Celeste Victoria

Posted on September 11, 2006

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I posted the little piece below up on a website that claimed to be a memorial for those who died in the World Trade Center. A few minutes after posting, I noticed that it was little more than a right-wing propaganda site. I hate this world. In any case, I’m glad I put it out there and decided to post it here as a way of counteracting its presence in neo-con cyberspace. I don’t know how I’d feel about 9/11 if Celeste hadn’t died there. I know that for many months afterward, while I was in the P-Place, and after the initial shock and finding out that my closest circle were ok, I began to feel satisfied in some way that someone had finally given the US a come-uppance. And so, the news of Celeste’s death many months later was a shock that I still can’t really come to terms with. Reading these words, I sound incredibly selfish. Apparently, what I am saying is that I would’ve revelled in vengeful glee–and did for a time–had it not been for the fact that someone I knew was on the top floors of that building when it was hit. I can only say in my defense, that over a thousand Palestinians had been killed by then, while Americans tuned out the news to watch Survivor. Its a fucked up world, there doesn’t seem to be a wrong or right, everything is a mess of cascading victimization and brutality. I hadn’t even realized it was September 11th today, until a crass announcement from the conductor on BART this morning inisting that we have a moment of silence for the “heroes and victims” of 9/11. This bothered me for a lot of reasons; for one, everyone ignored it. As I emerged at the station, the request came over the PA again. The loudest contingent of people blowing the idea off was a group of a dozen BART cops, out en force to protect America’s transit riders, laughing their asses off at some dumb joke. So much for the heroes. Second, who was this guy, who was BART, who was George W. Freakin Bush, to ask me to have a moment of silence at their discretion? Lastly, over a thousand Lebanese were murdered just a few weeks ago by American made weapons. And of the most soulless kind–cluster bombs that explode a few feet from the ground tearing people into ribbons, maiming, and leaving thousands of bomblets to blow the fingers and eyes from the bodies of unsuspecting children days, months and even years later. Whereas 9/11 took only a day’s worth of fury and murder on the part of those involved, the US and Israel for over a month, coldly and soullessly contemplated and calculated the destruction of every single dwelling and the massacres at every population center. There are no moments of silence for these victims of the war on terror. There have never been. Anyway, I don’t mean these words to take anything away from the feelings I had this morning when I wrote the tribute to Celeste. Tribute and memorial are words I hesitate to use, polluted as they are with opportunism and false emotion these days, but I guess wrote this in the spirit of commemorating the person she was and the impact she had in my life. I hope that somehow her daughter, Jasmine, one day reads this, and understands where I’m coming from and also appreciates what I wrote, because I thought that her mother was a very special woman. The two of them had a great impact on my life.

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I worked with Celeste for three years at Manhattan Neighborhood Network. We trained together and got the new station up and running, working a brutal 11 hour shift on Saturdays where we were the only employees in the building. Together, we ran a facility with two 3-Camera Studios, 6 editing suites and a lot of challenging would-be television producers. Celeste was a vibrant, beautiful woman, funny and energetic. We had arguments as all co-workers must, but mostly I only have great memories of her. That period of my life was an exceptionally concentrated one for my growth and she was a big character in that play; our crew at MNN was like an extended family, all brothers and sisters, who fought a lot and laughed alot and shared the madness of cable access. We were involved in a media experiment in which the lunatics were in charge of the asylum–anyone who could last through the orientation and training could have their own program, watched by nearly 40,000 Manhattanites. We, ordinary folks with not much education or training, oversaw a functioning television studio that broadcast 24 hours of programming seven days a week. We were all in awe of it in a certain way, and also aware at how often ridiculous it all was.

I loved watching Celeste with her daughter–one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Seeing them together always made me feel that the world was not such a horrible place. That people really did love their children, that they wanted the best for them, and would struggle to help them be the best person they could be. And I loved going to parties with Celeste. As a single mother, it didn’t seem like she got out much, so when she partied, she partied, and we always had a good time watching her enjoy the moment. She was such a great mother–I’ve really never seen anything like the relationship she had with Jasmine. I wasn’t in NYC on 9/11, I was actually in my father’s homeland in Palestine when it happpened and I didn’t find out that Celeste had died until I came back the next year in March. I regret that I wasn’t able to go to the funeral and pay my respects, to make her life and death real, to mourn, to share her life with the people who cared about her. Its a screwed up world. I drifted from most of the people I knew. I felt more and more alienated from my friends the longer I was in Palestine. So I didn’t find out what had happened to her until long after the fact. Celeste had gotten into a marketing job at a big corporation and they had rented out the Windows of the World on the morning of September 11. It still strikes me as a ridiculous coincidence that she happened to be there on that morning. She deserved several decades more of life, to see her beautiful daughter become a woman, and to come into her full as a professional and a human being. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that I don’t think of Celeste because I think of that time often in my life. I guess because I was in such an extreme place myself, and I found out so much later, her death has never seemed real to me. I still think that I see her walking down the street sometimes. Anyway, I’m sending out good wishes to Jasmine, who was always one of my favorite people in New York. I hope she has the wonderful, happy life that she deserves.