10 Years Ago…A Family Odyssey (Final Chapter)

This is the final post of a series. You can find the other parts at Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4


It was with a combination of hope and fear that we approached the George Washington Bridge. The first sign of the new world we had entered was the substantial police presence at the toll plaza.

Then from the bridge, we got our first glimpse of the new skyline. Beth recalls it being like a blow to the solar plexus. We were both getting choked up. Beth started to cry.

Entering our apartment provided a sense of security that only “home” can provide, no matter that everything outside was now different.

But our little adventure was over. Our hurried trip as a family to Toronto, Chicago and back had served many purposes. Born out of the perceived need to deliver a film print and to deliver our son to college, it turned into a family catharsis. We were able to work through our anger, our fears and a whole host of other issues, and to do it as a family. By staying together, we instinctively knew that whatever was to come, we would deal with it… together. And by staying on the move, we avoided sitting in front of the television and wallowing. In other words, we dealt with this new threat in our lives by staying busy.

In the coming days and weeks, we would be subjected to much more that was new.

There was the foul smell of melting plastic (or was it the burning of human remains?) The smell only wafted as far uptown as the upper west side for short periods, but was pervasive further downtown where my office was at that time. It was only later that we learned that the fumes we were breathing most likely were toxic.

We also had to get used to new subway routes that were frequently changed, making Manhattan a much less transportation-friendly place. Then, there was the continued military presence.

But little by little, things got back to something close to normalcy. Life goes on.


I’m writing the last part of this story from the Toronto Film Festival on September 11th, 2011, exactly 10 years after this story began. Among the ironies of this being the case is that I just spent the morning with Tanya Wexler, who is here 10 years later for the world premiere of “Hysteria,” the first film that she has directed since our misadventure with “Ball in the House.”


Thanks to Beth for collecting all the newspapers that are used as illustrations throughout these posts, and for helping me fill in some holes in the story that I had forgotten. Finally, and most importantly, for saying “yes” all those many years ago.

Thanks to Stephen Dyer and Tanya Wexler for also filling in some details…

and to the Toronto Festival for continuing to be my home for one week every September.

8 thoughts on “10 Years Ago…A Family Odyssey (Final Chapter)”

  1. Ira, this is a – I started to write “incredible” but realized that this story is absolutely credible and very well told – wonder-full saga and I hope it’s been widely read. For us, my Elizabeth and me, 9/11 was the beginning of our re-connection after our divorce. This is an excerpt from “Waiting for Elizabeth”:
    “Elizabeth and I had been living very separate lives now for five years but somehow that pattern had begun to break. As I mentioned in the previous chapter, occasionally she would meet me after work for a quick supper and a DGA screening. A few times we had dinner in neighborhood restaurants. A thaw was evolving in our (non) relationship. But I held a tight rein on my hopes.

    “I didn’t learn this until quite a while later but the 9/11 event was a major factor in Elizabeth’s revised attitude about our being together. I’ll let her tell you:
    (Elizabeth’s words)
    “For the world, the attacks on the WTC on September 11, 2001 were traumatically shocking; for New Yorkers, they bordered on the inconceivable. What happened here?! I was among thousands of the dazed walking north from midtown to the sound of Jet Fighter Planes flying over the city relentlessly. Very strange and ominous. However weird though, this shock offered each of us the opportunity to hold life in a brand new perspective. What’s really important to me; moreover, who’s really important to me? I wanted to gather all the people I loved to my heart, to my life. Most prominent among this group was Ben. I had to address this.”

    So bizarre as it seems out of this tragedy valuable family events came to be for both of us. Thank you for writing this and for sharing it today.

  2. Hi Ira,
    Reading your story has provided me the opportunity to make an epic breakthrough peeping into your insight. What I learned about you, your family, your life, your political stance, and etc from this story beats what I knew about you from the past 2 decades of working with you over a few films.

    It is always priceless to read people’s personal accounts of the historical events. From your story, I gathered about how many millions of people had had their unique experiences. Thank you Ira, thank you for sharing. It was a gift.

  3. Thanks for sharing this story. It’s important that we continue to share these recollections. I remember the day so vividly as almost all of us do. I was in NYC then, too, living off of 1st avenue in the 20s and the howl of sirens was seemingly non-stop. I, too, ran to the grocery store – the Garden of Eden – like your Beth did, too.

    I’m struck by the newspaper images you share and that Beth kept. I know that the Youngstown Vindicator closed in about 2019 – a tragedy of its own scale for Youngstown. I bet a bunch of these other local newspapers have folded, too. It’s a sad fact; these newspapers that once memorialized a city’s and a nation’s experience … are gone.

  4. Hi, Ira
    I’m sitting in a hospital in Geneva as Covid has finally ensnared me. What they say about underlying conditions was no joke for me, but spending the last half an hour reading this emotional and powerful story for the very first time has bolstered my spirits today. Many of us have vivid memories of 9/11 but so few of us have taken the time to document it so eloquently. Thank you so much. -Gwen. PS: I’m on the mend.

  5. I moved to New York City at the age of eighteen in 1967 to attend college. It was my home for decades and I knew every square inch of that island and loved it. The attack on 9/11 felt personal, MY city had been attacked and the only appropriate goal became to assist in her recovery. Everything was shut down and Bush’s only advice seemed to be to go shopping, which is not in my DNA. But I was the producer at that time of a successful musical on Broadway, THE FULL MONTY, and helping re-open all Broadway theaters became the task. After all, everyone needed a few hours respite from the darkness that was now surrounding us all. We worked with the city and the Mayor’s office and all the theatrical unions to find a way forward and four days later, the lights were lit again. Thanks Ira for your inspiring saga and the loving tribute to family. We were a different country then! Would that we could once again find the will and inspiration to unite as one.

  6. Dear Ira,
    Thank you for sharing your memories and the indelible effect 9/11 had on us at the time and it’s “never to be forgotten” impact. Sadly, the world has not gotten better since then….but your words nevertheless resonate….and I hope your family has flourished.

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