9/11

A few days after the planes hit the towers, I was included in a group of volunteers escorted to ground zero. A friend of mine was friends with a young woman who was an Anglican priest. She had a posh parish on the Upper East Side, and 9/11 gave her something grittier to engage with. She was English and beautiful and able to be earnest and witty at the same time because of the accent and being English. She had special access because she was delivering last rites over bodies and remains that were found. She wore a white vestment when she said the last words, looking down at dusty rubble and wreckage. We were taken to Trinity Church and from there to Bouley Bakery to prepare meals for the workers at the site. I had never been to Bouley Bakery, but I knew how to work in a professional kitchen. I remember a long stainless steel table where strudel dough was extruded from a machine. We were not making strudel. We worked all night until the sun came up. I was able to return to make food on other days. My friend who knew the Anglican priest was a journalist. We weren’t tired at the end of the long shift. We were a little giddy and wobbly. For a while we stood outside the fenced area of devastation and looked at it changing colors in the reddish glow of the rising sun. Workers in hard hats moved around. There were vans from the Red Cross in the streets, dispensing the kinds of provisions we had helped prepare. A certain kind of comraderie forms around disasters, and all of New York City was like that for a while. I loved my friend especially that night, and the feeling of our time together there and then has remained.

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