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Lee Renaldo über den 11. September

Text: Philippe Robert | 17.09.2001
Lee Renaldo von Sonic Youth wohnt ebenso wie andere Bandmitglieder in unmittelbarer Nähe des WTC. In einem Interview vom 14. September schilderte er seine Eindrücke.

»It was one hell of a day, absolutely unfathomable - horrible, terrifying, unbelievable. I'm happy to say we are all safe and sound/evacuated during the afternoon hours, by which time it was an ash-covered ghost town down there. Surreal. Everyone is safe, all the band, all the children, etc...
Here's my personal account :

I was playing with my 2 year old son Sage, preparing him to go outside to day care school when the sound of the first plane and collision came across. We live about 5 blocks from the World Trade Centre towers, so VERY close. There are always loud, crazy noises out the window, this being NYC, but this sounded different. I went to the windows to look -our windows do not face the WTC. People on the street were looking up into the skies, puzzled looks on their faces, pointing up, but I got the sense noone really knew what had happened, they'd just heard the sound and maybe saw a low flying plane.
A call on the phone alerted me to turn on the television, where we saw those first incredible images. As strange as it may seem, it was still not an overwhelming concern at that point. The news casters were skirting the word »terrorist« and talking about the possibility of a plane having gone off course -there are so many planes in the airspace around here, especially up and down the Hudson River where the WTC was. Always insane stuff happening in New York...

We kept the TV on but went about beginning our day -I hopped into the shower. Suddenly Leah was screaming at me to get out, another plane had hit. She was briefly hysterical as by now it was clear what was going on. We live so close to the actual site, yet mostly we witnessed this tragedy unfold over the television like so many others. Unfathomable pictures coming through.
At this point it still seemed like a problem mainly localised in the upper floors of the WTC. I left our apartment and went up the elevator to our rooftop to take an actual look. As I rounded the corner on our roof I could see a handful of people looking at the smouldering towers, and gazing up I could see them for myself. It didn't look real, it was too massive an anomaly to fathom, that this could happen. The great smouldering gash in the north tower loomed immediately overhead. Within seconds of their coming into my view, an unbelievable loud noise began, like nothing I'd heard before. I thought more planes were coming, and fearing for Leah and the children 8 floors below I ran in terror off the rooftop and down the stairwell to our apartment, arriving there in time to see the first tower crumbling on the television screen.

Within a minute or so the clouds of debris and soot and dust enveloped our windows, and the skies were blotted out. The house was shaking. I ran around closing windows but the acrid smell had already seeped into the loft. For the next hour or so we huddled around a television in our back bedroom, where the air was clean. People were running in the halls, talking of evacuation.
Some short time after the first tower went down people were knocking on our door saying we should evacuate the building, and friends across the street were telling us on the phone that they too were gathering their children and leaving. We didn't know what to do but my feeling at that time was that we should stay put. As it turns out, a good decision. Shortly after friends and neighbours evacuated out into the streets, the other tower came down. The televised images of these towers crumbling, and the planes ramming them, are still unbelievable, no matter how many times they are replayed.
Everyone on the street was enveloped in a noxious cloud of further debris. This time it was even more severe, and the sky our windows turned as black as night for some minutes. Thankfully we had stayed inside!
The ground out the windows was now covered with a layer of soot and ash, like Pompeii. People and emergency vehicles were rushing in every direction. We stayed huddled in our back room as neighbors filtered by to check on us, on their way out of the building, and out of the area. When we finally left, around 3 p.m., having gathered the powerbook and some few clothes and supplies, I believe we were nearly the last out of the building. The scene on the street was astounding. People covered in ash, people in white masks, or with towels over their faces, were walking silently northward, in a daze. A group of cameramen took pictures and video of us as we made our way up Broadway, new baby Frey in Leah's arms, Sage w bandana on face sleeping a child's peaceful sleep in the stroller I pushed. We felt like refugees -in New York City! And we were. Behind us huge plumes of smoke and debris filled the skies overhead, the winds moving them off towards Brooklyn, across the East River. The sight of the smoke and debris, was one of the most eerie of the whole day, without even being able to see the carnage itself.

We made our way to Kim & Thurston's apartment on Houston Street, where Kim and Jim O'Rourke were (luckily Thurston and their daughter Coco were in Massachussetts, far away), and spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening huddled around the TV news. Finally around 9pm, feeling that we had to escape, I went out onto the streets to fetch my car from it's garage. The steets were empty of most cars, eerie, police blockades everywhere, small groups of people wandering in near-silence. In the night sky looking south there was still a massive illuminated cloud of dust and smoke rising.
Few cars were on the highway as we crossed the 59th Street Bridge. There was talk of explosives found under the George Washington Bridge and I was aware of that fact driving out of the city, and chose the bridge over the Midtown Tunnel as a safer route out.

The next evening, 40 miles or so from Manhattan at my mother's house, the acrid smell of burning rubber began to settle over Long Island. It remained as we woke up this morning. Someone commented how odd that these were some of the nicest late-summer days of the year, as this tragedy unfolded around us. And it was true. We woke up to delicate dew on the car windows, bright streaking rays of sunshine, birds calling. And that smell settling around us as a reminder...
Looking at the newspictures of our now-destroyed neighborhood, it's hard to believe it at the moment, but I know it will be even harder in the near future, as we and other residents return to the area. This was not only our city, but our actual neighborhood as well. I was in the WTC just the evening before, and we frequently took the children to the parks in the shadows of their bases, shopped for our food there, etc. My older son Cody grew up going to the schools around them; I've lived in proximity to them almost 20 years now, almost since my arrival in NYC. It's impossible to comprehend what downtown Manhattan will feel like now.

The thing I keep thinking about is how odd it is that these terrorists, whoever they may be, could not understand one thing. Although they could bring down these massive, impressive and important buildings, their efforts did nothing except seem to make the resolve of people here in America, and around the world, it seems, that much stronger, and more united. Everyone here is buying and flying the Stars and Stripes, and pulling together. The terrorists' work has created of America a more formidable foe, not a weakened one.
Do I want to see retaliatory efforts? It's hard to say... I was just condemning Israel for following Palestine's recent deadly deeds with a like reply of their own, like children slinging stones. Where and how will it end? I'm praying this madness is now over...«


Der Interviewer und Autor Philippe Robert schreibt für die Zeitschriften Les Inrockuptibles, Vibrations, Revue & Corrige.

Text: Philippe Robert | 17.09.2001

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