Lorie Van Auken lost her husband, who worked for the investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. But she never stuck to the media stereotype of how grieving family members were supposed to react to the tragedy. She became one of the so-called "Jersey Girls" who demanded (and got) a government investigation of how the attacks happened and why.
In an interview with writer Gail Sheehy in the New York Observer, Van Auken famously questioned why President Bush continued reading "The Pet Goat" to a classroom while the attacks were still underway. "I couldn't stop watching the president sitting there, listening to second-graders, while my husband was burning in a building," she said.
Kenneth and Lorie Van Auken had a daughter who was just 12 years old when he died in the attack. Today, Sarah Van Auken is 25 -- she attended college here in Philadelphia at the University of the Arts and stayed in town -- and now she has something that she wants to say. She's written a show -- "This Is Not About 9/11" -- and she's presenting it here at the SoLow Fest, an arts festival now underway.
Sarah Van Auken’s practically solo performance takes the audience on an extremely personal journey as the actual daughter of a Cantor Fitzgerald stock trader who lost her father to the attacks in Lower Manhattan. Hers is a tale about so much more than that, though: being manipulated by a news media bent on wringing every last tear out of 9/11 families in service to a grotesque faux-patriotism, while failing to actually listen to what these families have learned from tragedy. As director/producer Ellie Marissa Ruttenberg told me:
Being a close friend of Sarah’s and having had many long talks into the night about this specific subject matter, I know that she’s felt her story hasn’t been told.
It is a performance mixed with rage, incredulity, and strength, as she refuses to pander to the veneer of sentimentality initially forced on her by the faceless, booming voice of the interviewer (played by Bob Stineman), who may be more interested in collecting her grief than in actually listening to what she has to say.
Her show is running two more nights, Friday and Saturday, and the details are here (and in the poster at top). It sounds like a very thought-provoking 45 minutes.