September 11, 2019
It sounded like an aluminum bat hitting a streetlight. Like a car crash. My uncle Ron Fletcher, a luthier, got up from a workbench at his home, in Lower Manhattan, and looked south out a window, down Lispenard Street. He saw smoke and called out to his wife, my aunt Marya Columbia, a violinist, who was in bed. It was just before nine on the morning of September 11, 2001. Together, they raced up to the roof. They watched the second plane hit, then the first tower fall. It looked as if the building sank into a pile of smoke, which fell low with it and then rose and spread across the sky. They went downstairs to turn on the TV and missed the second collapse. Later that morning, they were evacuated from their apartment, and, after they were allowed back in the evening (only after showing an I.D. that confirmed their address), they went for a walk. They’d seen people trudging past their apartment, covered with a fine, light-gray dust. That same dust coated the street, the ground. Ron remembers lifting up a handful of it and seeing scraps of paper—the size of quarters, burned at the edges—that looked like pieces of insurance policies and financial statements.