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Monday, September 11, 2006

Another 9-11 Story

Thinking about that week, I went back to the Herald files and found this wonderful picture of Mollie the border collie and her "mom," Catherine Redmond. We met in her neighborhood near Ground Zero, as she and her neighbors were trying to figure out how to live something like a normal life.

It ran on Sept. 14, and I'd like to share it:


Dateline: NEW YORK

Not far from Ground Zero, a place called Morgan's Market still sells flowers - orchid stems, African daisies and gladiolas.

They're not destined for dinner tables, since dinner in this fashionable section of Manhattan called TriBeCa is coming off the back of relief trucks. Rather, neighborhood residents and volunteers are placing them on the bombed-out vehicles lining Hudson Street, where the market occupies a corner at Reade Street.

``Rest in peace,'' someone has written in the ash covering the window of a gold Mazda Protege.

But the main attraction on the block is the charred hulk of what once was a four-door sedan pancaked atop a flattened white Cadillac Sedan DeVille as if dropped there by a car crusher.

Concrete chunks and broken glass fill the car. Mangled mini-blinds trail from the sedan's trunk.

This is the prime residential territory south of the 14th Street line of demarcation, beyond which only residents, relief workers and construction and demolition crews are permitted to go.


Life goes on here, but within heavy breathing distance of the acrid ash still billowing out of the blast site.

The end of the work day brings people back to the neighborhood, even though most dwellings lack basic utilities.

Watching the goings-on in the James Borgardus Triangle, where Salvation Army volunteers are dispensing everything from Gatorade to burn kits to disposable flashlights, has become the evening's entertainment.

Yuri Alter, a 40-year-old Israeli fashion designer's agent, was walking his boxer, Baby, and talking on his cellphone headset to friends in Tel Aviv. ``It is surreal,'' he said. ``Israel has never seen anything like this,'' and he served in the Israeli army in Lebanon. He said his children, ages 8 and 10, watched the disaster from their school, P.S. 324. ``They were traumatized the first 24 hours,'' he said. ``The twin towers were their best friends.''

If they ask why it happened, he said, ``I will tell them people are bad.''

At least three buildings are still burning in the late afternoon on Thursday.

The doors of fashionable restaurants like Scalini Fedeli remain shuttered, the grilled boneless breast of squab carved over vanilla-braised endive with a toasted coffee bean and calvados sauce and foie gras ravioli are served only on the posted menu.

Displaced residents pass the days seated on plastic milk crates watching those who have come to salvage their worlds.

``We've got no electricity, no water, no air-conditioning,'' said Aaron Gelvan, leaning against the crutches he's had to use to navigate 10 floors of his building at 121 Reade St. twice a day: once down, once up.

The textile company sales manager is recovering from hip surgery. He praised the meals served by the Salvation Army in ``very liberal portions. . . . the fried chicken was great.''

Rita Morris occupied an adjacent milk crate. She is the building's superintendent.

``Twenty-five of our tenants work in the World Trade Center,'' she said. ``We still don't know who made it and who didn't.''


The Hudson-Reade intersection borders a staging area patrolled by National Guard troops. Countless times a day someone approaches a uniformed guard asking for access to an apartment farther south.

James Cheung, a 36-year-old advertising copywriter, his girlfriend and their dog are staying with friends on the Upper West Side, but he thought he'd try getting into his apartment at West Broadway and Park Place. He was turned away at the barricade. He had left on Tuesday, grabbing little more than his girlfriend's dog, as bodies rained from World Trade Center windows.

``I didn't want to watch that,'' he said.

He accepts his current logistics with gratitude: ``I don't think anybody's upset; there are people dying. Our families and friends are safe. This is just an inconvenience.''


In a very real sense, the area has gone to the dogs: Dozens of K-9 units brought in from across the country are being housed in an animal MASH unit, not unlike the one established in Homestead during Hurricane Andrew, at West and Chambers streets.

Dr. James Shorter, a veterinarian, talked about how the dogs' role was becoming more important every hour. ``We're going to be dealing with disease very seriously and very soon'' from trapped corpses, which many of the dogs have been trained to detect. Others are looking for live rescues, several of which took place Thursday, including two firefighters trapped in an air pocket for several hours.

``We treated a shepherd that fell down three floors,'' Shorter said. ``We treated the same bloodhound who sniffed out the bombs in the car that was caught headed for the George Washington Bridge the other night.''

Veterinary workers emerged from the rescue area improbably toting four miniature poodles left behind by an evacuee. They were headed for safe kenneling on the Upper East Side. Mollie, a black-and-white border collie, was headed home with her owner, Catherine Redmond, an artist, when they stopped to buy sodas, cat food and popcorn at Morgan's Market. But they couldn't get home to their loft on Chambers Street between West Broadway and Greenwich Street.

New fears about collapsing buildings Thursday barred their entry, so they headed back north to a friend's loft on Moore Street.


``How do you cope?'' Redmond asked behind her paper surgical mask. ``We're all Americans sticking together. That's how,'' she said.

She had managed to ``sneak back'' into her home Wednesday to rescue Albert, her 31-year-old blue-fronted Amazon parrot, and one of her cats, hauling them out on a luggage dolly.

She and the friend who is putting them up spent most of the day ``just talking, although last night we cried.

``I just want to go home.''


Blogger DK said...

Beautiful stuff, Ellie. Thanks for sharing that again, for those of us who didn't get to read it five years ago.

-Kate (and Maggie) in Chicago

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog!
I really enjoyed looking over your last post. Pet peeve #1 - People with a cellphone plastered to their ear while trying to drive. Don't they realize all they have to do is go to www.bluetoothbargains.comcellphone get a cellphone and make driving alot easier for all of us. Soon laws will require it! Well, keep the great posts coming and I'll be back to check it out.

1:33 AM  
Blogger Catherine Redmond said...

Ellie, it was such a surprise to see this. I recall your kindness to me and to Molly during that interview. Molly is lying right beside me as I type this. We are rarely apart.

I love your blog and hope that you wiil check out mine, but also see Molly's. Yes, Molly has her own blog. There is a side of her that was unknown to me until last year: (their 9/11 post). Once she got at the computer a whole other dimension appeared. With her best friend,Tina, whom she stayed with during the month we were evacuated, they have put this together. Humor is a marvelous tonic.

I will check back frequently. I like what you are doing.

11:17 PM  
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