Sunset Series mines strong memories and feelings
By Kevin E. Foley
Three writers, local people with national reputations, gathered at The Chapel last Sunday, Sept. 11 to give voice to the concerns raised by the tenth anniversary of the infamous date in American history. The Sunset Reading Series, run by Ivy Meeropol and Rebekah Tighe, did not originally intend such a presentation but when it became apparent what date The Chapel had available for the next series reading, they felt compelled to acknowledge the significance of the day.
Gwendolyn (Wendy) Bounds reflected on 9/11 by reading from the chapter of her book, “Little Chapel on the Hudson”, which describes the harrowing experience of the planes crashing into the Trade Center towers right outside her apartment. Bounds and her girlfriend shared rooms across from their offices at the Wall Street Journal where Bounds still works as a reporter. “I was thinking about things I hadn’t done, I promised things would be different if I survived,” she said in introducing her work. The chapter describes two reporters who first thought they were on top of a big story only to discover they had to run for their lives and leave their home behind for an extended time. Bound’s book takes the reader to Guinan’s a long-time tavern and food emporium at the Garrison train station, now closed, where she found refuge and solace.
Frank Ortega, a well-published poet and experienced local tutor of several academic subjects, chose to read first an essay wherein he describes the death of his mother-in-law in Manhattan just after Sept.11 and the long wait for the medical examiner’s office to respond. He describes, among others, the two exhausted, haunted police officers who wait in the apartment with him until the body can be removed. Ortega then read from a selection of his poems, which often seem to be seeking universal truths among the ordinary details and people encountered along life’s road. Although not about 9/11, the poems as a group created a strong sense of the precarious and precious quality to our existence and the beauty and comfort to be found in paying close attention to our lives.
Sam Anderson eschewed reading a piece about 9/11 for the simple reason one could read his latest thoughts on the subject in that day’s New York Times Magazine where he is a critic at-large. Instead Anderson read from a work-in-progress wherein he writes pre-emptive obituaries of people still living, demonstrating the life-summing appreciation usually reserved journalistically for when someone has died. He achieved his most touching moment, not when appreciating a person, but rather during his reminiscence about his old (and now dying) dachshund. After calling Moby Dog “the purest embodiment of presence,” and humorously portraying the dog’s ravenous, endless appetite, Anderson found, perhaps caught up in the day’s sense sharp sense of loss, he could not finish the story. Fortunately his wife volunteered to read the concluding paragraphs.