(Reposted from Two Years)
LGF has asked for September 11, 2001 stories. A clearing house for these isn’t a bad idea; I may take it upon myself to try to make some sort of scrapbook of as many of these stories as I can. Next time I think about doing a documentary for a vacation, it might just be an oral history collection of what people remember from that day. This is the only blogging I will be doing today. If another attack comes, you don’t need me to tell you.
I remember the day distinctly, even after two years. People immediately recognized it for what it was: a defining day. 20 years from now, people will ask, “Where were you when the (Old?) World Trade Center was attacked?” It will be like the Kennedy Assassination (the first one). A collective day of grief, when the very essence of America was attacked.
I was doing what I think most people were doing, the American pastime; I was working. I was annoyed, because I had to come in at seven thirty in the morning, instead of my usual leisurely nine-ish. I had to come in early for a meeting being held by another section for a Halloween presentation. I got there at seven thirty, held our part ten minutes in, was done in ten minutes, and at about seven fifty-five, I was back in my office.
I had some coffee and was reading email when the woman from the next office came in and asked, “Do you guys have a TV in here?” We are the multimedia department of the firm, but I said, “They handle that in the conference center. You can check one out from them.”
“No, I mean one that we can watch the news on.” I noticed at that point that it looked like she had been crying.
I told her, “We have a couple of monitors that have tuners on them, but we don’t get much reception here. We don’t even have an antenna. Why? What is on the news?”
“They said on the radio on the way in that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.”
“The one here or in New York?” I was confused. We have a “World Trade Center” in the fashion district of Dallas that is in the flight path of Love Field. I was about to go grab a window and gawk.
“The one in New York.”
I told her that I had a radio, and we started listening to NPR. It was the only FM news that I knew of, and you can only pick up FM inside the building. I started speculating. “How do you get a plane so far off course that you hit a building? The last time this happened was when that biplane hit the Empire State Building.”
I heard then that the Pentagon had been hit, and I realized almost instantly. We are under attack. Soon after, we heard about the second tower being hit. Some people had started trickling down from the conference center and relating what they were seeing. I still didn’t trust any of it — I couldn’t be sure how much was the fog of war. I remember disbelief. How could the Pentagon be hit? Don’t they have SAMs to protect it? It is a military base, for Pete’s sake.
The woman from the next office came back, and she was in full crying-mode now. “People are jumping off the building. They are jumping off.” I remember getting angry at them. ‘What is wrong with you people? Get to the damned stairwells! The stairwells are pressurized to keep the fire out! You can get down! You are going to be landing on firemen and people trying to get out! You stupid selfish asshole! I still feel a little guilty about getting angry at people who were being murdered.
The rumor mill was in full swing. Someone came in and said that they were trying to ground all the planes. Someone said that the FAA said there were six more planes suspected to be hijacked. We got word about that time that the building was being voluntarily evacuated. Then someone said that they heard on the radio that one of the planes that was suspect was coming out of D/FW. We are in the tallest building in Dallas, the Bank of America building. Being tall, in the sight of a permanent weather cam, having “America” in the name, and being in Bush’s home state was too much for me. I had already figured out that the reason for the second plane in New York was to make sure that the attack was caught on film.
I took off. I had ridden the bus that day, so I went down to the bus stop. It was strange. Everyone was talking to everyone else. I had a radio on me, so I was the news relay. “The FAA is grounding everything.” “The Firefighters are worried about the building falling.” FDNY wasn’t part of the vocabulary yet, and the very idea of the buildings falling was silly at that point. I chalked it up to overcautious emergency workers. A plane passed overhead, and everyone held their breath. I got on the bus.
I continued relaying info. I called my brother, who was at home. I had been trying to get through, but the circuits had been packed. “I’m coming home.”
“Turn on the TV. I’m on the bus. I want to clear the line. The cell towers are going to be packed for a while. I’m OK — they already evacuated our building.”
“Terrorists are attacking us. They hit New York and DC.”
“Shit.” I hung up. He’ll figure it out.
I told the bus when the news came through that a flight had crashed in Pennsylvania. We all assumed that it had been shot down. That was what made sense. The initial reports were that fighters had been seen trailing it. We were under attack, damnit. Sometimes you have to put down your own dog when he turns on you. Our planes had turned on us.
I was on the bus when they said that the first tower had fallen. I figured that someone had mangled the report of the firefighters being worried about the building falling. There were already conflicting reports, and I had seen a documentary that said that it could withstand a direct hit by a 767. I said to myself, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The walk home from the bus stop was quiet. There was nothing in the air. No one on the streets. I got home, and I believed. They were replaying the first tower falling. I was on the phone checking in with family when my brother said, “I think the other one just fell.”
“No, they just keep showing the first one over and over.”
“No, it fell, too. They just said.”
Seeing was believing. The World Trade Center was gone, and they were worrying about the outlying buildings collapsing. This time, I believed the worry. The news said that Bush had boarded Air Force One and was unaccountable. I thought, “He’s going to get on the Doomsday Plane. We have to be at Defcon 3.” A year later, I would find out that I was mostly right. We were at Defcon 3, and the Doomsday Plane had gone up, but Bush wasn’t on it.
I was right about a lot of things that I wish that I wasn’t.