Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th

There have been millions of words written about September 11th over the past eight years, and well... here are a few more you can add to the pile.

While I did not lose any friends or loves ones, I had a few acquaintances that died in the World Trade Center. I still have my ID badge from when I used to work there, up until a year before the attacks. Looking back, there are some parts that feel emotionally distant now, but the details are completely burned into my memory. I recall driving to work, listening to the Fordham University radio station and hearing the disc jokey cut into some lazy folk tune with news of a massive fire at the World Trade Center. Like I mentioned, I used to work in one of the towers a year before (by 9/11, I was working north of the city for a different company). I quickly parked in a garage and sprinted to my office to call my mother and get details (I didn't have a cell phone then). As I booted my computer and pulled up, I saw images that didn't make sense. And when I got my mom on the phone, I heard her calmly say "Another plane just crashed into the World Trade Center." Suddenly anything was possible-- and that was terrifying.

I remember the next morning, waking up and thinking "What happened while I slept?" fully expecting another attack had taken place. I recall thinking "If we couldn't defend the Pentagon, surely we are completely vulnerable. Why didn't we have rockets or some anti-aircraft batteries around that building.?" So, after ten minutes of TV news, I drove into town and bought one copy of every newspaper. I felt strangely ashamed, like a bystander peering at a gruesome car wreck. However, in retrospect I'm glad I bought the papers because they are artifacts, records of an incredible event.

I also remember finally getting a cell phone that week. I used to shun the device as an inconvenient convenience. But suddenly it was a security blanket- a lifeline in a very unsettling time. I implored my friend Mike, who worked at CNN (and still does), to call me anytime, day or night, if something major broke in the news. He became my emergency broadcast signal. For a while, whenever I saw his number on the caller ID, I answered with a bit of caution.

And then there was Game 3 of the 2001 World Series, where President Bush threw out the first pitch. I went to that game, had pretty amazing seats about 10 rows back from home plate. I remember seeing three Marine One helicopters descending out beyond the stadium wall (one of them had the President, the other two were decoys) They landed in sequence at Macomb's Dam Park next to Yankee Stadium. It was like watching UFOs land-- completely surreal. My eyes thoroughly scanned the stadium, noticing sharp-shooters lurking between the floodlights above. I kept visualizing an explosion taking out a section or a plane crashing into the stadium. When Bush came out to throw the first pitch, I held my breath praying the event would pass without incident. I was on edge like this for months.

Oddly, I recall "24" premiering around that time too. And without even giving the show a shot, I refused to watch it. All I knew was it was about terrorism and that was the last thing I wanted to watch. I thought "That show won't last, not with the real world the way it is." Luckily I was wrong- and thankfully I embraced the show on video years later.

I won't attempt to make sense of how those events have affected us eight years later. Like I said, millions of words have been committed to the subject. I can only offer this personal testimonial- September 11th is close to my thoughts, my heart still aches for those who died and I hope for the day when this part of our history is truly in the past.