Living Liberty, the "living" Statue of Liberty Entertainer!

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Living Liberty

     I was literally shaken awake from a sound sleep on September 11 when my bed in my Brooklyn Heights apartment vibrated as a result of the second plane crashing into the south World Trade Tower.  I thought a truck had exploded in the street below and bolted out of bed.  The clock read 9:03 AM.  I automatically looked out my bedroom window to the Trade Towers in the distance and saw they were both on fire.  It was a spectacularly clear day.  The only clouds in the sky were black.

     I immediately threw on some clothes and ran the couple stairs to my roof deck when I was met by a neighbor just coming down.  She had witnessed the second collision from the deck and frantically tried to explain to me what had happened as she desperately clutched her infant daughter.  I was completely disorientated and hadn't a clue what she was talking about.

     A couple other neighbors arrived at the same time, all stunned and shocked to awaken to such a dreadful act of terrorism.  And then the unimaginable happened; the first tower collapsed upon itself.  I was watching the mass-exodus of people crossing the Brooklyn Bridge when someone behind me let out a horrible gasp, and in that split second of turning back around, the tower had already fallen a number of stories.  It fell so fast, and oddly, I don’t remember hearing a thing.  I felt sick as my mind was bombarded with the realization that thousands of people trapped inside the buildings would be gone within a matter of seconds, as well as the hundreds of rescue workers who had willingly converged onto the area.

    It was surreal to see only one tower standing, and in a macabre way, looked like the walking wounded emerging from battle, staggering in disbelief that half its body was missing.  It was also bizarre to see the sun shining on the buildings of lower Manhattan while an enormous cloud of smoke and ash exploded just beyond them, quickly engulfing the structures and eventually blocking from view.  Within minutes, the ashen remains reached my roof deck, conjuring up an image of fallout from a mass crematorium -- a current-day Holocaust.

     I was forced back into my apartment where I immediately closed all windows.  There was a message on my machine from my sister who works in lower Manhattan informing me she had just left her office and was going to try to get on the Brooklyn Bridge.  She'd left the message  at 9:45, just minutes before the collapse of the south tower.  Assuming this was in fact what she was attempting to do, I became increasingly concerned for it would mean she would be walking up the FDR Drive to get to the bridge, and with the subsequent knowledge of the collapse of the first tower, I feared for her safety for a number of different reasons.  

     First, the winds were blowing the toxic smoke directly in the path she would be traveling and she could easily be overcome by smoke inhalation.  Second, I couldn’t help but imagine the horrific human tragedies she may be forced to witness along the way, and third, assuming she did make it to the Brooklyn Bridge, there was no guarantee the bridge itself wasn’t a target, not to mention the potential for the mass-exodus of people fleeing the island to turn into an outright stampede.  At 10:29 AM when the second tower came down, I was beside myself with worry.

     I stayed in my apartment for a few hours waiting to hear back from her until I couldn’t take it any longer.  Telephones weren't working so I decided to walk over to her house to see if she might be there.  Thankfully, her housemates had made it back safely but had no word from my sister.  Time never went so slowly.  Hours later I found out she and a co-worker had been lucky enough to get on a ferryboat just as the first tower collapsed, and then safely transported to New Jersey where they stayed the night. 

     I was scheduled to work a corporate party that evening, but naturally, the event was canceled (as was most of my work for the next couple months).  I considered going out in costume in a show of support, but dismissed the idea out of concern my motives would be misinterpreted.  A couple days later a friend called from Iowa suggesting I go out in costume. I gave it some thought and decided he was right.  I then set out on a mission to raise money for relief aid.  No one could have prepared me for what was to become the most profound and meaningful experience I’ve ever had while performing as Living Liberty.

     It was incredibly moving to see how people responded to this terrible tragedy.  Although the masses were terribly saddened and shocked, they spoke no works of anger, but instead, spoke of gratitude and unity.  They seemed to be comforted to be visually reminded that we were still standing even though we had taken a painful blow.  Although they had knocked down our buildings – taking thousands upon thousands of lives with them – they could never, ever, extinguish our eternal spirit for the ongoing pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. 


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