September 11 and September 12

From: Ford, Joshua
Sent: Friday, September 11, 2009 9:45 AM
Subject: remembering 9/11 and 9/12

I wanted to give some of you who were not here a sense of what happened in this building on 9/11 eight years ago. I was on my way into work, driving down 16th Street to the Washington DCJCC when the first plane hit the tower – by the time I actually arrived the second plane had hit and there were reports (false it turned out) of explosions near the State Department in Foggy Bottom. Shortly after, the Pentagon was hit.

Arna Meyer Mickelson, the Executive Director was on vacation and Nancy Raskin, then the assistant exec. (now a regular in our gym and stretch classes) had made the decision to close the building. We began calling pre-school parents to let them know that we were evacuating the building, and relocating the children to a park around the corner. It was tough to contact many of them and we took a fair number of children to the park. While we were doing this, the first tower fell. Then the second. As we were getting the last people out of the building a man showed up for a scheduled focus-group and got very angry at us for cancelling it – we explained to him what happened (he hadn’t listened to the news) and he looked at us in disbelief. We stayed in the park for what felt like several hours waiting for parents to pick up their kids as a steady stream of cars and pedestrians walked up 16th Street evacuating the city.

Most important…

The next day we were open.

I don’t remember if kids came to school, but the center was open for business.

Rocket to the MoonThat night, Theater J held a performance of Rocket to the Moon by Clifford Odets (a co-production with Woolly Mammoth Theatre). It had been our (I actually worked with Ari Roth in the Theater at the time) inclination to cancel the performance. We were depressed and didn’t think anyone would come. Howard Shalwitz, the Artistic Director of Woolly and a member of the cast, in his great wisdom, insisted the show go on. And to his credit he was right. That night we had a small crowd, but it felt like a small moment of triumph in the midst of such a huge tragedy that our art would continue. That life would go on. It was, to my surprise, one of the most rewarding nights of theater in my life.

We have come a long way since that day. A lot has happened, both good and bad since then. We still face challenges, though thankfully none as cataclysmic as that day. I will never forget the despair and anger I felt as it seemed the world was falling apart, nor the small, precious steps we took the next day toward a new normal.

Joshua Ford
Chief Program Officer
Washington DCJCC

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