C-Opera

The following postings were to the c-opera listserv. The archive is accessible to subscribers only.

Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 13:23:30 -0300
Subject: From Ground Zero

I appreciate enormously the postings of concern. I am at this writing a refugee with my in-laws in New Jersey. I work at the tip of Manhattan in a government building, and after the first hit, we were all immediately evacuated, although we did not know whether it was an accident, a terrorist attack, a gas explosion, etc. I was standing with my colleagues staring in horror at the south side of the WTC from maybe four blocks back when the second plane came from over our shoulder and smashed before our eyes into the second tower. I have been completely traumatized by this sight - it played over in my mind all day and kept me from getting to sleep for hours. It has actually been a relief to finally see a video of it from my angle - it's the latest "exclusive" from CNN - so that I can try to replace my horrible memory with this more contained and repeatable set of images.

Of course, at the moment we saw that second plane we knew we were under terrorist attack and fled to the shoreline in terror. After I gained what little was left of my wits, I started walking uptown to the West Village to be with my wife and children. It took me an hour - when I was outside my apartment, the first tower fell, so I was far away.

We gathered, got emergncy supplies at the supermarket (in case of power outage or water contamination), and bunkered in at our apartment. By late afternoon, when we heard that below Canal was being evacuated, we decided to evacuate ourselves (we live below 14th, which is now closed off to access). We were worried about Max's asthma and a shift in the still bellowing smoke cloud. We walked up to 38th and caught a ferry to New Jersey.

Eric [Salzman] is out on Long Island and safe. We do not know yet which neighbors, or parents of friends, may have been lost in this tragedy, but we are hopeful that most people evacuated the twin towers in the hour before its collapse. The cooperation of New Yorkers and the help from surrounding regions has been stupendous.

If the fires are under control and the smoke is not too bad, we will return home tonight, but I do not know. All I care about at this moment is that there be no more terrifying attacks. Getting over this fear will take some time.

My apologies for going so far off topic, but it gives me what little psychological release I can get to write and know that there are others who care.

Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 12:13:18 -0300
Subject: Re: From Ground Zero

I hope it is obvious that my Internet access has been somewhat intermittent - as if, when where you live has been declared a National Emergency area (or whatever they call it), Internet access is such a high priority - but I am finding access points here and there, and I have just read the replies sent the list as a whole and to my personal address. Because of the limits of my Internet access, I cannot individually respond, and don't have much time to completely express myself, as I hope was clear in my initial posting. These are dashed off postings from the front, as it were, and I hope to have more time in the weeks that follow to write back to everyone individually thanking them. Unrelated to this list, I've had phone calls from Scotland, e-mails from Chicago and Paris and other places wondering if I'm all right, etc. If anyone has heard of an Internet posting location to tell all and sundry that you are alive (or dead), please pass the info on.

I am in Day 3, and have returned to Manhattan, although I have not yet returned to my apartment and my family is still in New Jersey, because Max's doctor is telling us that the air quality is not good enough for him to return (and his school is still closed). Roosevelt's "The only thing to fear is fear itself" is my motto at present - a return to normalcy is not remotely in my cards, but I am definitely back working, and forming my own judgement on the scene of how to continue living my life. Although the wife and kids are still in New Jersey, Lindsay says, "I'd rather die in New York than live in New Jersey," and I hope those of you living in major metropolitan centers will keep up their spirits, as she is.

The city population is split between those killed, those with close friends and relatives killed, those who survived but were in direct danger (like me), those directly involved in the rescue effort - and everyone else. That everyone else is a very large percentage, and there is a palpable (if slightly selfish) sense of guilt, confusion and helplessness amongst them - they want to help, no one's telling them how to help, and they don't know how to act. It's the basic question of what to say when entering a house of mourning, when what is required is to listen and to be available, not to speak. What everyone has to remember is that restoring a sense of normalcy is actually reassuring - but it must be a delicate normalcy. You don't make jokes in a funeral home.

What I'm trying to say is that it is reassuring to know that people are helping if asked to (establishing funds to support the families of victims, donating blood, clothing, whatever, providing information to the investigation, helping temporary refugees like me), but also that they are creating an environment where those of us directly effected can feel some sense of normalcy, a sense that life goes on, that this enormous metropolis is alive and kicking and living. I can't do anything about people's morbid fascination with the gory details of this horror - if anything, I have a mixture of anger and distress that many non-emergency people may not have fully evacuated the immediate region prior to the building collapse (as I did). But this is the c-opera list, and NewOp is less than four weeks away. To the extent that I feel that NewOp10 will be an exciting event not to be missed, I will be able to conquer my fear when it comes time to boarding that airplane and flying to Europe. Please report on your preparations for NewOp10, on your work and premieres, on vital things you are doing that makes life worth living and freedom worth enjoying.

Thank you, my friends, for this community, and tell me - can I get Belgian beer in Oslo?

Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2001 23:44:14 -0500
Subject: Some final recommendations

My son was to start soccer tomorrow morning. My typical weekly ritual for the past twenty years has been to buy the Sunday Times on Saturday night, and do the puzzle Sunday morning. With the demands of my job increasing, and my family growing, I vowed to stop this ritual, to allow more time for Lindsay, for Max, and eventually for Abe.

Lindsay returned with the kids to the city on Friday, amidst a strong rain. A few hours later, the sky was blue, the air was clear, and a few hours later we celebrated the coming of Shabbas, as we do every week. My wife was determined that this tragedy not disturb our routines and rituals, and the following night she insisted that I buy the Times, as usual. As it was, Max's first soccer game was cancelled due to death at the soccer league.

Amidst the media garbage, this issue is worth reading if you want to know what New York has been through. There are accurate maps, graphics, photographs, and many stories that ring true. The City section is devoted to 16 essays by New York writers, which are very diverse but nonetheless express the unique New York viewpoint on the effect of this tragedy. You'll see some of what I expressed reflected in the essay by NY historian Mike Wallace.

I do not know whether the City section will be available outside of NYC at news stands, or on the Internet at www.nytimes.com . The entire issue has been created with understanding, feeling and sensitivity that no outside journalist, seeking to reassure the rest of America and the world of America's strength in the face of adversity, is honestly portraying.

RCN has agreed to carry Time Warner's NY1 cable station, an excellent source of local coverage. Channel 11 has been pretty good, too (unfortunately, local Channel 5 has defaulted to the national Fox News content). I am told that the national public radio station, WNYC, also rises above the muck of useless, repetitious stories. It would be nice if the other television, radio and print sources would tell us locals to tune in to these outlets for local info, but that's asking too much, I suppose. People Magazine seems to have put out the equivalent of a theme park souvenir booklet on the disaster. There's nothing anyone can do about this nonsense.

On Monday night, the new Jewish year begins. The standard wish, "L'shana tovah," which means "to a good year" (in the Hebrew, the adjective comes last), will not be possible for New York. Small businesses downtown are wondering whether their landlords will let them not meet the month's rent. Acres of office space for thousands of employees are gone. We will be housing two schools and a shelter in one school building, which will eliminate all "extras" (science, music, gym, even the lunch room) for the year. Max, who we used to call "Fearless Fossdick," wakes up in the middle of the night with nightmares, is suddenly scared by noises and the dark, is undergoing a personality change, but who can complain? - the children joining him from further downtown have been even further traumatized than he was. Despite all the talk about returning to "normal," we know that "normal" is not possible, and not because of a psychological viewpoint, but because of the reality that this event has had on our living and working environment. I cannot imagine that the year to come will in any way be "good." Just "L'shana" will have to do.

Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 20:40:08 -0500
Subject: Evil and Art

I won't accept any sentence that starts, "We, as artists..." The fact is, we, as human beings, have certain obligations, responsibilities and duties. Giving "Concerts for Peace" as a way of believing that Gandhi, Martin Luther King or John Lennon could have stopped Hitler is as much a distorted belief system as that of a martyred terrorist. We all want peace, but let us not all put our heads in the sand when evil arises. Unlike Anne Frank, I do not believe that all people are, at heart, good (or whatever the direct quote is) - and if you think that Anne was better off as a martyred Jew with a famous diary to teach us, well, you don't know much about what Judaism thinks of martyrdom. I'd much rather have Anne alive than her "art".

The history of the world is the history of ideas, and in the last century we've managed to develop a whole set of pretty destructive nasty ones. Once these ideas are out of the box, it's kind of hard to get them back inside. Imagination is not limited to the left, the right, the good, the bad, the saintly or the evil. We can recognize the uplifting in "art" and embrace it, but there are others who will recognize the degrading in "art" (our culture has plenty of best-selling examples) and embrace it as well. We cannot censor it, and ignoring it just lets it grow. We must somehow engage it, peer into the belly of it, respond to it, confront it in creative ways. And when it moves from fantasy to reality, we must punish it severely and without hesitation. I may not have the stomach for it (I come from a long line of flee-ers), but I'm glad there are others who do.

Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2001 17:18:55 -0500
Subject: Re: Resisting Fatality, Once Again

We have had seven people leave the list in the past two weeks. Please address your responses to postings such as this directly to the poster, as I have done. Or do you think Bush is going to base his foreign policy on postings on the c-opera list?

Also, beware of cross-posting generic e-mails you receive. Many are false in some way. Visit www.snopes.com/rumors for the "Urban legends" circulating around the Internet for the past two weeks and a guide to their veracity. Also, a picture, or rather a very good graphic, can be worth more than a thousand words. There's a collection at www.nixlog.com/infographics from around the world that is quite educational.

As to our own work, this observation from Jerry Saltz writing in the Village Voice rings true, "Now we know we are nothing but context and that context changes everything. When it comes to art, this means things made in one time under one circumstance will look different in another time or circumstance." Those of us creating contemporary theater and saying "damn posterity" know what this means.

One more thought - I have written recently about "Comfort vs. Curiousity" in our culture. As a typical consumer (oh, that word!) of the curious, recently, revisiting old familiar music has been the only thing to bring me comfort. I don't plan on being stuck there forever, but it sure has its uses.

Link back to My Personal September 11 Page.

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Last Updated: September 12, 2007