I created a map of my personal memory of 9/11. Five main markers tell the story of the day. The map is a block of wood, one of 220 identical blocks, representing the floors of the two towers. The map’s legend articulates the markers, their connection, the memory of the day, and the meaning made, then, and now.
There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of God; but God was not in the wind. After the wind—an earthquake; but God was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake—fire; but God was not in the fire. And after the fire—a still, small voice.
(Kings I Chapter 19)
1. I watch the 1st tower go down from my office window on the 11th floor. I think of a mastectomy. Confusion. Orders on the PA system to evacuate the building. I run down the stairs.
Location: 14th street and 8th avenue
2. I try calling P. but the cell phone doesn’t work and neither do the pay-phones. People are running in all directions in the middle of 14th Street. I run home, worried. Where is P.? Did he go downtown today? We parted ways only an hour or so earlier and the sky was so blue. Panic. Tears.
Location: 14th street and 6th avenue
3. A crowd gathered on the corner of 10th Street and 5th Avenue – all heads turned south. I stand there with them, looking, silent, when the 2nd Tower topples. Shrieks. But louder: Still Small Voice. People start running up the avenue, covered with ashes. I know that this is Kali’s work. The Hindu Goddess of Destruction, dear to me, whose worshippers smear the ashes of pyres on their entire bodies in awe of the power of demise. This, I know, and am terribly calmed, is a creation of Divine proportions. God is here. Still Small Voice.
Location: 10th Street and 5th Avenue
4. It’s 5pm, P. and I, and B. who ran to our house in her socks from her Tribeca apartment and a few other friends head out to Ground Zero to try and help. It starts to rain. They tell us to leave, they can’t search for survivors. Rage and helplessness. I scream at the heavens – why the rain? But I remember Kali and know that the rain is as right as ravage and the voice, still, small, is silent within. In Union Square the first ‘missing’ posters go up.
Location: Union Square
5. One year later, I sit in the back of a cab and we drive downtown and I notice the new Taxi map and the grey twins are gone and the map is different. The map is the city. But the city is not the map.
Location: here, now.
originally exhibited in Tobi Kahn’s Embodied Light