Yesterday Was Free, Today It's A Dollar-Fifty

Updated on September 20, 2019
Steve Tyson profile image

Steve Tyson is a critically acclaimed Australian songwriter, inspired by travel, family history, political satire, and tales of heartbreak

The Day the Rules All Changed

Source
Source

New York, New York

I think everyone remembers where they were, or what they were doing, on the 11th September 2001. It was early the next morning, around breakfast time for me, at home in Australia, when we woke up to the news. We, my family and I, sat unmoving, in our pyjamas, watching the continuing event unfold. We all knew the rules had just been changed, we all knew the world, as we knew it, would be forever a different place.

A few years later, I ran into a friend of mine in Paris. I was living there for a few months at the time, trying to be Ernest Hemingway, sitting in cafes everyday and making notes for a novel. We got talking. He had an incredible story waiting to come out.

Turns out Richard was living in New York at the time of 9/11. He worked in the fashion industry and had been based there for a couple of years. His apartment was literally across the road from the World Trade Centre towers. The night before the event that changed the world, he had made the decision to come home to Australia.

Excited by the prospect of this, he stayed up making plans, packing a few things, and before he realised it, it was daylight. He put on his roller blades, and set off past Battery Park to get in a few hours skating around that end of Manhattan. He was nearing home when the first plane hit.

He got caught up in the chaos of what unfolded next. As he tried to return to his apartment, he was hit with falling rubble, injured himself, and blacked out. He ended up in hospital in New Jersey.

When he checked himself out two days later, all he wanted to do was to get home – firstly to his apartment, and then to Australia. He got across back on to Manhattan, and tried to catch the subway back down to the neighbourhood where he lived. He was wearing the same t-shirt and shorts, now torn and dishevelled, that he was wearing when he went skating two days earlier. He had no money, and no ID.

On the day of 9/11, and the next day, the authorities were letting people ride the subway for free, obviously just to get them out of the area . Hundreds of people were still searching for loved ones, it was still an unholy mess. When he came to the ticket counter and explained his circumstances, the ticket seller shrugged his shoulders, and said – “yesterday was free, today it’s a dollar-fifty.”

An African-American lady standing nearby overheard the exchange. As Richard turned away, bewildered, she stepped up to the ticket booth and paid his fare. He thanked her, and headed back to his apartment building in Manhattan.

He couldn’t get near it. The building was severely damaged with the fallout from the crashing towers, and a policeman wouldn’t let him through anyway because he had no ID. Shock finally kicked in, and he wandered the streets, appalled at shopkeepers selling pictures of people jumping out of the towers. He suffered the indignity of “tourists” taking his photo as he sat crying on the sidewalk. He witnessed looting. To this day, he suffers from severe back pain.

There were of course, plenty of tales of heroism that emerged over the next few days. Firefighters, policemen risking their lives, people working around the clock to search for survivors and to uncover bodies. There was not so much written or said about this ugly dark side.

Richard’s story took several more days to unravel as he stayed in the home of strangers, waiting to collect his personal belongings, waiting for a new passport from the Australian Embassy. He limped home to Australia. He has never been the same.

His story deeply moved me, but above all else, the words of that subway ticket seller reverberated in my head. And this song emerged….

Oh, I never did write that novel. After Richard told me his story, I certainly went through a purple patch of inspired writing, but not a novel. I wrote Richard’s song, plus another seven or eight songs that would become the basis of a new record. My Hemingway period would have to wait.

The Lyrics

It was time

Two years was enough in this city

I couldn’t sleep

But the night was fine the sky even pretty

Packed some books

Made a rough plan to go home

Looked at my watch

It was dawn and too early to phone

Put on skates

Headed out past Battery Park

Felt uneasy

Didn’t know why but my thoughts were dark

Two hours later

Cruising back past the twin giants

A noise from hell

Screams all round sounds like a riot

Sorry I don’t have a dime

So can you please help me

He said, yesterday was free

Today, it’s a dollar fifty

I looked up

Saw the wings of evil strike the wall

Hell was real

Fire and ash and death began to fall

Chaos reigned

The roar of the giants crashing down

Lights went out

Woke up to see the paramedic’s frown

Spent two days

In a Jersey County Hospital bed

Guess I’m lucky

Heard about 3000 or so were dead

I checked out

Broken bones and all I couldn’t stay

Needed home

Made it as far as Penn Station on the way

No ID

That’s all the policeman had to say

Can’t go home

You’ll just have to find another way

Walked the streets

Full of ghouls and sick pedlars of grief

Screamed aloud

At the pain and indifference no relief

The Song

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, letterpile.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://letterpile.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)