Eve Beglarian has been keeping an on-line journal of her thoughts and impressions since September 11. Others have written her e-mails, and she posts them, too. She stopped the journal for a short time when she travelled to Europe to do a gig. I had just returned from NewOp10 in Europe, and wrote her this private e-mail, which is self-explanatory. She has posted it on her journal.
Eve, we have probably only met briefly here and there, and I'm trying hard not to appear opportunist. I read your posting on NewMusicBox while in an Internet Cafe in Oslo, and didn't want to be charged by the hour in a noisy unfamiliar setting while reading it. Now I'm back in NYC - paradoxically, I feel much safer here at home near Ground Zero than in Europe, where they haven't taken their security personally yet - and I've taken advantage of the time shift to quietly read through your journal very early in the morning while the wife and kids are still asleep.
I'd like to pass on some insights that you may personally find useful, rather than make general observations.
My plane ride to Europe (October 3) was simultaneously the most normal and most terrifying plane ride of my life. I hope you didn't travel alone, as I did. I flew first to London, where I stayed with a composer/singer colleague. She accompanied me to Oslo, which calmed me down considerable (trying to keep my mind on other things). I sat with another colleague on the way back to London, so that the solo flight back to NYC was less nerve-wracking. Not perfect, but not as bad.
I was attending NewOp10 in Oslo. I managed to get an essay in the distributed Reader, which started by describing my experiences of September 11. That way, when everybody asked me what happened, I could just refer them to the Reader. I had to do so many times. Otherwise I would have made up a card that said "I'm sorry, I can't relive the tragedy right now. Please be sympathetic to my feelings. I have posted my story on ..." Remember Stanislavsky technique? You can relive any memory at any time. It will never go away.
I lost it at a reception given by the Mayor of Oslo in honor of our meeting. I felt like a refugee surrounded by oblivious bourgeois innocents. It was post-attack, and there were advisories for Americans to get in contact with the American embassy. The fact that their City Hall had absolutely no security (and I really mean none!) didn't help my mental state. I basically sat in a corner crying. At that point, I just wanted to get back home to my loved ones - back to the war zone, as it were. There's a late Menotti opera, "Tamu-Tamu (The Guests)", premiered in 1973, whereby Indonesian refugees show up at the doorstep of a suburban American home and invade their serenity. I've only read about the production, but it sounds like it captures how I felt.
I lost my mother at an early age. It is a tragedy that has always set me apart from others (not that I in any way wish the same on anyone else just so that they can understand). But the grief is something that I can package, can place in a particular time and place once a year and visit, so that I can get on with my life. Living in your apartment near Ground Zero, you are continuously amongst your grief. Because my son has asthma, we evacuated to New Jersey for a couple of days (you know stuff is bad when the air quality in New Jersey is preferable!). The kid is only 4 years old, and needed to be indulged, so we took him to a zoo. Although I periodically put the radio in my ear to get the latest, it was good to get a break, as well.
Actually, the only real relief I got was putting together some tapes for a class someone asked me to teach. As one who usually wants to attend concerts and performances to hear something new, I was surprised by how much comfort I got from losing myself in some old recordings of music that I had always loved. A couple of hours in, the telephone rang - yet another friend asking if I was all right. I was rudely returned to reality - I can't tell you how bad it felt.
Like you, I have travelled through every emotion imaginable. The "can you top this" hierarchy of sensationalist journalism (and the time/space nature of television) have been particularly hard to deal with. Some of this gets vented through correspondence, some through postings on listservs and forums, and some through a self-controlled space on my web site. Unlike you, instead of a journal where everything stays, I've created a single page that I can revisit, update, erase, evolve as my thoughts become more rational. Maybe its a male/female thing.
There's probably more but the kids are awake and it's time for breakfast. I think there is a difference between receiving correspondence from people outside of the war zone, and sharing feelings with people undergoing the same thing. You can treat this as private correspondence if you like, or you can post it on your site as you see fit. Again, I don't want to be interpreted as looking for publicity. My personal war page is at http://www.notnicemusic.com/war.html. Now that I'm back, I should update it.
My father lived through the Great Depression in NYC and was always terrified of going to war. Then he spent his professional career working on the B-1 bomber. He was enamored of Auden - is that poem, with its mention of September, really for real? For me, the only way out of despair has been Dickinson.
I'm trying very hard to believe. Very hard.
Link back to My Personal September 11 Page.
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