TITLE: On THE Day
DATE: 9/11/2004 07:14:00 AM
On September 11th I went to work, like most people. When a co-worker came in late and mentioned that the radio had just announced that a plane went down in NYC, I didn't think much of it. A few minutes passed and someone logged onto CNN's web site and her mouth dropped open at the photograph. We all gathered around her desk. An unmistakable image. Everything changed from that moment on.
On my way home I drove in a bit of a fog. Only a few hours had passed. I looked at the cars around me and wondered who knew what. Then my cell phone rang. It was such a bizarre moment that I even recall the intersection I was at when I reached for my phone.
It was a call from Taiwan.
I was in the middle of planning the American and Canadian pavilion of a traveling glass exhibition and the work was being displayed in the host museum on that very day. The exhibit would open in less than two weeks.
The Taiwanese curator, Michael Hsu, had questions on how to assemble one of the pieces. I don't even recall the questions he asked me. But halfway through the conversation I paused, then stumbled and told Michael I would have to call him back at another time. He asked if everything was alright. In Taiwan, the news clearly was spreading slower than at home. I told him what I knew and he was silent. I thought maybe it was the language barrier or that he just didn't know what to say. Then he said something further about setting up the exhibit and that he would call me the following day.
I ended the conversation but was angry. At the time I didn't know what we know now about the planes hitting the towers, but I certainly did know that this was an epic event. He wanted to talk tomorrow about the art exhibit? Didn't he understand what an enormous crisis this was? Didn't he understand that for all we knew Baltimore could be hit next with a plane? Or maybe other cities, like Taipei, would become targets?
After months had passed and my personal fog had lifted I came to the realization that while Americans had changed, much of the rest of the world was just reacting to a news headline in their daily papers. Our stock market closed but business went on (largely) 'as usual' around the globe.
Of course he would call me the following day about the exhibit. There would still be people coming to view the work. There would still be collectors present who wanted to acquire pieces for their summer homes. There would still be listings in the paper and a caterer arriving to place drinks and canapes in people's hands.
Life always presses on.
And in my mind, art is often what helps people press on. Art can allow people to connect with a deeper, more spiritual part of themselves that doesn't require words.