A Personal Memory of 9/11

Seidenberg professor Anthony J. Pupello shares his poetic account of his experience as a New Yorker during the attacks of 9/11. The piece, written in the haibun style, was composed in December 2001 and published by RawNerVZ, a cutting-edge journal for modern American haiku.

Anthony J. Pupello

We grew up on lower Manhattan. To us, the city was not a destination, not a Camelot of glittering lights nor a Babel of cold granite indifference. It was, simply, home. It was where we lived and worked and played.

But when the towers first went up, we were just like tourists–the naive invaders we alternately despised and pitied, as they gawked about this building or that neighborhood or this restaurant, all things we took for granted–in our own homes. Nothing was as tall as these buildings. Nothing. And the closer you got, the more you had to crane your neck to see the tops. It was like nothing any of us had ever experienced before. Like the most dumbstruck tourist, we were utterly in awe of what stood before us. And, almost thirty years later, standing beside the towers and tilting your head back as far as it would go just to see their tops, was still a kick. Just like the first time.

Back then we would marvel at their height, at their sheer physical presence. Kids, we would speculate in our comic book mentalities, “If they ever fell, which way would they fall? And how far? How far? Man, if they ever fell, they’d just reach out and touch the rivers in three directions. And get pretty far uptown in the fourth.”

On September 11 when the first World Trade Center tower fell, some of us didn’t know it was the tower collapsing. On a beautifully crisp day in the middle of early fall–truly a “picture-perfect” day, in fact–a day of unreal happenings and unimagined horror, some of us close by thought yet another epithet was being hurled our way–we thought a bomb had just gone off. And as the dense wall of Armageddon filled the narrow downtown streets, the dense wall of terror we later learned was smoke, debris and human ash, we ran. We ran as fast as any of us could towards the open river.

Thousands of lives were lost that day.

As horrible as the day was, I can only think how much worse it would have been if the towers had toppled over. If, on a day of the unreal becoming real, adolescent musings also became real. And I thank the creators, whoever designed these buildings, that they did not topple. As the men and women who risked their lives rushing in to save others when terror struck, the towers stood tall after they were hit, they stood firm. And when it came their time, they bowed out gracefully.

road-runner cartoon

that trailing cloud of smoke

so harmless

Remembering 9/11

Pace commemorates the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks with a series of thought-provoking and touching events.

The events of 9/11 have had a profound effect on a generation of people around the world, but our University, located mere blocks away from the World Trade Center, felt the impact first-hand. Almost 10 years ago, the Pace Community lost 47 members—students and alumni alike—and was closed for several weeks as we worked toward recovery.

“The attack on the World Trade Center had a dramatic impact on the lives of the faculty, students, and staff of Pace. It’s important that during this anniversary we honor the lives of those we lost that day, but also recognize the critical role Pace has had in the rebuilding and revitalization of downtown Manhattan. I think the events we have planned do exactly that,” says Tom Torello, vice president of University Relations. As the 10-year anniversary approaches, Pace has a number of events lined up to commemorate those lost, and those who rebuilt.

Beginning on Thursday, September 8, through a partnership with the National Press Photographers Association, Pace hosts “Witness to Tragedy and Recovery,” an exhibit of haunting photographs from the 9/11 tragedy and a symposium on how news images of disaster are shaped—and shape us—featuring keynote speaker Aaron Brown, former CNN news anchor, and moderator Michelle Charlesworth, WABC-TV reporter and anchor, who both covered the events that day. “We are balancing it [disaster] with recovery,” explains Christopher T. Cory, executive director of Public Information for Pace. “Once the building has fallen, once the flood has receded, recovery is a big part of the story.”

On Friday, September 9 starting at 4:00 p.m., the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences’ Center for Ethical Thinking  will host a symposium dedicated to rethinking the significance and the impact of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and spearheaded by Pace professor of philosophy Ilan Safit, PhD. “The speakers at the symposium will be exploring a variety of issues that range from personal response to the philosophical significance of an event that was local and immediate, yet instantly turned international, mediated, and represented,” says Safit. “The tenth anniversary of this event provides an apt opportunity to think further about these effects and to share these thoughts with the New Yorkers who live here, where it happened.”

On Saturday, September 10 at 1:00 p.m.  Pace comes together for a memorial service and performance by the New York Choral Society. The service will commemorate the 45 Pace students and alumni lost on 9/11. And on Sunday, September 11, the Schimmel Theatre will be open to Pace faculty, staff, and students who wish to watch the broadcast of the memorial events with others from their community. And on Monday, September 12, at 5:00 p.m., Pace will hold an event for the 9/11 Oral History Project–more than 90 interviews with members of the community who witnessed the 9/11 tragedy conducted, recorded, and transcribed by Pace students.

For more information on these and other events observing the 10-year anniversary of the events of 9/11, please visit www.pace.edu/paceremembers911.

The InsideTrack Rolls Out the Red Carpet

InsideTrack returns as President Stephen J. Friedman talks with visionary filmmaker Jim Whitaker to preview his new film Rebirth. Join us as we follow the story of five people whose lives were changed forever by 9/11.

On Tuesday, July 19, “InsideTrack with Stephen J. Friedman” returns to the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts on Pace’s New York City Campus. The evening kicks-off with a preview screening of the new documentary, Rebirth, a feature-length film that combines time-lapse photography of the World Trade Center Site with the intimate stories of five people coping with grief post-9/11. Filming has taken place for the past nine years, with 14 cameras in and around the site recording a frame of film every five minutes, 24 hours a day. The documentary, which the filmmakers describe as an “experience and a unique historical record and resource: a living testament to honor 9/11, and its victims and heroes,” makes its debut in theaters this August and will premiere on Showtime on the 10th commemoration of the events of 9/11.

After the screening, President Friedman will be joined by special guest Jim Whitaker, founder and director of Rebirth, to discuss the making of the film. Whitaker is the chairman of Whitaker Entertainment, which is based at Walt Disney Pictures. He began his career at Imagine Entertainment as an intern and ultimately rose to the position of President of Motion Picture Production in 2004. He has executive produced such films as Changeling, American Gangster, Cinderella Man, Friday Night Lights, 8 Mile, and Curious George. Whitaker is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute and received a Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Pace University at Commencement this past May.

InsideTrack with President Stephen J. Friedman brings renowned thought leaders and policymakers to Pace University for captivating discussions on topics that affect us all. For more information, please visit www.pace.edu/rebirth.