into him at the Paris bureau and shared drinks one night at a local tavern. His magnetism was apparent throughout. The Parisian women flirted openly with him that evening, the way women reporters at The Journal would do whenever he’d stop by New York for a visit. He never took it seriously -- indeed, he never even seemed much flattered by it. It is so disheartening to think he is gone. There are many horrifying scenes from his capture and death -- the vicious e-mails, and those pictures, one with a gun cocked to his head, another in which he seems to be sticking up his middle finger, the most defiant thing a shackled man can do in front of a camera. But the one image that will forever live with me is what he uttered on the video as he was about to be butchered: “My father is a Jew, my mother is a Jew, I am a Jew.” It is, of course, one of the oldest, most-preferred schemes used by anti-Semites. They force Jews to “confess” to their heritage, as if it is a crime, and then, with that justification, they can murder us. And, that’s one of the more tragic things about Danny’s abduction and death. I had worked with him off and on for years, known him casually if not deeply, and it had never occurred to me he might be Jewish. I wonder if the kidnappers knew in advance, or if it was some special bonus for them when they discovered who he was, and who his parents were. His death brought home to Caryl and me the terror of 9/11, but in a different way. As close as we lived to the Trade Center, as many people as we know who lived and worked downtown, we had somehow managed to escape seeing a friend die -- until Danny. And until he died, I had failed to recognize how, in some respects, the attacks that day were deeply anti-Semitic. It is no coincidence that the terrorists reserved their greatest hatred for New York. And so Danny has become part of history, something I was reminded of as I leafed through the Haggaddah in anticipation of our upcoming Passover Seder. I was struck anew by a prayer expressing gratitude to God for keeping his centuries-old promise to free the Jews from the Pharaoh’s slavery: “This is the promise that has sustained our forefathers and ourselves. For it was not one man alone who rose against us to destroy us. In every generation they rise up to destroy us.” “My mom told me that two planes were hijacked, and they had crashed into the World Trade Center. As we got nearer to her office, she told me to turn around. I found this a little odd, but I did it anyway. What I saw was what I now think is the most heartbreaking sight of my life. There was an enormous gray cloud of smoke, entirely consuming the World Trade Center and everything within miles of it. I then realized that the smell was one of the worst in my life as well. I had

never smelled anything quite like it before, but if I had to put it into words, I would say it smelled of everything bad that I both did and didn’t recognize. That made me cry even harder… As we approached her office, I could see that everyone there was also crying, just like the rest of the world.”

Ever since September 11, I have been fascinated by and drawn to images of the events of that day. I found this disconcerting for a while, until I shared it with others who were with me that day. And I finally figured out the reason why. As deeply affected as our lives were by the tragedy, truth is, many of us who were closest to it saw very little of it -- far less than someone in Australia could see, sitting in his living room, watching the television. I was across the street from the Trade Center when both planes hit, so I heard both crashes and felt the concussion each time. But I didn’t see either airliner hit, and in fact, didn’t believe the first explosion was caused by a plane until nearly a half-hour later. When the buildings collapsed, I was a few blocks away, but was so overcome by the smoke and ash, I could only guess what was happening (and as usual, I guessed wrong, assuming we were being bombed from above). In the weeks to follow, when I’d surf around websites or leaf through those World Trade Center coffee-table photo books, I’d be mesmerized, trying to figure out how each image corresponded to something I had heard, smelled or felt that day. So imagine my anticipation when I learned that, one the eve of the six-month anniversary, CBS would broadcast a two-hour documentary with video of firefighters who were among the first to speed to the Trade Center that day. It was a remarkable program with many evocative moments, but none more than this one: Two firemen are dispatched early that morning to investigate a gas leak in downtown Manhattan. It is a routine call, and as the men are poking around a grate in the sidewalk, they hear that noise -- that low, droning rumble of a plane flying too low. They look up, scan the sky briefly, and then return to their work for a moment or two before all hell breaks loose. As I was watching, I felt terribly nostalgic for that moment, literally the last one of our innocence. Those men looked up, seemed to conclude that the noise was some random echo from the city, and went back, ever so briefly, to their routine. Watching this from the distance of six months, I saw that moment and wished I could bottle it and, from time to time, sip from it. The documentary, of course, was just one piece of a huge onslaught of media coverage around the half-year anniversary. Both Caryl and I were transfixed by it, unable to pull away. But the effect was troubling. Remember how I said our very public odyssey had become private just before this? Here it was, public again. For many people I know, it is just too much. A few weeks ago, one of our more talented editors quit the Wall Street Journal Online, where I work. She had a host of reasons, including the long commute from the city to South Brunswick, N.J.,

where our offices are still temporarily located. But most of all, she was just eager to relocate to a simpler job in a quieter place, on a leafy college campus in Washington. “Every day I come into this office and see all these people,” she said, “and it reminds me of 9/11. And I just can’t stand to be reminded of it anymore.”

“Ever since, things were never the same. People changed, in that they decided they were going to change things in Afghanistan and get back at Bin Laden. Battery Park City also changed a great deal; for a while, no one could live there or play there or even go there just to visit. Eventually things opened up, but even when you could go there, it was drastically different… There was nobody playing in the park, because the asbestos hadn’t been completely removed. The only people walking along the esplanade were tourists, and only so they could see the damage. The air still had the same smell it did the day I was taken out of school. You could see the construction workers digging up all that was left of the World Trade Center. There were so many signs of what had happened, and it was all very depressing.” The longer I’m a father, the more I realize how time collapses and expands around your children. I used to think that I could track my kids’ development in a step-by-step, linear fashion. But I’ve come to understand that what I really do is freeze-frame them at certain moments in their lives, locking in a certain notion of who they are and what they can do. And then, from time to time, each of them surprises me with a particularly apt utterance or remarkable accomplishment that I hadn’t seen coming. I have known, of course, that this experience affected them, but how it did so, and how fully, are things that I am only coming to appreciate. And so when Caryl happened upon a casual conversation with Julia the other day, asking what she was up to in school, our 12-year-old pulled this essay out of her backpack. Happy holidays, everyone. Bill “That tragic event cost me a lot, both physically and emotionally. I had to throw away a lot of my toys and other belongings, and I also had to throw away Battery Park City, and everything that it offered. But most importantly, I had to throw away my old life, and start all over. And even though I loved my old life and neighborhood and possessions to death, and I miss them all dearly, I think I was ready for a change. And I am still myself, only this time I am braver and stronger than I ever was before, and now I am ready for anything!”

Remarks to WSJ.com staff on September 11, 2002 (one-year anniversary of the attacks)
I'm sure you've been thinking today about where you were, and what you were doing, the morning of September 11, 2001. Now I'd like you to take a moment and think about where you were on the afternoon on September 11, 2001. Were you covered with dust, crammed into a car headed toward South Brunswick, anxious to get to work? Were you still in lower Manhattan, gathering color and quotes to be fed into one of the dozens of stories we published that day? Were you in Brussels or Hong Kong, each of you doing the work of several colleagues, making sure our website stayed current at a time when our readers needed us most? Wherever you were, whatever you were doing, you accomplished something that will stand as a symbol for journalists, for years down the road. From time to time over the past year, I have thought about how our website came together that day, and I have to say, I am still not sure how we did it. I've talked it through with many of you, read Dave Pettit's compelling account over and over, thought back and recapitulated key moments, and still I come away amazed. The performance that day would have been enough. But in the ensuing year, you overcame tortuous commutes, difficult working conditions, long separations from your friends and loved ones, to keep WSJ.com up and running. And we didn't just "maintain" the site. We relaunched the entire platform, introduced more than a dozen new features and columns, reinvigorated our coverage of the markets, finance and technology, and rolled out creative graphics that enable readers to understand issues in ways they never could before. The stories and interactive features we published this week, commemorating the tragedy, represent the zenith of what online news sites can do. Did we make a difference? Well, sometime last September, I got an email from a subscriber in California named David Bartholomew. He raised an issue -something about how the "format for printing" link wasn't working on his laser jet -- and I sent him a quick response. We exchanged a few more emails, and eventually, it dawned on him that he wasn’t communicating one of the techs, but with the managing editor of the Online Journal. And so his final note went far beyond what I would have expected.

"Dear Bill," he wrote, "You and WSJ.com exemplify what is best about Wall Street and New York and America. Keep up the good work. We are behind you all the way." Savor those words: "We are behind you all the way." No prize or accolade you will ever win can match that remark from a reader. The truth is, in ways that I'm not sure all of you fully realize, our readers have been behind us all the way. And they don't even know the half of the hell you've been through. I know this has been a hard year. I know that many of you have suffered through a great deal. But I hope you have also learned a great deal: About how, for all our technology and modernity, we aren't at all insulated from the tides of history. About how much people rely on the work we do. About how you tested and bolstered your own inner resources of wisdom, perseverance and creativity. Years from now, there will come a time when someone -- a reporter in your newsroom, a student in your journalism class, a child at your table-- will ask you what you did on September 11, and beyond. When this happens -- and trust me, it will -- don't hold back. Tell them what you accomplished, tell them what you overcame, and, by doing so, give them an example for how they should lead their own careers, and their own lives.

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