In preparation for the 10th anniversary of 911 tango friends, Jennifer Bratt and Ney Melo were interviewed for a segment of Yahoo! Vitality, “Second Act: A Webby Award-winning series about real stories celebrating life, passion and reinvention.”
As Ney found tango after the events of 911 in NYC, that day also helped to force me to change my life path, or maybe really to find my current path.
I too was working in NYC at the time. I had just arrived to work at 34th Street and Park Ave South. Our building security guy, James, was always friendly. I remember him saying something like, another plane just crashed into the 2nd tower of the World Trade Center. It was just before 9am and I remember looking at him thinking “WHAT?” It was like I didn’t really understand the words coming out of his mouth.
I took the elevator to my Executive Assistant position to the CEO of a branding company. I had been there for about 1 year already. All the major heads of the firms in the Americas were in town for their annual meeting. I was responsible for them and the many aspects of organizing that meeting.
I arrived on the 6th floor and our offices were in a chaos of telephone calls, locating traveling directors, and one of the graphic designers had plugged in a TV to watch the news. I remember seeing it again and again and again on TV and thinking it was unreal, like a TV show where they had blown up buildings. It wasn’t really real was it?I remember taking the elevator to the street and looking down Park Ave South toward the WTC and yes, there was smoke, lots of it. It seemed like time had stood still in that moment. I had walked out into the middle of the street but don’t recall there being any cars. Or maybe they were all stopped too…
It was a very long day for me (and for many). I think I was in shock for many many days after. So many of us had to find a way back to our homes – I didn’t have cell phone service and remember receiving intermittent phone calls from friends all over the US and Europe. I didn’t have a land line at my home in Jersey City and remember wanting to find a way into work in order to be able to call people.
Weirdly enough, a friend from France had visited me the weekend before and showed me a picture of himself at the top of the WTC. That was strange to see.
The skyline had changed – forever. The view from my home seemed wrong.
As I write this, I am overwhelmed by memories of people, conversations, art I saw, dances I saw, and feelings, mostly of hopelessness. The city began to change pretty drastically during the course of the rest of the 2 years I was there. Stores were closing, people were scared and talking about finally leaving the city and moving elsewhere. I would get calls from people saying – don’t take the subway today. Paranoia, shock, grief permeated everyone’s life.
I still have not returned to the site. I got really close once on one of my long walks through the city but was angry and incensed by all the vendors that cropped up with sales of 911 paraphernalia.
911′s impact on me was not a quick pin prick – and then it was over. And I don’t think it has been for anyone.
As I stayed on at my Executive Assistant position, I felt like I got farther from any dreams that I had had regarding dance. I have always described my time in NYC as being almost asleep or in hibernation. Time just passed by. About 1 year after, it was time for serious change.
I returned to Tempe, AZ to visit some friends from my grad school days at ASU. I remember the words from a phone call being, “you sound miserable, come for a visit”. I was invited to teach a dance class at Tempe High School. What a blast I had. I was on an adrenaline buzz for hours after that class. When I returned to NYC, I was determined to start teaching. It was time for change and a new direction.
I started a small tango course near Park Ave South and invited all the people I knew to join a 4 week tango class.
By the spring of 2003 I headed back to Arizona to pursue teaching dance and tango.
To the memory of all those who lost their lives in 911, who worked tirelessly to save lives and to those who still grieve, may time continue to heal.