From the Front Lines
by Two Gun Mathilda

Two Gun Mathilda's personal statement regarding Tuesday's horrific events:

Thursday, 9/13/01

The feeling in the city is chilling. It's very emotional here - most of us are trying to keep it together, although wavering on the thin line between sanity and lunacy. America has lost her innocence. I've never experienced a scene like this. I know that this is traumatic for the entire world, but living in New York City sheds a very different light on this disaster. Last night I went to the candlelight vigil being held at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade near my house. It was devastating to see; photographs lining the gates looking onto the East River - praying for information on these now faceless names, flowers everywhere... People mourning, wearing signs of their lost loved ones around their necks. In my experience, "Missing" signs have always been reserved for pets. It's unsettling to see people's faces on the signs that read like a personal ad. "Missing: XXXXX, last seen on the 69th floor of the World Trade Center. Medium build, 165 lbs, dark birthmark on his arm, wearing a platinum wedding ring. Amazing spirit and real survivor attitude." Yesterday, as I was walking through the streets of Lower Manhattan near my friend's apartment, I saw hundreds of these signs on street poles. Also people everywhere wearing painter's masks.... the smell here and the still very vivid debris in the air is alarming. It's the smell of death. The closest parallel that I can make is that it must be the same smell that was so potent in the crematoriums of the concentration camps. And to add a bit of perspective to that - WWII exterminated 6 MILLION innocent Jews. I think it's amazing that people can still have so much faith - for me, I'm more of an atheist than I ever was. This is far too difficult for me to justify. It's too tangible and sincere of a setting to grasp onto any kind of blind faith. It is completely unsupportive for me, with the backdrop of something so vivid and real, to watch our country's leader do just that. The ONLY way for him to get through this is via his faith in god. Although I completely support most of my friends who are able to do that - more power to them - I have a fundamental problem being led by someone with such beliefs. He is supposed to be our pillar of support. Thank goodness for Rudolph Guliani. Contrary to my usual beliefs, he's been amazing through all of this.

Subsequently, there are those here upset for other more questionable reasons. As one of my friend's co-workers at HBO so eloquently mentioned to a few people yesterday, "This wouldn't have happened if the Jews gave back the land to Palestine." Had my friend heard it face to face, she would have decked the living shit out of that despicable waste of a brain. In Jackson Heights, Queens, where my friend Victoria lives, there was looting and rioting in the streets. Her neighborhood is predominantly Arab, and people are showing their anger and disgust. It's better now apparently, but only because there are cops lining the streets. My friend Paul also just told me that many of the bomb threats that were called in yesterday were traced back to a young woman, who will obviously be prosecuted now. And there were some telemarketers taking advantage of the situation...calling for people to "donate money for the relief fund," only the money was being pocketed by them. Also, people are dressing up as firefighters and looting the stores near the crash site. Who is so inhuman that they must concoct disrespectful rumors in a time like this? For anyone who has heard the rumor that Whitney Houston died of a drug overdose - please know that this is false. She is offended that this rumor was ever invented - and thinks it is extremely inappropriate. Recently, both Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson issued a statement explaining their take on the tragedy. Both men have blamed the terrorism on feminists, gays and abortionists.  That Tuesday was God's punishment for them.  Apparently Good ŒOle Jer took issue, particularly with the ACLU. An ACLU spokesperson refused to honor Falwell with a response. Although I am a pacifist - and think that more violence is not the solution, I would have no problem instilling Chinese water torture techniques on both Jerry and Pat.

Everyone's perspective has now changed. We're simply thankful to be alive here - thankful to have made it home last night. We've been pushed to the extreme - and it still won't stop. Yesterday there were over 90 bomb threats in NYC. And what the media is not telling you is that it wasn't simply Grand Central, Penn Station and CNN that were evacuated. Yesterday I was Instant Messaging two friends, giving them updates on which buildings were being evacuated. "Now it's Grand Central, oh wait - The Conde Naste building too - oh wait, Viacom is out..." We were discussing how terrifying it must be to have to run out of your building due to a bomb threat. Then, all of a sudden my boss came by and told us not to flip out, but "get the hell outta downstairs, the building's being evacuated." Although most of these were hoaxes - after such a harrowing turn of events on Tuesday, who knows? I had to run out of the building, and then realized that there was nowhere to go. Every subway below 42nd st (I work up on 50th) had stopped running due to the vibrations underground so close to the crash site. I ended up running up to Central Park with my boss and coworker...we felt that we would be safest there. She bought us some beer and a short wave radio. I wasn't sure if I may have to walk home to Brooklyn again, like I did on Tuesday. This is never-ending. On Wed I went over to my friend's house in Park Slope Brooklyn and her street had been evacuated because they found a bomb on her street. The bomb squad came and did their thing. This of course is in the same neighborhood where 2 years ago, the police captured some fundamentalist Muslim men who had made bombs in their apartment - meant for suicide bombings on the subway. My friend Sara called home yesterday and her boyfriend told her that a house next door (in Westport, CT) was surrounded by the police, complete with guns...pointed and ready. They were waiting for the FBI. Later, a huge van came and the FBI kept going back and forth between the house and the van. They wouldn't tell my friends what was going on.

The repercussions of something like this will be immeasurable - not just for all the families and business directly affected by the disaster. My friend just lost his job the other day - all of his company¹s venture capitalist backers were in the WTC. He works uptown - and came to the office on Wed to find out he had to pack up his belongings. My friends work at an Internet firm - there are close to 20 people working off of one 56K modem right now...and the lines are iffy as it is. Their ISP and other Internet-related business were in the WTC.... They don't know what will happen to their firm in the coming weeks.

Is Tuesday's disaster not enough?! The feeling of trying to account for all your friends who work in Lower Manhattan - and anywhere in the city for that matter, to make sure they're still alive is very unnerving. Who has the coping mechanisms to deal with something like this - everywhere...obviously not only near the crash sites. Many of us watched "Faces of Death" (the movies..) come to life. And all of us watched it on the news. Who has the frame of reference to accept that those are real people, working people, friends, loved ones...jumping out of buildings - diving head first into the destruction?

Despite the city's atmosphere of terror, confusion, sorrow and mourning, I have never been happier to be a New Yorker (I think we're allowed to call ourselves that - no longer just a "tourist" - after just two years.) The way that we've banded together is amazing. The rescue workers are such heroes. They're both physically and emotionally exhausted -and they're seeing things that they could never imagine to see in their worst nightmares. (I apologize for the cliché). There are stories of finding nothing but heads and other body parts. Yesterday I saw a hold up in an intersection outside of Cabrini Medical Center. Cars behind this van were honking and honking. There was a man behind the wheel of the van - we couldn't tell if he was awake or had had a heart attack. Finally he awoke - and started driving immediately...and he was in a van that said "Emergency Medical Van" on it. This is just so's surrounding us.

I'm terrified because I just know that when we start reading names of people who we lost in this catastrophe, we're all going to be directly affected. Especially those of us who went to college nearby. I knew many people who worked in finance down there - and although I have luckily accounted for most, who knows? My friend's stepmother was in a meeting at Windows on the World - the 106th floor.... They have not heard from her. My dear friend's brother is nowhere to be found...he was working high up. My friend's cousin was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Two of my coworkers lost siblings in the WTC. This hits way too close to home. This is madness.

I'm at work - and I'm one of maybe 3 people here. I thought coming here would give me some semblance of normalcy, but after talking to my boss who's not even coming in, I think I shall leave. It's sort of scary being here alone...I don't know who would tell us if we had to evacuate the building, considering they don't even know we're here. I guess I'll just keep looking out the window. I'm sure we're fine though.

Please take care and be safe, Two Gun Mathilda

Wednesday, 9/12/01

We just walked over to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.... and this is what we saw. As of 6am this's still burning. I just heard on the news that they just put out the fires. But this is a nightmare. In the second picture - that of Lady Liberty with smoke surrounding her - you'll notice a navy boat just below. I was speaking to one of the police officers, who says that those boats going back and forth are simply caring dead bodies over to the morgue in New Jersey. Back and forth, back and forth. There were tons of them. When the morgue in New Jersey fills up, they'll start bringing bodies to the morgue in Brooklyn.

They're playing, "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free" on the radio right now. Please...have some human decency...


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