On this Sept. 11th I dawned the traditional I heart NY shirt, moped around the house, and spoke to a dear friend about how I remember events unfolding from across the river that day. And instead of trying to write profound thoughts to go with the sad memories, I give you last year’s post:
To some extent, it is great not to be in the US on Sept. 11th. I say this because sometimes the desire to remember and reflect is completely overdone and beaten to death via a tacky Newspaper Editorial or political speech. Here in the NL people seem to just go about their business. I suggested to a lovely Turkish student that today is a good day to be a little quieter and pensive, she gave me the interesting response “If we were going to be reflective and depressed on every day that corresponds with a past tragedy, we would have no normals days left.” Of course, for me this one is special due to its proximity to me, like so many people out there. So today I offer some memories of my Sept. 11, 2001. In doing so, I mean to organize my thoughts, get them out on paper, and remember the bad as well as some good moments on that day.
It was one month since getting my bachelors, things in my life were foggy, as happens to most recent grads. I had just returned from Portugal and was working in NYC for Glorious Foods, one of the hippest catering gigs in town. On Sept. 10th I had been working in Manhattan… a posh dinner in a bubble-tent at the Morgan Library. I remember great conversations with my co-workers from Germany and Russia about travel plans and live questions. I worked til late, and commuted via 33rd St. PATH train and then car back to my residence in my home town, Union, NJ. I was working that next night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or something like that, so I had big plans for sleeping in on that morning.
As I was trying to sleep in.. at around nine o’clock I remember my clock radio switched on, I had left it set accidentally. It was a traffic report:
“All bridges are closed. Tunnels are closed as well. The City is effectively closed, no one should try to get in and getting out is also not possible at this moment.”
Tired Reflex I hit the snooze. In my half-awake mind I thought “Must be some anti-terrorism exercise.”
Then I remember the phone ringing. Sometimes I don’t even pick up when I want to sleep, but on this day I did. The voice on the other side was loud, blunt, and hurried: (this is as best I can remember)
DROCK: “DUDE, What are you doing?”
BM: “Sleeping man… still sleeping why?”
DROCK (working in DC): “TURN ON THE TV… You haven’t heard?”
BM: “I heard they’re doing something in the city, but no.. I worked late and..”
DROCK: “Just turn on the Fuckin TV… the Towers have been hit… and something happened here too. I probably have to evacuate this place soon. SHIT. OK.. I gotta go.. call you when I can.”
BM: “What? Oh.. OK..”
I switched on the TV and watched. The second tower had just been hit. At that point I didn’t want to get all crazy and rush to judgement, I thought “maybe it’s just a fire… they’ll put it out.” Then I heard about the DC news… the Pentagon (a building I hate normally) and they reported that the “Mall is on fire”.. whatever that means. It all sounded like chaos and hysteria. I was stunned. I looked out my New Jersey window and could see the darkness in the sky… it was still recent.. hadn’t smothered the entire island yet, as it later would for days. Phone rings again:
Mom at work: “Mark… have you seen?”
BM: “Hi mom.. yes. DRock just called.. he says theres things happening in DC… he was in a hurry… I’m not sure…”
Mom: “OK. The kids are going crazy. You can see Manhattan from the Gym windows, and some are crying, others are just confused. Lots of parents work in that area. I can’t believe this.”
BM: “Yes.. wasn’t ____ on a plane to San Fran today?”
Mom: “I don’t know… I think it was much earlier. What else have they said about this, because we’re not getting much information here?”
I summarized what I had learned and seen in my half-hour of awakenness.
As a reflex.. despite a bad break..I called ex-girlfriend. She was there. We shared our shock.. comforted a bit.. and proceeded to start calling more loved ones.
I remembered A-L. A-L… my fussball partner…the gal that made my time at the Village Voice so fun and exciting. She lived uptown. I wanted to speak with her. When I finally did get her she was fairly paniced. I won’t replay that conversation. But I just remember her need to walk around talking to people.. and inability to stay indoors.
Then the phonecalls started coming in:
Dad calls from work: Just checking in. I can’t remember much from that call.
Portugal – Grandma: Av? and Av? were worried that I was in Manhattan looking for work. They were terrified.
Boston – HJM calls: She wanted to make sure I wasn’t there. I hadn’t spoke to her in quite some time. Besides the horror of the day, I was so happy to speak with her.
At some point I spoke to BigDaddyJ, this part of my memory is fuzzy. I think I was becoming numb to these calls. Still I remember we spoke that morning.
I know at some point I spoke to IK… I had been thinking about him alot. Worried, because he is Turkish and his father owned a gas station. I had this huge fear for the safety of him and his family. I worried about the backlash. I knew there would be ignorant people with weapons running around. In fact later there were plenty of cases of hate-crimes, but IK and his family were ok.. and we spoke a couple of times that day.
The rest is more of the same. Phonecalls from people I hadn’t spoken with in years as well as people I see everyday. Everyone sort of checking in.. some fearing that I might have been there, others just wanting to talk. Later that night I remember “the boys” asking me, as the resident international affairs buff, questions about terrorism, Aghanistan, and as I recall “What is going on.. what has the US been doing that someone would do something like this to us?” I remember being impressed.. my non-political friends wanted information. They were hungry for facts. Many were, and perhaps unfortunately, they turned to television to get their soundbite information.
When the day finally came to an end, I did lots of writing. Looking at it now.. I was worried. Worried about those who had died and the families. Worried about the backlash against immigrants. And the one theme I kept fearing, was the irrational response. I worried about all the people on the earth who would die from bombs dropped in response to this terrible crime. Of course we’ve now seen how that came true.
And of course as I was sleeping… 4am.. a phonecall comes in – from France. It was the French family I had lived with and become so close with, they were worried about me, they wanted to ask about what I thought would happen next. They forgot there was a time difference.
So despite my distaste for lame Sept. 11th tributes, there it is. Most of my memories from that one day. Working the phones at the bicyclemark family farm just across the river from this massive cloud of despair.
My one wish from all this is that the war on terrorism, would stop going the way its going. Instead of attempting to hunt down and destroy terrorism, which is of course impossible, I wish humans would use their power to investigate WHY terrorism is happening. Who is being wronged… miseducated.. oppressed.. abused. Like addressing crime, you cannot simply try to catch every criminal, you must find out WHY crimes are being committed and address that problem.