tuesday, the eleventh of september, two thousand one
nothing will ever be the same again
Like everyone else, today started out like any other Tuesday for me.
At 8:30 a.m., I was just thinking about getting out of bed and getting in the shower and seeing what I could do to get to work before 10:00 for the first time in I don't know how long.
Then the phone rang. Phones ringing for me this early in the morning are certainly unusual, but not unheard of, and I figured someone needed a ride downtown and thought of always-late me.
It was my friend Gillian, already at work. "What's going on?"
Sleepy me: "I don't know, what's going on?"
"Do you have your television on?"
"No," I say as I fumble for the remote, which I can never find, so I sit up and flip forward on my stomach to press the power button on my little bedroom television.
To be presented with the picture we will never forget, smoke billowing from gaping holes in each tower. I couldn't understand how one plane could have caused that kind of separate damage to each building, but it wasn't long before they played the video of the plane slamming into the second building while the first building was already burning.
That's pretty much the end of my story. Outside of the online journaling community, I have no friends or loved ones in New York City, and no friends in DC who work anywhere near the Pentagon, so I had no agonizing wait for news. I was just glued to the television for two hours, then called in to see what was going on at work, and my secretary told me not to bother coming in as they were getting ready to send everyone home anyway.
Eventually my friends were sent home too, and I joined them at Mary's house, feeling a need to just be around other people. I stopped at the grocery store first (as every crisis needs food) and it was strange, so eerily quiet, all of us walking the aisles as though we had to concentrate very, very hard on what we were doing.
I talked to my mother several times, kept asking her if she had talked to my dad. My dad is playing golf in South Carolina, but for some reason, I wanted her to have talked to him. I wanted to talk to him, which he must have known, because he ended up calling me.
He said he was thinking about me today, thinking that I had never seen anything like this, hadn't seen any images of war that his generation had seen, Korea, Vietnam. I pointed out that none of us had ever seen anything like this: this was our country.
The appalling feeling of not caring if we have to decimate an entire country full of innocent people as long as we kill the one man they think is responsible. Not caring whether they're even 100% sure it's him.
The appalling feeling that if I had a gun in the streets of Palestine, I wouldn't think twice about shooting someone who looked happy about this, particularly when they are driving a fucking Ford.
The appalling feeling that if they want to start searching my carry-on by hand every single time I get on a plane, if they wanted to keep me from carrying on my computer, my CD player, my cell phone, I wouldn't care.
The appalling feeling that Oklahoma City seems minor.
Everything seems minor. A woman kills all five of her children? A couple of kids kill some other kids at a school? A young pop singer dies in a plane crash? So what.
But not just people dying. Everything else, too. Listening to NPR in the car today, and they were giving the weather forecast. Oh, it's going to be 80 tomorrow. Who the fuck cares?
They keep talking about all the FedEx packages that are stuck on the ground, like anyone is going to say "Geez, I can't believe I didn't get my contract today."
I think about what I'll have to get done at work tomorrow, and it is all just so stupid, so insignificant, so meaningless.
Those men. Those men who walked into ground zero -- into probable death -- because they were there to save every life except their own. Those men, trained in disaster relief, who walked out looking like they had no idea where they were. Those people have jobs that mean something. I certainly don't.
So now what? Our lives changed today in ways we can't even begin to understand, to an extent we won't understand for a long time. If we haven't lost a loved one, chances are we will know someone who has.
We've lost our sense of security. Our sense that America is indestructible. We've lost the feeling that as long as we're on U.S. soil, we're safe. We've lost the ability to watch news reports of bombings of U.S. embassies in countries we can't spell and take comfort in the fact that it doesn't happen here.
Someday, we can talk about what we haven't lost. We can talk about how we haven't lost our faith, our hope, our patriotism, our democracy.
Someday. But not today.