The day before the morning after

Looking back on September 10, 2001
By CHRIS WRIGHT  |  September 12, 2011


"All memories, the neuroscientists say, are actually memories of memory . . ."
_From a Jonathan Franzen essay, "My Father's Brain," published in The New Yorker on September 10, 2001

On September 10, 2001, Hurricane Erin was spiraling up the Eastern Seaboard. Thunderclouds rolled over Manhattan, and whitecaps pounded the Jersey shore. In Boston, the Red Sox–Yankees game was called off due to rain, depriving Roger Clemens of the opportunity to torment his old club. There was concern that the storm might veer inland, disrupting metropolitan New York.

This was the last day of an ugly mayoral campaign in the city — the incumbent Rudy Giuliani had griped about its "comic-book politics" — and the candidates spent the day grinning, shaking hands, and getting wet. Public enthusiasm was not at an all-time high. "People," said a local bar owner, "are going to wake up Wednesday morning and say, 'The election? That was yesterday?' "

The morning papers carried stories about Matthew McConaughey's heroics at the Toronto Film Festival — a female moviegoer had gone into a seizure and the actor had given her mouth-to-mouth, reportedly saving her life. On the back pages, the big story was Yankees Entertainment and Sports, the ambitious television network being launched that day.

Fashion Week was in full swing, and local style writers had scores of bold-name events to choose from. There was a noontime rally outside the Grand Hyatt, Midtown, to protest a youth-marketing awards dinner. A newborn baby girl had been found abandoned in Central Park. Everybody, it seemed, wanted to adopt her.

A New York landlord went on trial for shooting a female tenant who, he said, had menaced him with a hammer. A local schoolteacher and former black militant was caught after three decades on the run, for crimes that included hijacking an aircraft. ("What took you so long?" he asked the arresting officers.)

In Manhattan Federal Court, the city agreed to pay $194,570 to a local Hells Angels chapter to settle an ongoing civil-rights lawsuit. According to the girlfriend of one gang member, a police dog had "terrorized her cats."

Liz Taylor was among the attendees at a Michael Jackson concert at Madison Square Garden. The boutique hotel 60 Thompson opened its doors to the public. The AIDS: A Living Archive exhibition ended its run at the Museum of the City of New York. On Monday Night Football, the Denver Broncos beat the New York Giants, 31-20.

Retailers at the World Trade Center towers learned they were facing a hike in rents. "We really feel," said a spokesman for the firm that had taken control of retail space there, "that the Port Authority [has] completely undervalued this property." Seventeen years after his debut, Jay D'Amico performed his last gig as the pianist-in-residence at Windows on the World.

Hurricane Erin didn't hit New York in the end. The following day turned out to be lovely.

Chris Wright can be reached at

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