Here is another recycled post that I wrote just under a year ago, on the ninth anniversary of 9/11.
I feel a little (okay, a lot) cheap jumping on the “9/11 memories” bandwagon when there are so many more important stories to tell. People who were there. Children and wives and husbands and friends and colleagues who lost loved ones who were there. The somehow fortunately fated dozens who narrowly avoided being there. Those who have fought for our security and freedoms in the ensuing decade.
I am none of these things and yet have my own story to tell. Those who find it interesting (i.e., my parents) already read this last year, so now I am just capturing it for myself I suppose. Here goes it.
Fair warning: my 9/11 story is boring. I was safely in the Midwest (St. Louis, Missouri), as were all of my family members (except for those who were in the Deep South). The friends of mine that were in New York or D.C. were out of harm’s way and quickly able to communicate via email. And yet, I remember my personal minutiae of that day as though it were 10 hours ago.
I was telecommuting for a company in Ohio (how progressive of me!). I had friends, but none that lived close by. I was single although casually dating a someone who was polite and generous and kind. And I didn’t care about him one bit. So there’s the backdrop.
I was up early in my second bedroom-slash-office, hard at work writing about investment strategies. As was the custom at my old company, an email preceded by two asterisks (**) simply meant “the subject is all there is to the email; no need to open to read.” Around 8:50, an email comes from our CEO: “**AA plane has flown into the World Trade Center” Oh-kay. Horrific pilot error, everyone thought. American Airlines stock will plummet. My God. The poor passengers. Unsettled, I continue to work.
Fifteen minutes later: “**A second plane has flown into the World Trade Center.” What the f*ck. No idea what’s going on in my office hours away in another Midwestern state but I had to get to a television. I jogged out to my living room; phone begins to ring. It’s my best friend, at her office about 20 minutes away, inquiring about whether our close Brooklyn-based friend worked in or near the WTC. We didn’t think so; we never really thought about it or knew.
Ignoring my computer, I sit with phone to my head and television on. The towers collapse. I decide I need to get the f*ck out of my apartment. Not for fear, but for human, non-digital interaction.
I drove my car on a beautiful early-fall day to a local pub, Tom’s Bar and Grill. Bellied up to the bar. Ate a taco salad. One beer and several iced teas. Chatted for 3-4 hours with those who had come to do the same. Mostly middle-aged men. One bankruptcy lawyer and his friend. These were my new best friends, and I knew I’d never see them again. I didn’t.
The guy I was halfway dating (who, my middle-aged friends advised me, needed dumping based solely on my obvious apathy) called me from his business trip to the West Coast and said he’d be on a flight home the next day. Had he even been paying attention to the news, I thought? He ended up stranded for three more days before renting a car and driving cross-country.
I didn’t work for the rest of the week as the stock markets were closed. I cleaned and shopped and cooked. I called everyone that meant anything to me, no matter if they lived in the impacted areas or were out of harms way. I wore red white and blue topped by an old Yankees cap that had an embellished American flag. People looked at me sympathetically as though I were a legitimate New York resident on vacation in the heartland. I felt like a poseur.
I felt shaken and sad and terrified but strangely alive and inspired by the patriotism that swelled universally. Everyone exchanged those sad smiles like you do at funerals. The restaurants and parks were full of people appreciating the company of loved ones. Revenge wasn’t even on the table; solidarity and survival were paramount.
Writing this [last year, and updating it today], I can say without question that I have less hope today than I did on September 12, 2001. The palpable sense of unity and shared experience that emerged following such tragedy has been completely eradicated in such a relatively short time. Divided we fall, people.