this is a day that demarcates “before” and “after”.
this is the day that will cause people will ask, “what were you doing when…”
i’m going to try to try to summarize some of my thoughts purely for my own future reference. i’m writing this to try to capture how i remember my stream of thoughts through the day. it likely won’t be of interest to anyone else.
this is how i remember tuesday, september 11. 2001.
on the internet this morning. listening to npr. hear the report of the first crash. sounds like a commuter flight. do a couple of internet searches and don’t find anything. i decide i don’t want to watch t.v.
report of second plane hitting tower. another quick search on moreover. 1 story. i decide i can’t resist. i watch t.v. for 30 seconds. i can’t take bryant gumbel saying the same thing over. and over.
i debate going to work. decide that maybe it’s best to try to occupy my mind with other things and get in car. increasingly unsettled feeling. twenty minutes in my drive i get a 2-way alert from a co-worker. he’s at home watching t.v. watched the second plane crash into the tower with his son. first tower has collapsed. on npr, bob edwards seems out-of-sorts. more 2-way radio conversations from co-worker. reports of whitehouse on fire. plane crashes in pentagon.
i work 20 minutes from o’hare airport. i hear report that all air traffic is halted, which explains the nightmare traffic back-up. i get a page from my wife. they are evacuating downtown chicago. traffic is crawling. i’m not sure what to think. things starting to blur together. reports of other plane crashes…reported car bombs…evacuation of whitehouse and other government buildings. i realize that i’m not prepared to digest all this sensory input.
i finally get into motorola parking lot. eery silence due to lack of planes on their glide path to o’hare. recreation room on first floor filled with people watching t.v. stunned looks on their faces. lots of people walking around with cell phones trying to contact family.
my wife calls and tells me that her co-worker’s husband was going to a meeting at the towers today. he was in the building during the last bombing. no word if he’s safe.
messages from upper management of motorola. upper management seems to be trying to encourage everyone to work as normal. message doesn’t seem to get through, since they decide to deliver a live cnn web feed behind the corporate firewall.
wife calls. her co-worker’s husband is safe. according to his wife, he was walking into the first tower when the plane hit. he dropped his luggage and crawled under a bench. debris rained down. he waited until things calmed down
and contemplated getting his luggage. as he was about to get out from under, the bench the second tower was hit. potentially deadly amount of debris falls where his luggage is located. he’s saved by being under bench and begins long trek to queens on foot.
people start to wonder why their are no initial casualty estimates. the mayor of new york will only say that it will likely be more than new
york can bear. trying to avoid seeing the images that co-workers are commenting on of people jumping out of windows.
i lose my willpower and decide to click on a quicktime movie of the planes crashing into the towers. i feel something that i’ve never felt
before. something akin to sadness mixed with shock.
the rest of the day is a mix of bundled attempts to take my mind off things by actually working.
i drive home. hear somebody at state department speak on npr. i hear something that sounds close to, “we aren’t going wait until we find who really did this. we know about lots of terrorists. we know countries that support those terrorists.” vauge allusions to bombing whomever we think are terrorists.
i decide that it might be best to get a few beers. woman behind the counter at store looks at me and says simply, “i’ll tell you what. george is right. we better get those people.” i’m not sure who she thinks “those people” are, but i’m not getting the impression that she’s going to put much thought into it. the juxtaposition of her comments with the fact that i can see the middle-eastern owners of the store in the back makes me feel something. i can’t tell if it’s positive or not. i decide sometimes there’s no deciphering irony.
i get home. kris comments that our neighbor called. she’s advocating that we bomb whoever did this. the sooner the better. kris asked politely if that wasn’t the type of thinking that got us into this in the first place. stammering. phone call ends.
on re-reading what i wrote, i want to make clear that i’m not trying to make a statement, i’m only putting down how i filtered the day. we should respond, but i’m not smart enought to begin
to contemplate what an “appropriate” response to this type of terrorist activity means. all i know is
that hatred, contempt and the ability to create caricatures of “those people” are what got us into this mess and it’s certainly not going to
get us out of it.
p.s. i am not a superstitious person. i don’t believe i have any psychic ability. nonetheless, i wanted to capture something that i can only bin in the “not-sure-where-to-place-this” category.
one week ago kris woke up and said she had a disturbing dream. she was
in a plane crash in the water. she thought the
plane crashed near boston, but wasn’t sure – she just remembered the
water. after she awoke, we realized that the power went out in our house, but nowhere else in our neighborhood, which didn’t help the freaky feeling. since she was leaving the following day for boston, we tried to determine when her
abnormal fear of flying developed. we made nervous, spooky jokes and tried to drop the issue to ward off bad mojo [we’re not superstitious. honest. o.k. maybe just a little. ].
the next night – 6 days ago – i dreamt that i was on board a plane. flying through the streets of a city. my dream wasn’t as clear. why was i standing in the cockpit watching through the front window? why were we flying through the city? why am i on a plane. what city is this? why are we so close to the buildings? we’re not supposed to be that close to the buildings.
a surreal red light is cast on all the buildings.