Laurie Anderson on visiting ground zero 10 years later

Laurie Anderson performing “Delusion.’’
Laurie Anderson performing “Delusion.’’ –(Photo by Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

A loss of freedom is what Laurie Anderson sees when she thinks about what’s happened to the United States in the decade since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: the heightened security, the waging of war, petty annoyances like having to take her shoes off at the airport.

But the musician and performance artist, who will bring her show “Delusion’’ to the Paramount Theatre Sept. 27 through Oct. 2, was one of many New Yorkers who made their way down to ground zero yesterday, on the anniversary of the twin towers’ falling. Speaking by phone this morning from her studio on Canal Street, not far from the World Trade Center site, she explained why.


“Everybody hates this kind of situation, I mean, this giant state that’s now looming and lurking everywhere. And so I’m very angry about that, very frustrated with it, and yet when I woke up yesterday and it was such a beautiful, blue morning, the impact of that moment came back to me. The feelings that I had that day, which were — well, it’s very hard to describe, but the realization that everything could be blown away in an instant, of course, and then the thing that you always wonder about in the place where you live. You think, if something really bad happened here, would anyone help each other? And we got to find that out.

“We have a rep in New York of being, you know, cold and professional, but people ran into burning buildings. There was a giant outpouring of tenderness and help, and just for a moment, you know, we all lived in the same tender moment. And then it all went very south. And I think it’s a much more brutal world now.

“It just didn’t last. I guess maybe it’s like you want your first date to last or a little tender moment when you suddenly see somebody, you love them so much, and then you realize, ‘Ooh, but I hate the way he’s doing that to me.’ You know, I’m not saying those things can last forever, but the reaction here [in the United States] was so violent and so brutal, and you know the cliché is we wasted all this goodwill from the world, but we wasted our own energy. Yesterday I learned, you know, $3.3 trillion is the kind of bill, if you look at it in one way, for 9/11.


“So I went down there really because I didn’t want to be angry, and I wanted to just sort of think about that particular day. And I saw so many families getting off boats from New Jersey, and they were wearing the T-shirts of the person they lost, and I thought, ‘Wait a second. I have to look at this another way, too, and remember the tenderness of that moment.’

“That’s why I went there, to just be in the physical place and remember that, aside from the bitterness I feel [at] the reaction to it, it started out with a very different feeling of emptiness and tenderness. And I did feel that yesterday when I saw those people, so, you know, I’m still kind of’’ — she sighs heavily — “trying to put those pieces together.

“The call for revenge happened. Then everybody went that way. Now, what if there had been another way that we could’ve done that instead of revenge and war? I don’t know what that would be, but there are other ways to react. You were just supposed to hate everybody. And that has taken a huge toll, that hatred. Huge. And we had this opportunity to kind of say, ‘You know, maybe we should look at the way we’re looking at the world as well.’ Not ignore the fact that we were attacked, because we were. But it could’ve gone a different way.’’

This interview has been condensed and edited. A feature story on Laurie Anderson and “Delusion’’ is forthcoming in The Boston Globe.

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