In honor of the little in us which died today – another 9/11 – another year of the saddest memories!

9/11 (11 de setembro) in honor of those victims who died on that day and the little in us which died as well: Column written for Folha de S Paulo on Sep 12th, published on the 13th:

FOLHA DE SAO PAULO – 13 de Setembro de 2001

GERALD THOMAS

SPECIALLY WRITTEN for FOLHA DE SAO PAULO, in New York

Article published on September 13, 2001

“The Day After”

At 5am, unable to sleep and heartbroken, all broken by the subject which dominated my day – our days – and which made out of my window the most horrendous spectacle I had ever seen, I could not resist. Simply could not resist crossing over that bridge by foot. All accesses to all bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan had already been shut entirely or in part by military units.

While I could hear myself crossing the Williamsburg Bridge I couldn’t help but to fixate my eyes on the place where, hours before, stood the two gigantic World Trade Center towers.

The closer I got, the closer to the stench I got, the more unbearable and unbelievable this entire thing became.

I walked West on Delancey St and kind of circled (circumvented) around this danger zone, via the Bowery and into Canal St in Chinatown. I knew that the hardest police barriers were still arriving via Broadway and Church Street.

I’m finally there! The impact is indescribable. I mean, the emotional impact, the physical impact and the impact of realizing you’re standing there. No words. No words can ever describe the feelings of that night. There were – literally – hundreds (if not thousands) of rescue workers there, digging, passing along pieces of this monstrous puzzle, all working under those white bright lights connected to military generators.

It almost looked as if had been snowed upon by gray snow.

It was only once that I got there that I realized the actual dimension of the event. I mean, the horrendous proportion of it all. From my home window I saw the entire thing unfold, the collapse, the..the everything. But here, in the hole?

Downtown Manhattan has turned into a HUGE pile of rubble, of ruins and everything surrounding the WTC was somehow licked, destroyed or semi-destroyed . I counted some 14 melted tower beams sticking up from the ground and glowing amongst defaced remains of cars which, not even an installation artist of the Tinguely kind could have or would’ve thought of creating.

I sat down on the pavement and covered my face because of the dust and ashes and covered up my fear of that stench of death and…burst into tears. And so I was, in tears, picking up some papers here and there, which flew around the bombarded neighborhood.

I read bits from personal letters and bits from business archives all strewn, all almost burned to extinction. I found watches…

Wallets, pieces of what once was an office. But what impressed me most was that table, that desk, practically intact sitting in the midst of this catastrophe, so intact it seemed to still contain the soul of its owner.

The only similar silence I had ever witnessed before was during my visit to Auschwitz ( I lost eight relatives in the holocaust). In yesterday’s holocaust I only lost a dear friend and lawyer (and his staff) who sat on the 56th floor of the North Tower.

I walked around the area which was built on landfill, what is called the World Financial Center where a few friends of mine live and it was all rubble. All a huge pile of rubble.

I returned home to Williamsburg on foot, same as I had gone. Stopped at the Read Café on Bedford Avenue. There was no music – there always used to be – and nobody said a word.

The espresso tasted a lot more bitter and the return home, a lot more sad.

Soon I was to leave for Brazil in order to start a new series of plays at SESC Copacabana. But I lack the courage to leave. There is a weird sense of patriotism and civic duty that seem to keep me here.

And, on the day after, this seems yet even more determined, clearer to me, somehow.

“Message without a bottle”

Of course, within a tragedy, there’s always an aspect of playfulness. For a few hours now, I began to notice a strange and huge group of people in front of my building. Hoards of them, running toward the East River, right to embankment. Obviously I thought of the worst. Obviously I imagined that they knew something I didn’t know and that another attack was imminent.

Thankfully that wasn’t so. People were running because an enormous quantity of bottles and debris (which I believe must have been from the destroyed WTC), floated toward us in Brooklyn.

I went down the stairs to check. Yes, there were hundreds of pieces of this and that, parts of chairs and other furniture parts of burned carpets and tons of papers.

People were collecting those things from the river – almost as they had when the Berlin Wall came down.

All that sad historical trash being picked up as if to be safeguarded and remembered, just like with any war memorabilia, small reminders of an unforgettable day.

Surely, some day, this ‘trash’ will be displayed on a mantelpiece or a wall and be given the greatest of honors. It will be sitting next to family portraits and sports trophies only to remind us that we humans are made of longing, missing and some such sentiments.

GERALD THOMAS is a playwright and theater director
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Me walking home after a night's work

Me walking home after a night’s work

my uniform

my uniform

Talking to Fire Fighters

Talking to Fire Fighters

9/11 (11 de setembro) in honor of those victims who died on that day and the little in us which died as well: Column written for Folha de S Paulo on Sep 12th, published on the 13th:

FOLHA DE SAO PAULO – 13 de Setembro de 2001

GERALD THOMAS

ESPECIAL PARA A FOLHA, EM NOVA YORK

ARTIGO
“The Day After”
Às 5h, sem conseguir dormir e tomado pelo assunto que dominou meu dia e fez da minha janela o espetáculo mais horrendo que já vi, não resisti e resolvi atravessar a ponte a pé.
Tinham fechado as pontes, os túneis e os metrôs. Todos os acessos a Manhattan estavam bloqueados. Enquanto atravessava a ponte de Williamsburg a pé, não parava de olhar para o meu lado esquerdo, onde, um dia antes, ainda estavam as torres do WTC.

Quanto mais perto, mais o cheiro se tornava insuportável. Desci pela Delancey e fui contornando pelo Bowery e Chinatown, Park Row, sabendo que o policiamento mais ostensivo estava na Broadway e na Church Street.
Finalmente cheguei ao local. Acho que o impacto foi ainda maior. Mais uma vez, nenhuma palavra traduz aquilo. Eram centenas (talvez milhares) de “rescue workers” trabalhando sob luzes brancas de geradores. O lugar parecia nevado de cinza.

Só quando cheguei percebi a dimensão real da coisa. A horrenda proporção que eu não havia visto da minha janela durante o dia, nem mesmo durante a transmissão da TV. Downtown Manhattan é um enorme escombro.
Tudo em volta do que era o WTC foi lambido, destruído ou semidestruído junto. Eu contei umas 14 torres derretidas e carros desfigurados em posições que nem o mais conceitual dos artistas conceituais conseguiria criar.
Sentei na calçada empoeirada. Cobri a minha cara por causa da poeira e das cinzas e do fedor de morte e fiquei, aos prantos, catando alguns papéis que voavam.

Li trechos de cartas pessoais, arquivos de empresas, encontrei relógios, carteiras, pedaços de escritório. Mas o que mais me impressionou foi uma mesa praticamente intacta. Ela parecia ainda conter a alma de quem a usava.
Só me lembro de uma calma e um silêncio iguais quando visitei o campo de concentração de Auschwitz. No Holocausto, perdi oito parentes. No de ontem (até onde sei), perdi meu advogado e toda a sua equipe, cujo escritório ficava no 56º andar da torre 1.

Andei pela região que hoje é chamada de World Financial Center, onde moram vários amigos, mas tudo tinha se transformado em escombro. Voltei a pé e cheguei de Williamsburg por volta das 8h. Tomei um café da manhã no Read Cafe. Não havia música ali (sempre há) e ninguém falava. O café estava mais amargo, e a volta para casa, mais triste.

Em breve voltaria ao Brasil, para iniciar um novo semestre de trabalhos no Sesc do Rio. Mas não tenho coragem de deixar isso para trás. Algum senso estranho de patriotismo e de dever cívico parece me manter aqui. No dia seguinte, isso parece ainda mais nítido e macabro do que enquanto o evento acontecia.

“Message without a bottle”
Dentro da tragédia existe sempre um lado lúdico. Há algumas horas, comecei a notar um movimento estranho em frente à minha casa. Pessoas corriam em direção ao rio. Pensei no pior, talvez outro ataque ou coisa semelhante.

Nada disso. As pessoas estavam correndo porque começaram a aparecer, flutuando na margem do rio, destroços que eu suponho sejam do impacto da explosão do segundo avião contra o WTC.

Desci e fui checar. De fato, eram milhares de pedacinhos de madeira, restos de mesas, móveis, plástico de computador, carpetes incinerados, papéis e mais papéis.

A população catava esses pedaços de triste lixo histórico como se fossem pequenas lembranças e lembretes de um episódio inesquecível. Certamente esse “lixo” será exposto com orgulho do lado dos retratos e dos troféus que servem para nos lembrar o quanto somos feitos de saudades.

GERALD THOMAS é autor e diretor teatral.

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