After 9/11, a return to normalcy — almost



Sept. 14 — On Friday I took my two cats and some books and left New York for our house in the country. More than anything else I wanted to be away from the stress and the noise and to be in the one spot on earth that is most profoundly home to me. And yet, when the train left 125th Street in Harlem and crossed the bridge to the Bronx and upstate New York, I felt deep sadness, as if I was abandoning a much beloved and wounded animal — I love this city like no other.

Once I was home in our old house I took a long nap in the living room.  Cornspike, one of the country cats who never come to the City, slept on my belly. I dreamed that afternoon a telling dream: 

I was in a small, closed space without windows. Outside something fearful was threatening me and I felt that I had to wake up, open my eyes, get moving, do something, but I couldn’t. All I wanted to do was keep my eyes closed, curl up and hide from the danger outside.   

When the phone rang, I woke up and opened my eyes. Cornspike was still asleep on my belly and the late afternoon sun was streaming in through the window of our old house, covering me and my cat in its peaceful warmth. 


Sept. 15 — On Sunday, I went back to New York City early.  Jon had been able to get a seat on a plane leaving Barcelona, in Northern Spain — he had been in Holland for the last two days with my family — and I wanted to be home when he arrived back.

Curiously, New York seemed quite ordinary when I arrived at Grand Central Station at noon. Tourists were staring at its gorgeous ceiling and commuters were hurrying to their trains. In the cab ride downtown we passed the Armory on 26th Street and Lexington Avenue, where the city had located an information and counseling center for the families who were trying to locate relatives who had worked at the World Trade Center and were still missing. 

Outside, on the walls of the Armory and other buildings next to it, the families and friends of missing persons had attached small home-made posters with photographs of the missing, the many people who worked at the World Trade Center and had not been heard from. 

The thousands of photos of the missing are heartbreaking — they are of young women, fathers with their children, couples on their wedding day, grandfathers, young people, middle-aged women, all smiling or looking serenely out.  

The pictures do what nothing else can do — they show the calamity of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in its enormity — they show the many ordinary people who used to work there and who were all gone. The pictures are of ordinary people with names such as: Victor, Ahmed, John, Mary, Indira, Noelle, names from the farthest corners of the earth, names of missing Americans.


Sia Arnason has a master’s degree in geriatric social work. She was employed as co-director of the Institute on Law and Rights of Older Adults at the Brookdale Center on Aging of Hunter College, working at the Grace Building on 42nd street, at the time of 9/11. She wrote about that event a day or two after it happened, for her family in the Netherlands. She came across the essay while cleaning out her files earlier this year, and offered to share it with The Millerton News.