It was nearly six am and my cell phone was ringing. My mind began prioritizing the morning's potential orders: soft-back copies of Stuart Little, Marvis tooth paste (original formula), sample slices of carrot cake, energetic aloe, a real faux-pony tail (color: gentle brown)- it could be anything as long as it was immediate. But the voice on the phone was my mother's-- shrill and panicked, telling me to get out of bed and turn on the television. I yawned and said I was sleping in, for once. You see, I only woke up early to the inane bidding of two people in the world-- Mr. A-List actor and his over stimulated wife. I think my mom was crying because I didn't hang up. My stomach dropped as she told me an airplane flew into the Twin Towers and others were missing. It's okay, Erica, she, my father and older sister were fine and in constant communication. My younger sister was unreachable-- in the midwest visiting her boyfriend on airforce base. (Later, she would tell us she had been on mandatory radio silence/military lockdown since the first hijacking.) She was worried for my nonna and aunt in Manhattan-- Nonna, who never let us forget she lived through occupied Rome, and my aunt, a super power head hunter who was always behind the scenes of financial New York. Phones were not working, and my mother was terrified, but also very clear. "Wake up your friends, keep your eyes on the news and stay home."
Three times, I dialed Paulina's number before she answered. She was scared. Like me, most of her loved ones lived in New York and East Coast. While on the phone, we watched Flight 175 hit the second tower. I don't know which one of said it was like some poorly made Michael Bay movie, but to us it was B-roll action footage. We kept waiting to see the good guys arrive. Because we lived and breathed Hollywood, this was the only reality we knew. At about 6:30am- a time I thought was polite-- I called Mr. A-List's home. Mrs. A was visibly irritated, most likely by the early morning call, and told me to get two gallons of water before arriving at work in Malibu promptly at 8:00 am. Her son had to finish Stuart Little and there were important things to be done.
And so I did the same thing I had done every other morning for the past two years, without thinking I grabbed my personal assistant gear-- Palm Pilot, two cell phones, credit cards-- checked my gas and tires and headed out the 10. I think I was at the stoplight where the confusing Chinese restaurant/Donut Shop always stumped me when I realized there was no traffic on Crenshaw Boulevard and that this-- going to work, rushing out to the bidding of some spoiled "wife of"- was ridiculous. I returned home to my friends and to watch the day shatter.
Post Script: Life in Los Angeles did pause, albeit shortly. Hollywood was shut down in shock for what may have been a lifetime to agents and managers, really just 3 three or four days. My friends and I waved flags at passing cars on Pico and Olympic Boulevard in our silent September 13 evening vigil with BMX racers who declared to protect us for ever. I went to a Madonna concert, tickets as a sympathy gift from Mr. and Mrs. A who did not want to step foot in the Staples Center. And a week later, my younger sister came home to our reunion at LAX's bizarre outdoor human processing center where security was at its highest and we had to prove not only who we were but that we were related. Hollywood (and I) got back to work in an eerie world where the show was desperately trying to go on.