Grief & Gardening: Nine Years

Let’s get the usual question out of the way. This is where I was the morning of September 11, 2001.
Skytop and tower, Mohonk, New York, September 10, 2001
This is Skytop Tower at Mohonk Mountain House at sunset the previous night. Blog Widow and I had planned a week-long vacation upstate, starting at Mohonk. The morning of September 11, we hiked up to Skytop. A rustic retreat, Mohonk had no televisions or radios in the rooms. As we left the massive wooden structure to go out hiking, I noticed people huddled around the few televisions in some of the common rooms. I thought nothing of it at the time. I later realized we left just after the first attack.
We hiked around the lake, then up to Skytop, and climbed up into the tower. We had the trails almost to ourselves. As we came down the tower, I sang loudly, my voice echoing through the stone structure: “I love to go a-wandering …” Part of the way, we encountered another hiker coming up the stairs. I stopped singing and said, “excuse me.” Only then did he lift his head to us, tears streaming down his face. “Did you hear what happened?” “No.” “They flew a plane into the World Trade Center.”

We hiked back. When we returned to the buildings, the common rooms were packed with people, watching the news on every available television. We went back to our room. Blog Widow went back downstairs to find out what happened. I had brought my laptop with me, so I tried getting online. He returned to tell me the World Trade Center had collapsed. I was incredulous; I couldn’t imagine what that meant. By the time I went downstairs myself, both towers were gone. I sat and watched those horrible images for the first time.

We decided to hold to our vacation plans for the week, somber though it was. There was nothing we could do back home. My workplace downtown, blocks from Ground Zero, would not reopen for two weeks. Reminders met us everywhere we went. And everywhere we went, we were ambassadors for New York City. When we told people where we were from, as often as not, they broke down crying. We were their reminders.

Roadside Sentiment, Hudson, New York, September 16, 2001

We drove back to my apartment in Brooklyn that Sunday. I was startled when I saw the first airplane flying overhead; with all flights grounded, the skies had been empty since the attacks. I got my first glimpse as we drove along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway: twin trails of heavy smoke, orange and red from a setting sun. I burst into tears. Somehow, I had expected the fires to have burned out by then.

When we were allowed to return to work, I got my first personal glimpse of Ground Zero.
My first view of Ground Zero, September 21, 2001

The fires continued to burn for months, through the winter, into 2002. For weeks, until a few heavy rains washed the city, everything was covered in ash and dust. It collected in drifts along sidewalks and gutters. Every day I went to work, for months, I smelled and breathed the smoke. All of Downtown Manhattan was a crematorium.
Ground Zero, September 27, 2001

Thousands of shrines and memorials appeared and grew throughout the city. The most heart-breaking were those around St. Vincent’s Hospital, which prepped for massive casualties, but received very few. Few who didn’t walk, or run, away survived. Even today, remains have yet to be found for over 1,000 people murdered in the attacks.
Bus Stop Memorial and "Missing Person" Posters
"Missing Person" Posters
9/11 memorials, Union Square Park, September 24, 2001
9/11 memorial on sidewalk in the East Village
9/11 memorial outside Union Square Subway Police Station

The ash washed away, the fires died, the smoke cleared. The candles and posters gradually eroded. A year after the attacks, the memorials which covered the fences around St. Paul’s Chapel were carefully removed and preserved. Eventually, even the basin which held the foundations of the towers and other structures on the site was emptied. As the direct evidence of what happened faded, new symbols emerged. For me, these are far more powerful and meaningful than any flag or banner.

Tonight, the Tribute in Light will shine again.
Tribute in Light, September 11, 2007

The Sphere, the sculpture by Fritz Koenig that had held place of prominence in the center of the WTC Plaza, was heavily damaged in the towers’ collapse, but survived. It’s been on display at Battery Park for the past few years. It will be returned to the Memorial for its permanent home.
The Sphere, Battery Park, September 2003

Another sculpture, Steve Tobin’s “Trinity Root,” was placed in the courtyard of Trinity Church, two blocks from Ground Zero. It was cast from the roots of a Sycamore that stood in the cemetery of St. Paul’s Chapel, a few blocks north, and directly across the street from Ground Zero. The tree was destroyed when the towers fell, but it shielded the church itself from even greater damage.
Trinity Root

St. Paul’s Chapel has been a moving memorial all these years. It’s filled with an ever-changing display of artifacts and remembrances from all over the world.
St. Paul's Chapel
"Earth Ball", Threads Project

And finally, the official, multi-million dollar memorial will occupy the footprints of the towers and the plaza between them. Here’s a model of the National September 11 Memorial at the Preview Site on Vesey Street, across the street from St. Paul’s near the corner of Church Street at Ground Zero in Downtown Manhattan.
9/11 Memorial Model

The first of 400 trees for the grove were planted just two weeks ago, in time for today’s observations. These are Quercus bicolor, Swamp White Oaks. The other species will be Liquidambar styraciflua, Sweet Gum. A forest and waterfalls will take the place of devastation, natural elements no less powerful and evocative for being constrained to an urban grid. They will also remind me of where I was when I first heard of the attacks. A garden as the ultimate embodiment of reflection and recovery.
9/11 Memorial Trees


Related Content

Growing 387 trees for the National 9/11 Memorial, 2009-02-19
Seven Years, 2008-09-10
15 Years Ago Today …, 2008-02-26
The National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center, 2007-09-11
In the Shadow (How shall my heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?), 2007-08-28
The Daffodil Project: Grief & Gardening #5, 2006-11-26
Grief & Gardening #2: “Ths Transetorey Life”, 2006-09-09
Grief & Gardening #1: 1, 5 and 25, 2006-09-04
Without God, 2001-10-15
This Week in History, 2001-09-14

Gardeners for Recovery Cobblestone Campaign

Thanks to the Contributors to Gardeners for Recovery, 2007-11-21
Gardeners for Recovery is on its way!, 2007-11-13
Announcing the Gardeners for Recovery Cobblestone Campaign, 2007-09-28
Gardeners for Recovery, 2007-09-01

My photos

My photosets on Flickr:
Trinity Root
9/11 Memorial Preview Site and St. Paul’s Chapel
Tribute in Light, September 11, 2007
Grief & Gardening #2: Five Years After
September 11, 2001


National September 11 Memorial & Museum

Trinity Root

Uprooted in the Attacks, Now Planted in Bronze, Randy Kennedy, NY Times, 2005-07-06

2009 Wrap-Up

Agapostemon sp., Metallic Green Bee, Jade Bee, illustrated my guest rant on Garden Rant in 2009.
Agapostemon sp., Metallic Green Bee, Jade Bee

Here’s my review and recap of 2009.


  • January 27: I attend my first – maybe my only – Plant-O-Rama at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
  • March 4: Robert Guskind, founder of Gowanus Lounge, dies.
  • May 2009: I attend the Chicago Spring Fling meetup of garden bloggers.
  • July 29: The City Council approves the Flatbush Rezoning Plan, a story I’ve been tracking for years on this blog.

There were several personal milestones and achievements, my pleasure in sharing them tempered by the absence of my father this past year, who would have been proud.


I was new to Twitter this year, which has enabled me to share far more links, and be more conversational, than I can with just the blog.

Number of tweets posted: 2,025 tweets, 5.8 tweets per day. 

Overall stats

Number of posts published: 120, averaging 1 post every 3 days, half the number I posted in 2008.

31,252 people visited this blog during 2009, 73% were new visitors. There were 38,278 visits, a slight increase over 2008’s 32,073.

Most Viewed

According to Google Analytics, from which I’ve collected these stats, “unique page views” are the number of visits during which a page was viewed. Page views are higher, since the same page may be viewed multiple times during a single visit. Unique pageviews, however, doesn’t distinguish multiple visits from the same person or IP address.

  1. Robert Guskind, founder of Gowanus Lounge, 1958-2009, 2009-03-05, 1,990 visits
  2. Sphecius speciosus: Eastern Cicada Killer, 2009-08-18, 375 visits
  3. First Cherry in bloom at BBG, 2009-03-18, 367 visits
  4. Flatbush Rezoning Proposal certified, enters public review process, 2009-03-02, 331 visits
  5. And too close to call:

Most commented

  1. Native Plant Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2009-06-09, 12 comments
  2. Robert Guskind, founder of Gowanus Lounge, 1958-2009, 2009-03-05, 11 comments
  3. Blessing of the Animals, Chelsea Community Church, 2009-10-11, 8 comments
  4. Multi-way tie with 7 comments each:

Guest Rant

Special notice goes to my guest rant on Garden Rant: Who cares about honeybees, anyway?, 2009-11-04. It received 37 comments, and sparked rebuttal posts on other gardening and farming blogs.

In case you missed it

Here are some other 2009 posts that remain relevant, interesting, or which I’m otherwise proud of.

Standing Still, Looking Ahead

Illumination of Earth by Sun at the southern solstice.

This season’s Solstice (Winter in the Northern hemisphere, Summer in the Southern), occurs at 17:47pm UTC on December 21, 2008. That’s 12:47 PM where I am, in the Eastern Time zone.

The name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, its apparent movement north or south comes to a standstill.
Solstice, Wikipedia

We got about 10″ of snow over the weekend, and it’s not going anywhere soon. So it’s definitely wintery here. Here’s another of my neighbors’ illuminary displays.
9 Lewis Place, Beverley Square West

Related Posts

2008: Stand Still / Dona Nobis Pacem
2007: Solstice: The Sun Stands Still


Solstice (Wikipedia)

It Begins

Update, 2009-12-26: Holiday Lights 2009

The Wizard of Slocum Place does it again, with help from his next-door neighbor.

284 Stratford Road, Beverley Square West

For best effect, view this photo on a black background.

I took this snapshot last night with my little Nikon P&S while walking home from dinner at Mimi’s Hummus on Cortelyou Road with Blog Widow. Tonight’s snow will create an ideal wintery photo-op.

Related Content

Happy Holidays, 2008-12-19

Names, World AIDS Day (Off-Topic)

2021-12-01: See Names, 2021-12-01

In observance of World AIDS Day, I thought I would re-publish this list of names from my old (neglected and needing to be retired) Web site. These are some of the people, all men, I lost, nearly all to AIDS. I stopped actively maintaining this list in 1994. In alphabetical order.

  • William “Wolf” Agress, a lover, died in 1990
  • Andre, a bartender at the Tunnel Bar in the East Village, now defunct
  • Vincent Barnes
  • Jerry Bihm
  • Bobby
  • Colin Curran
  • Erez Dror, co-owner and -founder of the Black Hound Bakery in the East Village, New York City, now defunct
  • Jeff Glidden, a lover
  • Paul “Griff” Griffin
  • Martin Noel Jorda
  • David Kirschenbaum, community organizer with the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
  • Art Kohn, founder of the BackRoom BBS in New York City, now defunct
  • Jim Lewis
  • Luis
  • John Mangano
  • Jeffrey Martin
  • Morris Matthews
  • Karl Michalak
  • Mark Melvin
  • Norm
  • Tony Panico, my first lover in New York City
  • Charles Pope, barfly extraordinaire
  • Gordon Provencher, 1955-1992
  • Tom Raleigh
  • Craig Rodwell, founder of the Oscar Wilde Bookstore in Greenwich Village, NYC
  • Tony Rostron
  • Jurgen Schmitt
  • Giulio Sorrentino
  • Buddy Volani
  • Jeremy Wells
  • David Joseph Wilcox, 1957-1996

These are only 31 names of people I knew who died before I was 35 years old. There are countless scores, hundreds, more whose names I did not know, whose fates I never learned, or who have died since I stopped maintaining this list in 1994.

Related Content

David Joseph Wilcox, 1957-1996
Back in the Day, about the Backroom BBS, my first online community, in the 1980s.


World AIDS Day

Flatbush Daffodil Project – 11/14 & 11/15

11/14 ONLY – CANCELLED due to rain (remains of Hurricane Ida). Join us Sunday, 11/15, for a beautiful day of Daffodil bulb planting!

Daffodil bulb

Join Sustainable Flatbush and your fellow urban gardeners to beautify neighborhood tree beds by planting daffodil bulbs!

The Daffodil Project was originally created to commemorate September 11th; a Dutch bulb grower donates 500,000 bulbs each year to NYC community groups who plant them in neighborhoods all over the five boroughs. This year, New Yorkers for Parks distributed more than 125,000 Daffodil bulbs for planting throughout the City. Sustainable Flatbush received 500 bulbs for planting in tree beds and other public areas in our neighborhood.

This will be Sustainable Flatbush’s second year of co-sponsoring the Daffodil Project locally. If you enjoy gardening, feel like digging in some dirt, or if you just want to delight in the company of your neighbors, join us this weekend!

WHAT: Flatbush Daffodil Project
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, November 14th and 15th, from 10:00am until 12:00pm
WHERE: Meet in front of Vox Pop Cafe at 9:45, 1022 Cortelyou Road (corner of Stratford Road)

(Please note: rain cancels this event! Call us at 718-208-0575 if in doubt)

Related Content

Daffodil Project posts


Flatbush Daffodil Project 2009, Sustainable Flatbush
The Daffodil Project, New Yorkers for Parks

BK DECAY: Brooklyn Community Leaf Composting, 11/7&8, 11/14&15, & 11/21&22

Update 2009-11-21: In just 4 hours over 2 days, the Flatbush CommUNITY Garden diverted 1,740 lbs of leaves from landfill to compost which will enrich the Garden and more of Brooklyn’s urban farms and gardens. As Director of the Urban Gardens and Farms Initiative of Sustainable Flatbush, I want to thank everyone who participated, whether by planning, volunteering, or dropping off leaves.

Cherry Leaves, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, November 2008
Cherry Leaves

Until 2007, NYC collected and composted residential leaves. For the second year, 20,000 tons of leaves will be treated like household garbage, added to the City’s already-overburdened waste stream. Sign the petition to restore leaf composting to NYC.

Stepping into the void left by the City’s abandonment of leaf composting, more than a dozen Brooklyn community gardens, as well as gardens in other boroughs, have banded together in partnership with the GreenBridge Community Garden Alliance of Brooklyn Botanic Garden,  Council on the Environment of NYC, bk farmyards, Vokashi, and the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition,

Over the next three weekends, from 11am to 1pm, Brooklyn residents can bring leaves, free of trash, twigs and branches, in clear plastic or paper bags to one of the locations marked with a blue pin on this map. Not every garden is participating on all dates, so check the garden nearest you to see when you can drop-off in your neighborhood.

View larger map

Information will be available at many of the participating gardens about how to make compost in your own garden or apartment and about efforts to encourage the City to reinstate its municipal leaf collection and composting program.

The Flatbush CommUNITY Garden is participating on two dates: this Sunday, November 8, and Saturday, November 21. The drop-off will be at 1550 Albemarle Road, near Buckingham Road (East 16th Street). The Garden is a project of Sustainable Flatbush, part of the Urban Gardens & Farms initiative.

In 2008, a pilot project at 6/15 Green garden in Park Slope, Brooklyn, collected over a 1 1/2 tons of leaves, indicating a deep desire in the community to keep their residential leaves out of the overburdened wastestream and recycle them into rich “brown gold”. NYCLeaves expects to break that record by building a network of gardens that will offer to take in leaves in neighborhoods throughout the City. Bringing bagged leaves to a LeafDrop site will lighten the City’s load of trash, save the City the money it would spend collecting and getting rid of the leaves, and redirect this precious natural resource to its best use – as compost that will enrich the soil of vibrant, active community gardens or the City’s stressed and hungry street trees.

For more information about NYCLeaves: Project LeafDrop, its activities, how to register your garden for Project LeafDrop, a list of participating gardens and specific drop-off dates and times, contact them at their or by email:


Related Content

Brooklyn Leaf Composting Project, 2009-10-02
Final NYC Compost Giveback, 2009-09-30


BK Decay, NYC Leaves: Project LeafDrop

Leaf Composting This Sunday, November 8th, Sustainable Flatbush, 2009-11-07
NYCLeaves: Project LeafDrop Are Picking Up Where the City’s Leaving Off, Brooklyn Green Team, 2009-11-04
New Community Garden Coalition Takes Lead in Leaf Composting, GreenThumb NYC, 2009-10-27

bk farmyards
Council on the Environment of NYC
GreenBridge Community Garden Alliance, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Neighborhood Open Space Coalition

Who Cares About Honeybees, Anyway?

2021-10-26: Scraped and back-dated from an Internet Archive copy of Garden Rant.

Originally published as a Guest Rant on Garden Rant on November 4, 2009. The original is no longer available on their Web site.

Subgenus *Agapostemon*, male, on NOID *Helianthus*, perennial sunflower, along my driveway, August 2009 
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been making the news rounds for a few years now. It’s old, if still current, news. Dire outcomes from the loss of honeybees have been proffered. For example, PBS recently introduced an online “ask the expert” feature with this:

Since the winter of 2006, millions of bees have vanished, leaving behind empty hives and a damaged ecosystem. 

Ask “Silence of the Bees” Expert Dr. Diana Cox-Foster, PBS Blog

Really? The ECOSYSTEM?! Did they not notice that honeybees aren’t part of the ecosystem? 

Honeybees are livestock. They are animals which we manage for our uses. We provide them with housing and maintenance. We even move them from field to field, just as we let cows into different pastures for grazing.
Perhaps, if CCD can neither be prevented nor cured, disaster would come to pass. However, the underlying cause would not be the loss of the honeybees but our dependence on them as a consequence of unsustainable agricultural practices.
The old ways of farming include hedgerows, uncultivated areas between fields. The biodiversity of these patches provide substantial habitat for native pollinators, as well as other beneficial insects. When even these rough “unproductive” patches of land are cleared, we set the stage for the patterns that have come to dominate agriculture: more herbicides, more pesticides, more machinery. All of these also damage the soil food webs that support both soil fertility and agricultural ecosystems. Although  manufactured inputs provide temporary relief, they reduce the ecological functions of the land, requiring more and greater inputs to achieve the same effect. This is the definition of addiction, and it’s a clear sign that this way of doing business is unsustainable.
Why do we need to ship and truck pollinators around? There are plenty of native pollinators to do the job, where we haven’t decimated their habitats. There are 4,000 species of bees alone in North America. 226 species are known in New York City. Many of them visit my gardens in Flatbush, Brooklyn; some have even taken up residence. Many native bees are ground-dwellers which need only some open ground in which to dig their nests. When every patch of ground is cultivated, plowed under or paved over, native pollinators disappear. Suddenly, we “need” honeybees for pollination.
I care about the honeybees. I like my honey and beeswax candles. I support efforts to legalize beekeeping in New York City. But not at the expense of the biodiversity that is all around us, even in the city, if only we care enough to look for it, value it, and nurture it.

Related Content

Cellophane Bees Return, 2009-05-02


Ask “Silence of the Bees” Expert Dr. Diana Cox-Foster. [], PBS Blog 

Saving [Honey] Bees: What We Know Now [About CCD]], NY Times, 2009-09-02