Amy Tan at Ground Zero
Tan, the novelist, was in New York City when all Hell broke loose
on September 11. She had been in town, along with her husband, Lou
DeMattei, and their two omnipresent Yorkies, to
help promote Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat, the PBS animated
series based on her children's book.
As with the rest
of the world, she was in for a shock. Hours after the destruction
of the World Trade Center, Amy, back in her loft in the SoHo neighborhood,
a short distance from lower Manhattan, wrote about what happened in
an e-mail to a number of friends, among them AsianConnection's Ben
smoke where we used to see the World Trade Center towers," she reported.
was at the CNN building at Penn Plaza, scheduled to go on air…Suddenly,
the newsroom erupted into chaos. That's when the plane hit the first
tower. The news was on a dozen monitors in front of me and the actual
news producers and assignment people around me were screaming who
to dispatch, where, how.
shouts and screams: The other tower was hit, then the Pentagon.
After an hour, we left the building and went downtown toward the
melee. That's when the second tower fell down. It was surreal, like
a science fiction movie, people wandering by coated with building
dust from head to toe, a dozen ambulances blaring by, expressionless
faces, people crying, people running, mothers hugging children,
others talking happily on the phone to say they are okay.
"The streets along 6th and 7th Aves are lined with people staring
downtown. No one knows what to do. We are just sitting here, safe,
sound, but shaken like everyone else. "Take care, everyone."
"Pray for our world."
next day, with all telephone circuits to New York City jammed, Amy
went online again. "The winds have shifted and the smoke from the
fire have wafted into SoHo, bringing the reality of this tragedy
closer to us," she reported.
a dusty, choking cloud. We are basically marooned, 15 blocks north
of the disaster, 20 blocks south of the blockade. Police stand guard
behind barricades ?and don't let anyone into SoHo but residents
with proof. And even with proof, the police, who seem on edge and
are exhausted, are not keen on letting anyone come into the area.
the dogs, and I went for a walk a short while ago to see if we could
find a pharmacy to buy face masks. No such luck. At the Houston
St. barricade we were told to get off Broadway because of a bomb
scare, and then we had a difficult time trying to return to our
has become a ghost town without traffic, and by order of the city,
businesses are closed, except for a few grocery stores ?People
wander the neighborhood, their faces covered with towels and scarves.
There are many dogs in tow, the one good excuse to go out, and the
doggies all seem to enjoy this free-form jaunt in trafficless streets.
One woman said that seeing (them) made her smile and was the highlight
of her day. "We're fine, just sad and nervous like everyone else."
the 17th, Amy, Lou and their pets were back home in San Francisco,
and, good humor returning, wrote Ben: "We got through security without
a hitch! Wait a minute…is that good?" But, she noted, "New York
is a very sad place. There's a strong camraderie, but everyone I
know feels completely enervated, unable to work, or make day-to-day
NY is so full of life. You can't quash it. At night there was music
and chanting in Union Square, thousands of candles, masses of garlands
like parade floats, homemade memorials, poetry dedicated to the
dead and to peace, instant art installations honoring the dead,
the saddest being the flyers of all the people referred to as missing.
were young," old, of all ethnicities, newly married, illegal
immigrants who many feared would not even be counted in the toll,
all specifically beloved. The flyers begged them to call or come
home, as if they were people suddenly struck by Alzheimer's or amnesia,
and had simply forgotten that their family and friends might be
worried over their absence.
"We would read the smallest details of what they wore that
day and burst into tears. By far, most of the political messages
posted at Union Square were an appeal for a non-violent means of
ending terrorism. Then again, Union Square is close to NYU, and
I wondered what the sentiments were in other parts of the country.
am relieved to be in San Francisco, yet guilty not to still be in
New York among the mourners."
AsianConnections thanks its very own Ben
Fong-Torres, author and former senior editor of Rolling Stone
Magazine, and novelist Amy Tan for sharing their personal correspondence
during the terrorist attacks. - AC Team
AC Team articles:
Tan at Ground Zero
in My Heart by Ben Fong-Torres
Anthony Hopkins ("Hearts in Atlantis") one of the
first movies released since Sept. 11.
Coming Soon! Photos
of NY by photographer/actress Lia Chang