Discussing another aspect of 9/11 – a chance meeting with Jimmy Breslin,
on April 3, 2002
Copyright © 2002, Azar Attura firstname.lastname@example.org
A hard-boiled journalist, tough as nails, but with a soft side and a good eye for the warp and woof of daily life and politics, Jimmy Breslin stood at the makeshift podium at Olsson’s Bookstore, April 3, 2002 and transfixed and perhaps transformed his spell-bound audience. Eyes flashing, invectives flying, his rhetoric interspersed with personal and political asides, Mr. Breslin read select passages from the pages of his new book The Short Sweet Life of Eduardo Gutiérrez, and punctuated his reading with the narratives and observations that come with the territory known as investigative journalism.
The audience, very receptive to this evening’s program, peppered Mr Breslin with questions. I discussed with him the most recent scaffolding collapse, the one on October 26th 2001, near Gramercy Park, Manhattan, NY — in that one, a 14 STORY high scaffolding collapsed killing about 19 workers. In fact, the firefighters and EMT’s responding to that scene said the carnage and twisted wreckage reminded them of 9/11 all over again.
And this discussion, of course, led into one about September 11, 2001.
In one of Breslin’s columns in “NewsDay”, he wrote (and I will ad-lib to some extent) about leaving the Reebok Health Club in NY City in the very early hours of the morning, to go home. Every day, coming in the opposite direction, was a sweet small, very shy young lady who not only ignored him when he said hello, but seemed so frail and shy that in order not “to scare her”, Mr. Breslin would sometimes cross to the other side of the street when he saw her coming. This went on for weeks, in the pre-dawn darkness. Finally one September morning, the shy young lady gave him a smile as they passed one another. The next day was September 11, and he never saw her again after that. “She fit the profile of someone who would’ve worked in those buildings”, said Breslin, sadly.
As I had read that article with a heavy heart, I took the opportunity to talk with Mr Breslin about it. His face crinkled into a grin and grimace at the same time, as he told me how he decided to make a short film about the young lady, and enlisted the aid of a famous photographer “who had just finished a major shoot, so (tongue-in-cheek) he didn’t need any money” — he did it for free. Casting directors and other well-experienced film producers and actors joined Mr Breslin’s project, some of them doing this work gratis.
The film was almost completed, when Mr. Breslin, walking the familiar pre-dawn route home from the Reebok Gym one morning, was suddenly confronted by the very real appearance of : The Shy Young Lady. “Where the H*ll have you been?!” He yelled to her, in a way that only a typical New Yorker would understand. “I was worried SICK about you!”, he added. Her story was short and simple. She worked for a firm that was headquartered in the Twin Towers — but she worked in their creative division, and so, worked in another building on the East Side. However, she lost two friends who worked in the Towers, and, in her words “I could not go outside for a very long time.” Jimmy was so overjoyed to see her that he happily informed the film crew……. “You mean I did all this work for nothing!?” screamed the famous photographer. “Take it easy” said Jimmy — “we’ll change the ending!” And that is what they are doing right now. “We got a dead-ringer for the girl!”, he proudly said to us. This will be coming to a theater near you some day soon, as part of a film festival.
A happy ending to an otherwise sobering night!