On 8/16/01 I created my first blog. I wrote way more consistently than I do here. I didn’t write on 9/11. I was too stunned and I was sitting at a friend’s house at a time where there wasn’t wifi, I didn’t have a laptop and the iphone, the first smart phone was six years away from existing, though it’s possible Blackberries with internet access existed then, I didn’t have one and cell service was not always working that day. When I did finally return to my home at 11pm that day, I could only muster a reaction I knew from childhood:
I feel a great disturbance in the force.. it’s as if millions of voices cryed out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened…
On 9/12, I managed the below: all typos left as originally published. So much has happened since then, our lives all impacted, I’m not sure the raw reaction could do it better justice..
I think I’m in some huge sort of denial. How is it possible that something this huge could happen? How is it possible? The saddest scene I’ve seen is a shot of the people hanging out of the windows. What horror must those people have been experiencing to think going out a window 80+ stories was an a better option? What were the people on the airplanes thinking, knowing they were going to die? Did someone on flight 93 overcome the hijackers and drive the plane into the ground rather than into a national icon..and if so, God bless them and I wish I could express the pride I feel in their courage. I don’t know why I’m even trying to describe the thousands of thoughts that have gone through my head and will go through my head in the near future. I guess the most important message is of overwhelming sorrow for the families and friends of the victims. I think perhaps I’m in some huge sort of denial, a defense mechanism if you will. This experience made me realize that there was pure evil in the world, that people are willing to do the unfathomable for something they truely believe in. But this… this is unspeakable. It’s amazing the way the mind works, the way it can protect you. I got on the elevator a little after 9am yesterday and a guy I work with jumped on right after me. He said: I just heard that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. At first I thought he meant in Boston. Then he clarified he meant NYC. I’ve just seen on CNN an angle of the second plane that I hadn’t seen before and all I could think was: Jesus! I’ve seen it from every angle 10 times and every time it shocks me and astounds me. My first reaction: it must be a little 2 seater kind of plane, one that can’t really do any damage. I disregarded what he said: yeah, right.. sure whatever. It was my first day back from vacation and I had a lot to catch up on. My boss arrived a few minutes after I did said she had heard about it on Howard Stern. Well, I thought, it must be a joke. We found a radio to listen to and it started to become abundently clear that it was no joke, that it was serious… but I still couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t absorb it. I was totally numb. People came over and listened and walked away, it couldn’t be real… we have work to do. People would go to their desks. On the other side of the floor a television was turned on. We went down and saw a group of about 30 people standing around the tv, mouths hanging open. The news comes fast and furious.. the pentegon has been hit.. I run back to my desk to call my friend from DC. I can’t comprehend the magnatude of this.. I attempt to go back and work, to acheive normalacy.. just so as not to freak out. I start calling my friends. Everyone is starting to panic. Without being in NY, without being able to actually see the results.. it seems like a bad movie. Didn’t this happen in a Die Hard? We walk between our desks and the tv.. did a plane hit Camp David? A plane crashed in PA? What about this plane that suppossedly had a bomb on it that landed in Cleveland? Then the news that the 2 flights that hit the towers originated in Boston. That means the terrorists were here that morning. here. We hear that the towers are collapsing. It dosn’t occur to me that the whole structure is gone, I think they mean the part where the planes hit and above. It’s not conceivable to me what I will later find out is the meaning of the buildings collapsing. People are leaving my office, off to find their children and families. I work in a tall building in the financial district. At 11am, they tell us to evacuate. Imagine not being safe in your workplace in the U.S. I go to a friends house, we stare awestruck at the news all day: cnn, abc, nbc, cbs, anyone that will give us info or different views. Any news we jump on. The jesus fucking christ video truely awes us. At one point we hear a plane and look at each other in panic.. how could there be a plane? We run outside and see the F15 fighters, we later hear that they have been sent to NY. CNN is reporting right now that on flight 93 a man called his family and said that once they had heard the world trade center had been hit, they had voted to try to overtake the hijakcers. How did they hear that the world trade center had been hit? How did they process this so quickly and react? I can barely react 37 hours later. All day we watch tv.. we hear that there has been an explosion in Afganistan, no one knows why. We see images of missles being deployed over Kaul. We are convinced WWIII has begun, we stare wordlessly, too stunned to be horrified. Shortly it is declared that these explosions have nothing to do with the U.S. Interesting that Taliban has recently it’s most powerful enemy the day before, isn’t it? Throughout the day, we hear Bush is here, Bush is there.. why they are announcing it, is beyond us. No one is talking about where Cheney is. Very smart, eh? Bush is the decoy! I am relieved to get a message from my friend in DC that she is ok. Time goes by and no new news is coming out, we stare out. I come home, I stare at the tv until 1am, still disbelieving. I wake up today to see a tape of the first plane on Today. Nothing new seems to really be coming out. I continue into work. I walk to work, I have some fear of taking the T. Terrorists have been in my city. At one point we can hear a plane, everyone on the street stops and looks up. How long will it take us before the sound of a plane dosn’t make us stare up? It is an F15, I guess we should feel safe. I go to the newsstand, and I have to wait in a large line to get the papers. People are buying copies of every paper. I buy a Globe and a New York Times. At one point during the day we hear sirens and many people run to the windows, we see a collection of police on motorcycles. We later here that they have rushed the Westin in an effort to find some people related to the terrorists. I’m less than thrilled to hear that these people have been in my city overnight. What else were they planning? Through the course of today I have discovered that a man that worked where I used to work and his wife as well as a man that I went to graduate school with were on the flights from Boston. I can’t contemplate it. Imagine the horror of their last moments. God bless them. And God help the people who did this, because there will be retaliation.. this won’t handled the way PanAm was or the embassy bombings or the U.S. Cole.. there is no way they will not be punished.
The Empire State building and Penn station are being evacuated. what else can happen?
How is it possible that a new security measure is to not allow knives on planes. Why were knives ever allowed on planes?
I’m sure that as I start to really understand what is happening I will have more reactions…
Other things I remember from 9/11 are sitting at my desk, our office not having let us go home, and my co-worker IMing me: are we supposed to sit here like it’s a normal day? A co-worker turning from the tv, horrified, saying: I’m out of here, I’m going to get my kids, when we were finally released to leave around 11am, the co-worker I rode the elevator with, where we watched the news on the elevator screen about what was thought possibly at 9:00 am to be a small commuter plane came over to my desk, shook my hand and said: I guess we will always remember each other (I do, Scott, I do). I remember being surprised that my boss, a woman in her late 40s with teenaged children, telling us what Howard Stern was reporting. She listens to Howard Stern? Note: at one point I listened to the recording of the Howard Stern show from that day and he and his staff were phenomenal, no rumors, no jokes, just facts. The oddity of the things you remember, the ways your brain protects you in the moment from the truly shocking. I remember seeing Ashleigh Bansfield almost push someone out of the way to get an interview. I thought I’d never forgive her, but perhaps I should because she went down there to report, she did. Subsequently we’d move on to the anthrax attacks. My office would be evacuated about twice a week for awhile until people started saying no one was allowed to have powered donuts anymore.
Twenty years on, I still don’t know how to process that day. Perhaps it should be left to historians to put it in perspective. Maybe those of us who lived it can’t sum it up just yet. It still hurts. A childlike view that it’s hard to believe people could be so cruel, could harm innocents for their own cause is still part of my psyche despite all evidence to the contrary.
Bless the victims, their families and friends, and the first responders who show us what is good in us and give us hope, and all the people who developed illnesses from helping or just being near the sites.