Marwa – Part XVIIMay 16th, 2010 | By Lois Bassen | Category: Marwa, Series | 1047 views
Marwa was blind in one eye.
Not one NYC school child perished that day.
And just minutes after the first plane struck the World Trade Center , the full sense of chaos and panic had yet to overwhelm the PATH station below the Twin Towers . But the dispatcher on site knew something was seriously wrong as he directed the arrival of thousands of commuters during the morning rush.
‘Rich,’ the dispatcher asked Richie Moran, the system’s train master over the radio, ‘What are you going to do with us? I just unloaded.’
Mr. Moran was supervising train traffic on the PATH system from his office in Journal Square in Jersey City .
‘We want people out of the station, not in,’ Mr. Moran told the dispatcher. ‘Load the train up again,’ he said, ‘and get it out of there.’
Over the next 20 minutes, PATH supervisors rerouted several trains that were already en route to the buildings. They directed one train that had already arrived to keep its passengers on board and head back out. Another was told to simply loop through the station and return to New Jersey . The efficiency of their decision-making, which Port Authority officials credit with saving hundreds of lives, was captured in transcripts.
‘Take those passengers with you,’ Mr. Moran told a conductor whose train from Hoboken was approaching the Trade Center with an estimated 1,000 people.
‘I will not open my doors,’ the conductor responded. ‘I’m taking them with me.’
Passengers who had already gotten off trains were evacuated by the police, and the station emptied quickly. But a final train, with just a conductor and an engineer aboard, was dispatched from Jersey City to pick up a dozen or so PATH workers still there.
‘We are going to use you as an evacuation train,’ Mr. Moran told the conductor. The rescue train ran into a problem, however. A man who had been sleeping on the platform refused to leave.
‘You’ll have to get the passenger on board. If he doesn’t want to get on board, you have to leave him.’ Mr. Moran told the crew.
The crew asked whether a police office could be dispatched. Mr. Moran then told them what had already become obvious above ground. ‘We have an extreme situation at the World Trade Center ,’ he said.
The last train left at 9:11 a.m. , 48 minutes before the South Tower collapsed. No passengers were stranded in the tunnel by the collapse. The sleeping man was among those evacuated.
Marwa did not cry, not even when she first saw her father again, touching his fingertips to fingertips, palms open, inclined in Muslim prayer: penitence, gratitude, plea.
Among the first New York Times obituaries (some with/without photos) on page A25, September 13, 2001 :
William Feehan, Fire Dept. Leader, Dies at 71
William Feehan, the Fire Department’s second-highest official, whose knowledge and cunning in battling fires himself made him the stuff of legend to his firefighters, died Tuesday when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed on his command station.
Peter J. Ganci, 54, Fire Chief,
While Leading Tower Rescue
Peter J. Ganci, the New York City Fire Department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, died on Tuesday in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.
Barbara Olson, 45, Advocate
And Conservative Commentator
Barbara K. Olson, who was killed on Tuesday on the commercial jetliner that was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon, was well known to television viewers across the nation as a combative and confident political commentator representing the conservative Republican point of view.
Mychal Judge, 68, Chaplain for Fire Dept.
The Rev. Mychal F. Judge, a chaplain with the New York City Fire Department since 1992, died amid a rain of debris at the World Trade Center on Tuesday as he ministered to victims. He was 68 and lived in a Franciscan friary across West 31st Street from a firehouse. His head was struck by debris, according to friars at the Holy Name Province of the Franciscan Friars
Lisa J. Raines, 42, a Lobbyist for Biotechnology
Lisa J. Raines, one of the earliest and most prominent lobbyists for the biotechnology industry, died on Tuesday in the crash of the hijacked airplane that hit the Pentagon.
Ace Bailey, 53, Hockey Scout and Player
Garnet (Ace) Bailey, a scout for the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League and a former player in the league, was among the passengers killed when the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center on Tuesday.
Berry Berenson Perkins, 53, Photographer Known for Fashion
Berry Berenson Perkins, a photographer and eclectic fashion plate of the 1970’s before she settled into marriage with the actor Anthony Perkins, was killed on Tuesday, a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11, which was the first jetliner to strike the World Trade Center , a spokeswoman for the family said.
Robert Doucette, 23, Times Square Billboard Model
Robert Doucette (Prix Freeman), nicknamed ‘Grand Prix’ as the international fashion world’s highest paid male model, died Tuesday in the crash of American Airlines Flight 11. His magnified face and form (often photographed by Berry Berenson Perkins, seated beside him on the jetliner) looked down at the Crossroads of the World in Times Square and in similar intersections worldwide.
The Times editor selected a Berry Berenson Perkins photo of Prix to run with his obituary. Prix’s image presented the confusions of the modern world that were anathema to the medieval mind. Talking Heads on television and Letters to the Editor quickly conflated Denim Prix’s photograph with those of the ravaged Towers; it was less painful to display and discuss Prix’s face and heritage than revisit the horrors of that September morning.
It was strange for Marwa to look at Prix not only two-dimensionally in the media, but through her flattened perspective. Everything looked off to her, like disconnected lamps. She looked strange herself with the black patch over her right eye. She didn’t mind Stuy students (attending a split session schedule at Brooklyn Tech – ‘Eck!’) calling her ‘Popeye’ and offering spinach, etc. Nothing bothered her, really, and it didn’t bother her that nothing mattered. Well, one thing mattered: Joey was safe. Joey was okay.
For the time being, they’d moved into the unoccupied Brooklyn apartment of an Egyptian family currently in their primary residence in Alexandria , quaintances of Sharif’s fiancee’s family. Marwa’s father’s office had also moved to Brooklyn from the Deutsche-Bankers Trust Building . That 40-story skyscraper had faced the South Tower on Liberty Street ; the building was now draped in a black shroud, likened to a Muslim woman in full burka, hiding the deep 24-story-long gash in its northern facade.
In Brooklyn , Joey went to a nearby private elementary school, and Marwa’s mother commuted up to Columbia three times a week without her head scarf. Even Banana managed to resume her afternoon routine of staying with Joey and watching her psychic on TV (who began to ‘read’ the families of WTC victims). When would they be allowed to go back to their Battery Park City apartment? No one knew, and Marwa didn’t care. She learned that the entire area of Battery Park City had been built on the landfill originally excavated for the site of the World Trade Center buildings and that where she had been born in south Queens was geologically the same as this Flatlands section of Brooklyn on the western side of the same Jamaica Bay . Its marshy wetlands were formed by the sandbar promontory that connected Far Rockaway to the giant barrier island of Long Island . Joey took as his own the Hagstrom atlas their father brought home to help them all get their bearings in their refugee location. Joey’s favorite place on the map was Big Muck Creek above Silver Hole Marsh in Jamaica Bay , except that he really thought Big Muck should come out of Silver Hole and that his scatological-cartographical observation was hilarious.
In school at Brooklyn Tech, the Stuy students began the split schedule day with first period starting at 1:30 p.m. and last ending at 6:23 p.m.One of Marwa’s first period art classmates organized the painting of two giant murals in Greenwich Village on Sunday, September 16th. In art class, nearly everyone offered images to become part of or to inspire the theme for the murals. Marwa was one who didn’t. She was more interested in the two- dimensionality of a face penciled by a younger classmate who kept drawing the same detailed picture over and over again of what — whom — he had seen when fleeing to the Staten Island Ferry: a face detached from its head. Some of his pencil sketches were of a young woman — no shadow or beard; some looked more like her fraternal twin, somewhat Asian. “I can’t get it right! I have to get it right!” the young artist hissed before breaking down. Someone walked him to the Nurse’s Office where school psychologists were camped out.
On a September Sunday of blue clarity and sunny glare like the Tuesday before, with those elongated, deep shadows (how many names were there for black?), Sunday the16th, over 400 Stuy students gathered in Washington Square Village (where Judy lived) around 10 a.m. Their first mural depicted a tree growing out of rubble with Tree of Life written in over 35 languages. The green paint for its leaves was daubed nearly as often by students on each other’s faces as on the 12-by-80 foot pieces of tarp.“Warpaint,” one called it, only to be scolded, “Peacepaint!” The second mural was a montage of a city skyline, an American flag, a police badge, a Red Cross arm band, and an upside-down fire helmet with a sapling growing out of it. At the bottom was a partially destroyed brick wall spray-painted with the words New York Thanks Its Heroes.
A photo was taken from a second story apartment window of Marwa and her schoolmates. When she looked around, she saw most of them were grinning, and some were raising their arms as they sang a 60’s Beatles song. They were all looking into the sun as the picture was taken, so some were shielding their eyes and telling Marwa how lucky she was to have the black patch. A long-haired boy from math and his boyfriend were holding up peace signs, one smiling, one grimacing. But Marcus, in a black tee shirt, turned his head away from the camera. Judy had her hands on her hips and was looking down through her eyeglasses, frowning. Marwa had no sense of expression on her own face; instead, she saw the headless face she had mistaken for a mask in the hysteric’s repeated pencil sketches.
A flurry of emails in September was generated out of but not confined to art class students, about the architecture of the downed Towers.
BEKI: U C Islamic correspondences/influences on Japanese architect Yamasaki in designing the WTCs as a plaza similar to Mecca , w/2 minarets?
Ram84: I C 2nd generation Japanese-American. + the pointed Arches with tuning forks, go C Iran tomb Monar-e-Jonban, Shaking Minarets. 2 minarets flank a central wishbone-shaped arch.
Ag47coff: The geometry of the architecture makes walking up one tower resonate identically in the other. Like mimus polyglottos.
Ag47coff: Mockingbird. Birds that can mime.
MARS429: Romanesque arches evolved into Gothic ones when returning Crusaders were impressed by the arabesque
Ag47coff: Thought a Martian had taken over your body.
BEKI: Stay off her body, we’re talking art & architecture, Math-Boy.
Ram84: Well-built is well-built, bones are bones.
Ram84: Say it softly and it’s almost like praying.
BEKI: I heard it is soft
Ram84: Hearsay, smear-say. Let’s get empirical. You wanna get empirical?
Ag47coff: Olivia-Newton-JOHN, begone get thee hence turn the other cheek.
Ram84: I’ll turn any cheek Becky wants
MARS429: “The innovation known as the Gothic (pointed) arch emerged from the intercultural contact between Europeans and Moslems during the period of the Crusades. The idea eventually became incorporated into architectural design for cathedrals. This ‘new’ design element became so popular in religious architecture because it allowed for these structures to soar ever higher toward the heavens, the first skyscrapers. Previously, Romanesque cathedrals featured rounded arches and were limited in height.”
BEKI: Fastest Cut & Paster in the West! “Yamasaki’s a leader in merging modernism with Islamic influence. He’s a favorite architect of the Bin Laden family’s patrons, the Saudi royal family.”
Ram84: He designed the airport in Dhahran in the 1950’s.
MARS429: He intended the plaza to be a Mecca away from the narrow Wall Street streets. That’s what he did, replicate the plan of Mecca ’s courtyard with a delineated square separated from the busy city craziness by low colonnades capped by two enormous perfectly square towers, minarets, really. “Yamasaki’s courtyard mimicked Mecca ’s assemblage of holy sites: (1) the Qa’ba (cube) containing the sacred stone, (2) the burial site of Hagar & Ishmael, and (3) the holy spring
Ag47coff: U know sugar cubes are not really perfect cubes?
Ram84: As who does not?
BEKI: I found: “Yamasaki swathed the Towers in a shimmering skin which doubled as a giant truss. He was following the Islamic tradition of wrapping a powerful geometric form in a dense filigree, as in the inlaid marble pattern work of the Taj Mahal or the ornate carvings of the courtyard and domes of the Alhambra .” So it was blasphemy, really, to build a Mecca to Mammon.
MARS429: The shimmering filigree is the mark of the holy.
Ag47coff: Filigree is full of holes. Someone’s religion is someone else’s mythology.
Ram84: U know that Gaudi in 1908 designed a hotel for the WTC site taller than the Chrysler Building ?
Ag47coff: As who does not?
BEKI: Found it. Looks phallic and Barcelony to me.
MARS429: It’s Deco. Would look good on skyline.
Ram84: Not gaudy?
BEKI: Punny. Not. To think that a Barcelonian /rhymes w/Alexander’s father, The Macedonian — so far back designed for future NYC.
Ram84: Alex doesn’t look Greek.
MARS429: Alex does think he’s Great.
BEKI: As who does not?
Ag47coff: ‘If that mocking bird don’t sing — I’m or Momma’s or Daddy’s?
Ram84: “gonna buy you a diamond ring.”
Marwa signed off. She wanted to finish reading ICELAND ’S BELL which had been shoved aside for a new assignment to bring in a poem (or write one) to share in class, expressing their feelings. An ice island perfectly expressed Marwa’s feelings. She had felt more at home inside the pages of that book in turn of the 18th century Iceland 200 years in the past than anywhere, anytime in Brooklyn . Contemporaneously with the novel’s plot, Lewis & Clark had been led to the Pacific by Sacajawea, Marwa read in a review of the new translation. Before the new assignment, Marwa had enjoyed not needing to turn to the notes at the back of the novel for translations of the Latin words that often appeared in the text when one of the characters, a scholar recovering decaying Icelandic literature, evaluated a fragmented finding.
“Membranum,”* (Parchment) he said…glancing momentarily at his friend the bishop, and they both examined it: several sheets of calfskin gathered and threaded at the spine, the thread having long since torn or gone rotten. The surface of the parchment was black and grimy, but one could easily discern a text there, written in a Gothic script. They became eager and reverential at once, handling these shriveled rags as carefully as if they were holding a skinless embryo, and muttering Latin words such as ‘pretiosissima,’ ‘thesaurus,’ and ‘cimelium.’”* (most precious, a treasure, a jewel)
“The script can be dated to circa 1300,’ said Arnas Arnaeus. ‘It would be my guess, from the evidence, that this is a page from the Skalda* itself…It has now come down to this, my dear Reverend Thorsteinn: these people, who have since antiqui* (antiquity) possessed the most distinguished litteras* (literature) in the northern part of the world, choose now to walk upon calfskin or eat calfskin rather than to read the old words written upon calfskin.”
Marwa wanted to read to the end of the book’s last section, Fire in Copenhagan, when the lovers, separated for 20 years, meet again.
“He waited just beyond the threshold until the maidservant walked out past him, then he stepped over and entered her room. She said nothing, but went to the door and shut it, took one step forward and welcomed her guest with a kiss, then wrapped both arms around his neck and pressed her face to his cheek. He ran the palm of his hand over her long, fair hair, which had started to pale. She buried her face in his chest for some time before looking up at him.
‘I didn’t think you would come, Arni,’ she said. “Yet somehow I knew you would.’
‘Some come late,’ said he.
‘I have a book for you,’ said she.
‘That’s like you,’ said he.
‘…This was my blessed father’s dearest book,’ she said.
He started unwrapping the silk gently and slowly, and she waited anxiously to behold the gleam that newly acquired antique books always ignited in his eyes. Suddenly he paused in his unveiling, looked up, smiled, and said:
‘I’ve lost my dearest book.’
‘Which one?’ she said.
The one we found together,’ he said… He explained to her casually and resignedly how he had lost the Skalda.
‘It’s a terrible loss,’ she said.
‘Most terrible,’ he said, ‘is when a man loses his love for precious books.’
‘I thought that a man could love a lost treasure for as long as he missed it,’ she said.
‘A man doesn’t know precisely when the longing disappears,’ he said. ‘In its own way it’s like a wound that’s been healed; or like death. A man doesn’t know precisely when the wound ceased to cause him pain; nor does he know precisely when he dies. Suddenly a man is healed; suddenly dead.’”
Marwa read on quickly to the heart of their dialogue:
“‘Oh, no,’ she said, and she inched herself closer to him. ‘We’re not supposed to be talking about Jon Hreggvithsson. I’m sorry that I mentioned his name. I’m going to go wake the landlord and ask him to bring us a pitcher of wine.’
‘No,’ he said. ‘No wine from the landlord; nothing from anyone. As long as we are sitting here together we have everything.’
She leaned back and quietly repeated the final word:
‘In any case, only one thing exists in our lives,’ said he.
She whispered: ‘One thing.’
‘Do you know why I have come?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘So that you will never part from me again.’”
Then Marwa went ahead to the best part, the part she read over and over again, where they fantasize their perfect future together:
“‘We’ll build palaces,’ she said, ‘no less great than those Governor Gyldenlove built in Denmark using the taxes from Iceland .’
He said: ‘A splendid courthouse shall be raised at Thingvellir, and another bell hung there, larger and more melodious than the one that the king demanded from Iceland and that the hangman ordered Jon Hreggvithsson to cut down.’
… ‘And we’ll ride throughout the land on white horses,’ said she.”
Governor Golden-Love, Marwa thought. A more melodious bell. “And we’ll ride throughout the land on white horses,” Marwa said aloud.
Marwa’s patched eye itched. The ophthalmologist’s light pencil had illuminated the river tributaries of blood vessels returning sight to her eye. Her other eye ached from time to time from overuse, but she was forbidden even to touch it. Her mother put used tea bags in a glass in the refrigerator and then put a cool square over Marwa’s tired eye. Marwa protested against her mother’s folk wisdom, but the chilled tea bag felt good, and her mother’s solicitude felt better. A fat envelope found its forwarded way to their Brooklyn exile from Desiree Schwartzman on Long Island . “Please just let me know you’re okay,” she wrote. “I didn’t email because I didn’t want to upset you. My AP English teacher (yes, I know you Stuy guys do AP your junior year) handed out this poem, and I took an extra copy for you in case you’ve never seen it. I thought John Hollander was the best concrete poet I’d ever seen until this one. He’s at Yale, you know? No one’s really thinking about college stuff now. Except my mother…Desiree.”
The poem by Howard Horowitz was titled Manhattan. It had taken up the entire center column of The New York Times Op-Ed page on August 30, 1997. It was Manhattan Island drawn in lines of poetry. Where there were bridges and tunnels, the words extended past the island’s outline: from the northern end of Manhattan
Washington Bridge . Walk east
towards the Bronx across High Bridge;
to 125th Street.
Kids splash around a
hydrant as lovers embrace on a
Riverside Park bench and
rush-hour traffic is stalled on the Triborough
Marwa quickly scanned down Manhattan Island, but there were no words for Battery Park City, so she looked a few blocks north in the poem where Stuyvesant caught her good eye, and she read the poem to its end at the tip of Manhattan:
A bag lady seeks warmth
huddled over a sidewalk grate on the Bowery,
Stuyvesant’s farm once spread in old New
The original steal (this island, traded for
beads) lies plastered in myth and concrete,
like the African Burial Grounds. A Lower
delicatessen sells good chicken soup; enjoy
pesca at the Festival of San Gennaro, or
soup in Chinatown . Marchers to City Hall
cross the Brooklyn Bridge
to demonstrate, as tourists at South Street
eat lunch with a view. The Fulton Fish
mobbed before dawn. Precambrian stocks
upper crust with solid foundations below the
Trade Towers , Trinity Church and Wall
Ferryboats to Staten Island , Ellis
Island, the Statue of Liberty,
and Governor’s Island
depart from wind-
Marwa realized her right hand was covering her mouth and her thumb was touching the side of her nose. She emailed Desiree thanking her for “her first happy moment since,” neglecting to add that Desiree had also solved her homework problem. Now Sunny wouldn’t have to stress about using Adonis’s The Funeral of New York although Marwa knew she would never have read aloud either of the Adonis excerpts that sent shock waves through her. From Elegy in Exile, “Tell me. / Tell me what silence follows/ the final silence/sun from the very fall of the sun? What is it, phoenix?/ Give me a word,/ a sign.” From A Mirror for Khalida, “After our seconds together/ time turns back to time./ I hear footsteps/ repeated/ down a road./ The house is nothing/ but a house./ The bed forgets the fire/ of its past and dies./ Pillows are only pillows/ now.”
Marwa’s eye was dry and burning. She wanted it to cry, but it wouldn’t. So she went to the strange kitchen and took a teabag out of the glass in the refrigerator and went back to the room she shared with Joey, lay down on the strange bed, and felt the cool tea draw out the fire. Eyes shut, she heard all the sounds around her, smelled the strange smells, but nothing was as vivid or inescapable as the image of the jet from outside and inside at once, she was sitting beside Prix in the screaming doom, smashing, the hurt, the heat, and always the wall of ICE –
“You’re making that sound again, Marwa,” Joey shook her shoulder, jarring the teabag off her eye.Afternoon light came in. “Stop making that sound. You wake me up all the time at night.”
Instantly, Marwa could see her previous night’s dream: she saw her face in a mirror and knew she resembled but did not look exactly like herself, and then she was talking to someone, Judy perhaps, and Marwa knew she was lying to Judy, and she knew she had never before been conscious of lying in a dream.
Joey said, “I want my room back.”
“Everything will get back to normal eventually,” she said because that’s what children were told.
“A different normal.”
“That’s what my new teacher said. I liked my Independence teacher better. She’s older.”
Marwa opened her eye and sat up. “That’s funny,” she said. “You’re funny.”
“I’m hungry,” Joey corrected.
“You’re always hungry.”
Joey turned into a hungry bear, growling and jumping on Marwa on the bed, gumming on her forearm with bearcub teeth. She fended him off and tried to carry him, but he was too strong, twisted out of her hold, and in his own mind raced his big sister to the kitchen and triumphantly beat her to the finish line.Help Support T21 with your Dollar Donation Today
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