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devil duck


Interest rates were low this summer, so we started looking for a house in earnest.  We made an offer on one in June, then pulled out on receiving a scary engineer's report (face to face, he said "I would buy a house with almost any problem except this one," referring to the warped beam running down the middle of the ground floor).  We made an offer on another one around Labor Day, and had the offer accepted Sept. 10.  And then it was Sept. 11.  More on that later.  Anyway, things have dragged on and on, for no good reason that we can see, and we still don't have a closing date. 

It should be a nice house, though. Built c. 1910, and apparently very well taken care of. Not much curb appeal, but the inside of the house is in excellent condition, and it's well laid-out for the way we're likely to live. The previous owner (who lived there for 40 years before moving to a nursing home and dying two days later) sacrificed one of the three second-floor bedrooms to enlarge the bathroom and the master bedroom, and at some point part of the attic was finished; we plan to use that for sewing and the like. There's vinyl siding on the outside, which neither of us likes aesthetically, but reason to believe the original 1910 cedar shingles are underneath, so we may take off the siding at some point and have (as shalmestere puts it) a house that looks like a pine cone or a molting artichoke.

The separate garage will be an issue. It was expanded to two-car size some time between 1910 and 1961, in a very odd way because it's on an odd, triangular patch of land. It has visible termite damage, badly peeling (presumably lead) exterior paint, and the entrance to the older half of the garage requires maneuvering between a telephone pole and a maple tree, the distance between which is about the width of an average car. So we may just take it down and put up a new, one-car garage in its place, reclaiming a bit of scarce back yard.

But we'll have a dishwasher, and a washer and dryer, and our own thermostate, and closets, and storage space, and a little bit of a yard. Oh boy!

Back to... Sept. 11. I was scheduled to teach four classes that Tuesday, starting at 9:25. When I got to the department office after walking from the train, Marie (the department secretary) told me that two planes had collided with the towers of the World Trade Center, a few minutes apart; obviously not an accident. I agreed and went to class. When I got out, around noon, I passed the front desk of the library, where people were standing, their eyes glued to the television news: both towers had collapsed into a five-story-high pile of burning rubble, and thousands of people had died. Television commentators were at a loss for words.

Back at my office, I found that the local SCA email list was buzzing with people checking in and saying they were alive. (Over the next few days, it came out that at least four people I know well were alive because they had missed their usual train, or had an appointment at the DMV, etc.) One, a paramedic, was sitting in his ambulance fuming that he wasn't being allowed into the site to do his job, when he saw the towers fall and crush several of his co-workers who had been in an earlier ambulance.)

Not many students were in my afternoon classes. I announced to them "If you'd like to talk about the WTC, we can do that. If not, then considering there's nothing we can do about it, we may as well go on with today's scheduled topic."

That afternoon, when I took the train home, I changed trains at Jamaica. I walked to the west end of the platform and looked towards lower Manhattan. I couldn't see many buildings, only an enormous plume of smoke leading off to the southern horizon.

New York City was in a state of shock for several days, needless to say.

But it's been almost three months since then. Demolition workers have removed a good fraction of the rubble to Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island (which had been officially closed last March, the day of shalmestere's surgery, but reopened for the emergency), and firefighters have put out almost all of the fires. (The easiest ticket to getting laid in NYC, it's said, is to introduce yourself as a firefighter.) Innumerable commercial, charitable, and political groups have rushed to capitalize: every business of any size displays a U.S. flag in the window, major charities like the Red Cross and the United Way have collected literally billions of dollars in three months (at the expensive of those charities that don't have anything to do with the 9/11 attacks), and the Justice Department has seized wide powers to tap phones, detain accused terrorists (especially non-citizens), and try accused (non-citizen) terrorists in military tribunals rather than jury trials. Thousands of Middle Eastern men have been called in for "voluntary questioning," and approximately a thousand people (we don't know exactly, since the information is classified) have been detained, many without charges, as "potential material witnesses." Meanwhile, U.S. and British aircraft have been bombing Afghanistan for over a month, on the somewhat shaky grounds that the Afghan government was harboring Osama bin Laden, who is suspected of having encouraged and trained the people who carried out the attacks, and that that government didn't hand him over upon demand to U.S. custody (they wanted something outrageous in return, like evidence of his guilt).

Bush, on microphone: "[We don't need evidence.] We know he's guilty; hand him over."

The Taliban government has collapsed, and is now fighting a last-ditch defense in one remaining city. (The fall of the Taliban is almost certainly a good thing for human dignity and freedom, but is this a good excuse for overthrowing them?)

And, some time in November, alazka left the country to serve the Peace Corps for two years in Lesotho. I haven't heard anything from him directly since a week before he left, although he called marchforth2 to say he'd reached South Africa intact.