Friday August 22nd, 2003

I would have thought that a plane flying into a large building would be like an egg thrown at a wall. It hits, the shell cracks and the contents run down the wall. But on that morning the planes disappeared into the buildings, they left holes more like bullets than eggs. Speed is what made the difference.      

Time changes all things.  It is the constant, the great eraser and the void.  

Memory changes with time, and now, nearly two years after that late summer morning when planes smashed into the two tall, faceless towers, people think about what happened on 9/11 differently – we cannot help it. We are here now, looking back, not there, then, looking out. At least until today, August 22nd, 2003, the world has not ended. Manhattan remains a vital and important place; people from all around the globe arrive in significant numbers. Buying and renting apartments has continued to increase since a very short time after the 11th. Buildings are being built all over the city, especially downtown. Terrorism is alive and well. Our two great individual enemies of the last two years are also more or less alive and well – or at least they remain beyond our reach. The airline industry and some others have not recovered. But the economy, which was not strong on Monday September 10th, is not worse today.

At the same time that nothing has fallen apart in ways we might have imagined on that day, we are repeatedly cued by the government to remember that we are not safe, that we should expect another “September 11th style” terrorist attack. Where, when, and what it will be is left up to our imaginations.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I stopped work on a book about walking around the edge of Manhattan Island. The self-styled text called Perimeter is about exploring and navigating the absolute edge of the island; it records the line where land meets water at a specific moment in time. One week later, on Tuesday, September 18th, I started to record bits of what was going on around me then – all things related to those two planes, those two towers.   

As time moved on – as time does, I kept recording; not every day, but often. Noticing and writing about the ongoing effects of that day was compelling. With no plan, I kept track of unfolding stories that began so suddenly on that Tuesday morning in September 2001.

By the spring of 2002, I was trying harder than ever to stop the slow expansion of the text. At certain points, I thought I had reached the end. But it kept going. I couldn’t help it. Just as I didn’t take a photograph in the first few months, I wrote nothing for the first week after September 11th.   “Live writing” began on September 18th, 2001.  

by James Boorstein  © Copyright 2016