I overheard someone call us refugees, something I never really thought I ever would or could be, but something I guess I was.


Industry Publicist Brian Bumbery Describes the Scene From Ground Zero

Brian Bumbery is a well-known figure in the music industry, an ex-VP of Publicity for London/Sire and presently head of his own Score Press PR firm, which represents Jay FairesJCOR label, among others. He recently moved back to his native New York, where he took an apartment on Maiden Lane, a mere block and a half from the World Trade Center. This is part two—click here for part one—of an e-mail he sent to several friends:

As I lay in bed last night, all I could hear was the sounds of those planes crashing into the Twin Towers and the screaming that immediately followed. I felt at any moment I would hear the sounds of missiles or bombs exploding as they tore apart this city.

As my mind wandered, I remembered that I had packed some melatonin in my backpack before I left my apartment. I jumped out of bed ripping my backpack apart looking for what would be my sleeping pill for the evening. I took two while lying there listening to the faint hum of someone’s central air conditioning unit, thanking the universe/God that I had been given white noise to break the silence of this city.

I woke up after only four hours of sleep still completely in shock and not wanting to believe everything that had happened. I decided that I should try and make my way back downtown to see what remained, if anything. I needed to move on with my life and needed to know if everything was gone so I could just move on.

I set out on foot with my neighbor and two friends. There are checkpoints set up all over the city of Manhattan south of 14th Street where they are checking the identification of everyone that live(d) there. The first stop was at Canal and Church Streets. The only ID I had was my California driver’s license and a rent bill proving my address.

A female police officer, NYPD badge #5502, looked at my California ID which has my Gardner Street address and said, "Oh, Gardner Street, you’ll never get down there."

I told her that is my L.A. address and she dismissed me. My neighbor/friend told her that he lived down there as well. He had a California ID and a rebate check from Braun for a coffeepot proving he lived in the same building. She dismissed him as well. When we tried to push, she told us to back off or she would "lock us up."

I understand that these are tense times, but to be honest I know how I would deal with people in these situations, and that is definitely not how I would do it.

We walked down to West Broadway and Canal. No luck. We finally got down to Centre and Canal Streets, the very corner we stood on when the first Tower dropped, and managed to get through. Weaving in and out of streets, we made our way east showing our ID every few blocks.

There is an NYU dorm very close to the apartment, and I knew that when we hit that marker we would have to cut in and walk west towards Broadway, which had been closed to foot and car traffic. It is considered a "Frozen Zone."

We managed to cut in on John Street and as we approached Nassau, the military police turned us away. We walked back, found some masks on top of an abandoned pastry cart, put them on over our mouths and walked around the corner by the Federal Reserve Bank. We live next door. As we approached the bank, there was a battalion of about 100 soldiers taking a break from the clean up.

We got within 20 feet of the building, and as I looked up I saw that a window in my apartment had been blown open. Fearing the worst, I hoped for the best. We were stopped by a soldier. We showed our ID and after I pointed to my open apartment window he agreed to escort us into the building to retrieve some of our things.

Soot, papers and shoes from what I can assume were victims and people in the streets who watched as the Twin Towers collapsed were all over. The front door to our building looked like it had been through a blizzard, but we managed to push forward. I opened the door to my apartment and discovered the window had only been opened and not broken. Soot covered everything. Somehow my air conditioner and electricity managed to stay on through the entire ordeal, and I can’t tell you the relief I felt as I looked around seeing all of my things completely intact.

I packed some bags, took many photos and found faxes from the 65th Floor of what were the Twin Towers in my living room. I was freaked. My friend came down from his apartment and we left.

Stepping out the front door I looked down and saw a shoe, a pump. A page from The New York Daily News from September 10th with the headline "Gone, but not forgotten" was at my feet. I picked it up and put it in my bag because although it was on the sports page of the paper, I thought it was quite fitting for everything that had just happened.

I looked left, just like I did when the Twin Towers were burning yesterday and realized that 100 feet from my front door was debris. I’m not talking bits and pieces, I’m talking the chunks that you saw burning on the news last night. As my friend so eloquently put it, "It was an earthquake and we were the epicenter."

We were blessed, and had left minutes before those Towers came down. We’re convinced that those that stuck around to watch the disaster were either severely injured or killed. We were told to leave…IMMEDIATELY. I had said to the MP that I heard we were in Threat Con Delta, which, if you don’t know, pretty much means we're at war. He replied by saying, "Yes, sir, this is serious."

Weaving back we passed abandoned pastry carts, a store that closed down with all their floral arrangements still out front covered in ash. There was a sign reading, "Fresh Eucalyptus $5.00." It was surreal. We even passed a Chevy Blazer that was crushed so flat it looked more like a Citation. A few blocks later we encountered military vehicles and tanks facing the Brooklyn Bridge with soldiers aiming machine guns at the bridge. That very bridge was full of people on foot marching out of the city yesterday.

I saw two fire fighters wearing Putnam County Fire Department jackets. I grew up in Putnam County. It turns out I graduated from the same high school as one of those firefighters.

I asked if they had been in the structure and they told me that last night at about 11:30 they said that had removed a body that had its skin blown off from the waist up surrounded by debris from one of the airplanes. I didn’t want to believe it, but could tell by the look in their eyes they were telling me the truth. I said thank you for everything and said, even though it may not mean much coming from me, they should be commended for their hard work.

Walking North back to the West Village, we decided to stop and get some food on 6th Avenue between Houston and Bleecker. I overheard someone call us refugees, something I never really thought I ever would or could be, but something I guess I was. Crazy, huh?

As I write this, the news just reported that a wall at 1 Liberty Plaza has now gone down. That is at the end of my block just feet from where we stood today looking at complete destruction.

These rolling waves of tears, laughter, etc. hit me and I just go with it because that’s all I really can do. Many of my friends have lost family and friends in this catastrophe, and we have to pray for all of them. I don’t give a shit whether or not you believe in a God, just pray to something or somebody because it could have been you or it could have been one of your relatives that was and still is buried in the rubble.

I’m waiting for a relative to call me because he said he would come to the city and take me to his family’s house in the country. At this moment I am living for that phone call.

I will end this e-mail with a burned part of a fax cover sheet I picked up from inside my house. It reads, "On October 10, 1995, Hotel Macklowe will become Millennium Broadway. Expect the same features you have come to expect. And then expect more…"

I don’t think we ever could have expected this.

The lay of the land at the top of the year (1/21a)
America's most wanted (1/20a)
Lin-Manuel and Ken sing in harmony, inspiring industry applause. (1/21a)
The dashboard light has dimmed. (1/21a)
Winning hands in the early action (1/20a)
You're gonna make a poor boy outta me.
...than 24 hours in a day.
on a Saturday night
Lamborginis and caviar Dry martinis, Shangri-La

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