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Flash Flashback, 9-8: Surviving
Life for a 'Luxury Item' after 9-11-01
By Veronica Dittman
Copyright 2001, 2006 Veronica Dittman
(Editor's Note: The following Flash Letter was originally sent out to the Dance Insider e-mail list on September 15, 2001, and posted online September 21. See also Darrah Carr's Report from Ground Zero, Julie Lemberger's photo essay September 11, 2001, Jay Weissman's Frontline, New York City, Allyson Green's ABT to the Rescue, David White's Bessie at the Barricades and, if you're still seeing clearly, visit the DI's 2001 Flash Archive and scroll down to September for more dance insider reaction from all over the world. Veronica Dittman is Founding Editor of the Dance Insider.)
Dear Dance Insider Readers,
There is a long-standing delicate
matter between my respected friend Paul, the editor of this venture, and me. It
consists of my defensive insistence that he not print any of my submissions without
letting me approve his edits to them. However, in this case, I am trusting him
to not let this be too personal, too self-indulgent, or too full of parenthetical
notes (but Paul, don't you think an occasional glimpse of the subtext can be interesting?
like when someone's slip is showing?). He's asked for written responses from us
New Yorkers, but like everyone here, I'm a little strung out and am aware that
my judgment is probably wobbly.
We're quickly learning to live in
the aftermath. Phone lines are undependable, the subways are undependable, there
are 90 bomb threats a day, we hear fighter jets overhead patrolling us but mostly
we can't see them, and the air quality is horrendous in places. Just the same,
I took ballet with Marjorie Mussman yesterday and the class was well attended
(she comes in from New Jersey!), and Stef tells me she took class with Zvi at
City Center this week. Friends came over to my apartment last night, and after
the now routine exchange of stories and impressions, there was much hilarity.
Among my concentric circles of friends,
so far I've only heard tales of luck, escape, and relief, so I'm grateful. But
then, there are so many people gone that it becomes impersonal. If ol' Martha
was onto something with the idea of collective unconscious, there's such a big
hole here that we all feel it. There are fliers made on home computers and posted
on bus shelters and lamp posts everywhere, with a photo and phone numbers: "If
you've seen this person, please call."
At my worst, I'm scared to drink
the water, I'm scared to breathe the air, and I practically hyperventilate
when the train stops for a routine red signal. In an outburst of
selfishness, I'm scared that I won't be able to get to my doctor's
appointment on Tuesday, or that the doctor will be busy with some
new disaster. The hardest part for me is accepting that now the
structures and systems I'd taken for granted are vulnerable and
impermanent. Everything will be different now, unstable. (for once,
I would love to be wrong. I would love to think back on this in
a year and see myself as a melodramatic alarmist.) It's possible,
probable, that there's more horror to come, that we'll live with
it. I'm aware that so many other cultures have had to live with
this fear, and have adapted, but I arrogantly thought we were immune
I find I'm hopelessly in love with
the physical, and my tangled theology reveals itself. I've got the Apostles' Creed
promising "the resurrection of the body and life everlasting" and I'm drawn to
these Zen Buddhist dancing skeletons meant to confront "the impermanent nature
of material existence" so that freedom, bliss, and enlightenment can become possible.
After an initial impulse to run like
hell all the way to my parents' house in Wisconsin, I don't want to leave. As
Fran Liebowitz said in a radio interview this morning, "I need myself here, even
if no one else does." I also related to her identifying herself as a "luxury item":
my skills aren't particularly useful right now. She pointed out that construction
workers and nurses, who never get any press around here, are desperately needed,
and it turns out that the stylists and designers are temporarily unimportant.
Sending out good wishes to you all,