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Guest Writer

Dispatch from the front ...
Going through the motions of living
by Sheila Chriss

his beautiful city is no longer so beautiful.

Though I try not to think of it, that is impossible because I can smell it most days when I walk out the door – a rancid smell of electrical/rubber burning. Gives me a headache and a heartache.

I had five customers right in the two towers and most escaped without problem, except Cantor Fitzgerald. They had dining on 101,104 and 105. Windows on the World was at the top at 107.

The whole top of the WTC1 went up in a ball of fire when the first plane hit and ALL Cantor staff were incinerated. I look at the names in my file and remember telling them what an astonishing view they had from their windows ... it was so beautiful.


Funny, because my last job was completely out of the city. I never had reason to go downtown. But the gig at Starbucks took me all around – I "had" 22 accounts in what they now call "the affected area around ground zero."

It has devastated the Wall Street area, with chain link fence, bulldozers, trucks being sprayed off by people in full body suits and gas masks upon leaving "the site." They tell us that the air is within acceptable levels yet here is this guy spraying down the vehicles.

Can you imagine your "neighborhood" full of armed guards in camouflage with rifles on their shoulders asking for ID and your reason for being on the street? It is a surreal existence.

Three friends decided to come visit and show support. It was the first time I could bring myself to go look. We were all dizzy and nauseated after viewing from north and east. They did not want to finish circling and just wanted to get the hell out of there. Must be nice to have that option.

The sides of the buildings are covered with a strange tan dust. Stores have blown-out windows with inches of this tan dust of concrete, paper, offices and people. The city has flags everywhere; more flags than I have ever seen on 4th of July in the 13 years I have lived here.

How could this happen to America? We all lived with such an ignorant false sense of infallibility, totally insulated from the unrest outside our perfect homeland. What a wake-up call! We are so vulnerable!

A friend describes it in terms of virginity. Once penetrated, we will never be the same EVER. Even if we get every one of the mysterious terrorists running rampant in the world, we will never have the delusion of safety again. Kind of sad, really.

Joel is handling this much worse than I. He ran to the roof of our 35-floor apartment building – less than a mile from "ground zero" – and watched the second plane fly south down the Hudson river, then make a big loop at the bottom of the island so it could strategically strike the northeast side of the WTC2.

He and some neighbors watched and counted the people jumping from the towers, which collapsed 20 minutes later into mushroom clouds of that strange tan dust.


Joel is sure it will happen again and I can't really convince him otherwise with the daily news we receive from the talking heads. God bless and protect us.

I am a survivalist and pretty good at compartmentalizing things. The fact that I did not see it helps. But selling coffee in the "affected area" and getting dizzy seems so ridiculous to me.

We contemplate leaving, but where to go? Portland?

So we go through the motions of living each day. It was so much easier to ignore when an embassy in some foreign country was attacked, or a ship in Yemen.

How is life? Landed a dream job yet? Does a dream job exist for any of us? Is a job what we should be striving to find? What is really important anyway?

My answer: the few people who we allow inside.

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