It is with a heavy heart
that I write my final president's message. After being home- less for twelve weeks since
September 11th, I'm leaving the city for a nineteenth century farmhouse in rural Virginia.
It was my intention to find something local, but realized that in order to do so,
I would be required to be thrown into the madding crowds on Metro North and then again on
the subway. I realized after trying this, I simply cannot do it. Each day since the
attacks has been spent juggling a busy workload, trying to figure out where to live and my
responsibilities to IIDA as chapter president. In addition to this I needed to find a way
to grieve and recover from the trauma of those days. I felt scared many days and was
dealing with family in Massachusetts who, having seen what happened to our home, wanted us
completely out of Manhattan, my home for 23 years.
For many weeks after the attack, my husband
and I would look at each other and repeat the words, The towers are down. We
needed to say it out loud to affirm the validity of the statement, because for the first
month I still had a hard time understanding the realness of what had to happened to this
city. I found myself hungering for the New York Times A Nation Challenges
Section. It was my lifeline to the events as they unfolded. I needed to read each of
the twenty odd obituaries, which have graced the last page since the attack out of respect
for all of the victims who lay waiting to be found just a block from our home. All those
smiling faces whose lives were taken before they had the chance to live them.
The night of the attacks we still were
unsure if our building was standing. My husband and I holed up in his conference room at 2
Penn Plaza watching the thick black smoke downtown in our neighborhood where the towers
had stood. We had seen no footage of what had happened down there and were relying on
information from relatives who had been watching CNN all day, and we were calling
intermittently. My mother was positive she had seen our building and it looked unscathed.
We ended up going to board member Grazyna Pilatowicz, and her husband's for the night.
Grazyna fed us and then said, Let's see how close we can get on foot to your
home. So, that is what we did. We walked up a pitch-black FDR Drive and then into
Battery Park. At times, we were up to our ankles in debris, a fine powdery substance never
before seen, I guess by anybody.
We saw our building. It was standing, but
90 West Street, two doors to our north was a towering inferno. A few vain attempts to get
to our building (our dogs were on the 17th floor with ALL windows open) were thwarted by
National Guardsmen, who were doing their job, and I suspect were in a state of shock as we
all were. I will never forget Grazyna's husband's comment as we turned to walk back to the
Lower East Side where they had just moved. He said Okay, somebody change the movie,
I don't like this one anymore. That summed it up, we felt as we were in a horror
movie with no script. Alas, it was real. We got the dogs the next morning against the
wishes of the police and they have been waiting for us in Massachusetts since September
In closing I want to share what IIDA has done for me as a person and as an interior
designer. By allowing me to serve on the board for some 5 odd years, it gave me lifelong
friends that espouse the same philosophies I do. It gave me the courage to overcome an
innate shyness and fear of public speaking. It exposed me to some of the most innovative
and thought provoking programs perhaps anywhere in the U.S. and it gave me the realization
that my chosen profession was very special and one that I feel privileged to be a part of.
President elect Peter Conant has courageously agreed to step up and work with John Mack
who was just beginning to breathe a sigh of relief in his role as past president.
The IIDA/IIDAF Disaster relief fund has
raised over $8,000 for provision of immediate support to design/build professional's
students or family members whose lives have been affected since the attacks. This
coalition was formed seemingly over night after the disaster and took shape under the
capable leadership of Dennis Cahill.