I won't stand on the soapbox and expound a ton of theories, from conspiracy theories to theories of national stability to what have you. As a card-carrying member of the ACLU, that ain't easy to do, but I will.
I won't pontificate, I'll let graye take care of that. He's the expert at that one.
Instead I'll just share my recollections of the day a year ago.
That morning, much like this morning exactly a year later, I laid in bed for an hour waiting for a roommate to finish using the bathroom. After finally getting a chance to shower, I laid in bed for a moment listening to the radio. If I left immediately, I'd face an onslaught of traffic, I'd leave in another fifteen minutes or so, after getting dressed and shaving. As I do just about every morning, I was listening to Howard Stern. Yeah, say what you will. Every roomie I've had (well, primary/first roomie in every case) since college has been a Stern fan. From Father Joe to Jaime to Dave.
Howard was talking about some incident with Pamela Anderson Lee, his crew suggesting he had a chance to sleep with her, he denying it. As I drifted through consciousness, dabbing at the snooze button every so often to keep myself tethered to the land of the wakeful reality. Suddenly, Howard mentioned something about a plane hitting the WTC. As most people did, I immediately assumed a Cessna sized craft. After going back to the topic of what kind of groping and kissing was going on with Pam, they finally got a TV shot. After listening to their horror for a bit, I bolted out of bed and ran for the living room. Feff was sleeping in his bed in the living room, and groggily asked me what was going on. Turning to CNN, showing him the billowing smoke and flames shooting from the tower, he sat up and stared. We took it in for a while, talked about what a tragedy it was, and how odd it was to occur on a sunny day. Speculating for a bit, we wondered if it was mechanical failure, pilot error, or intentional. The theories seemed valid, but the last wasn't seriously considered. So I went back to my room, and finished dressing. I turned the radio up, and walked back out to the living room to watch a bit more. I saw the second plane go in, and heard Howard's flunkies reactions a few seconds later from my room. That totally shook Feff from his slumber, bringing him totally awake. I stood there with him, watching the two towers shoot smoke and flames into the sky, realizing that it was most definately a planned attack.
Back during Y2K, Feff told me that I was his contingency plan for the event, in case shit hit the fan. When he heard I was going to Times Square, he expressed concern that I'd have to fight my way out to establish my post-apocalyptic fortress. He and a few others joked that I'd end up the warlord of some local region, with my Road Warrior-esque compound full of minions. At least two friends mentioned Aunty Entity's line from the sequel, "Do you know who I was? Nobody. Except on the day after, I was still alive. This nobody had a chance to be somebody." They joked that I'd have a similar fate.
So after the second tower hit, we started preaching end of days apolcalyptic thoughts. Feff told me to grab the truck parked in the circle running through our housing complex; to gather ammo, gas, food, and water. After the Pentagon got hit, things seemed all that more certain in our eyes. Scattered inconclusive reports of other areas in DC, Jersey, and other areas getting bombed/hit/attacked came in, adding fear and confusion to the mix. My (former?) sweetie and I talked on the phone, I forget who called whom. Her mother worked in the Empire State Building, the other tall target in town. Her sister and brother in law live right outside the Pentagon. Needless to day, she was a wreck, wishing she knew they were home and safe. I logged in to CS, talking to a few of the admin there. After a while, I ran in to work, also realizing I lived right over the hill from an active arsenal, a prime target if things got more serious. So I fled to Drew, preparing to gather my resources to take a defendable bunker.
When I got there, the situtation had progressed further. Howard had put aside all farting, belching, and lowest common denominator humor. After the second tower hit, he was totally professional, level-headed, and remarkably in control. The show transformed from South Park into The Critic immediately. Over the next few days, his show would be the only show on K-Rock. Every other minute, it would be broadcasting 1010 WINS News. Various political figures, including the mayor, called in. A myriad of local celebrities called in, offering to help and suggesting how people can help. The towers collapsed one after the other, me listening the whole time.
I logged on to CS from work, something I avoid doing, just to communicate with my friends on there. Every MOOer logged on, dozens of them, all agreed to chat in an out of character chatroom. A few of them brought up Zero Day, an event in the MOO's history, when NYC got blown up in 2005. That event had been in the MOO's timeline since 1995, if not 1994, and players were commenting that it was occuring four years early. Many also brought up the essay about New York City, which was excerpted on the website, showing the chilling images of the blasted WTC. The CS timeline and real world timeline diverged one major step further. Our little virtual selves chatted, consoled, and talked about the events unfolding. I was one of the closest ones to the event, and many players expressed concern for my saftey. Only one player marred the event, taking the opporunity of being in an out of character room with an administrator during the worst attack on our nation in our nation's history to pester them about working on some overabused system for their character to make more money. Feh.
My sweetie, chiquib, and my brother sat in an AIM chatroom, chatting about the events. My sweetie and my brother had never talked before that day, chiquib and he had not talked since I visited him four years before that. The three of us talked, consoled, and spread information.
My sweetheart's mother was, as I said, working her last week in an office in the Empire State Building. Being the tallest building at that point, they had a perfect view of everything. Her boss was not in, she sent everyone home, and managed to catch the last train up to Rockland County. People on the train with her were covered in soot and debris, and she barely made it out easily. Of course, with the phone system being jammed, no one could get a hold of her on her cell phone for hours. Her family was terrified, fearing for her saftey, but glad that they knew she got out of the Empire State Building, which luckily didn't get hit by a plane again that day.
My sweetheart's sister and brother in law lived just outside of the Pentagon. He was driving in to work, taking the highway just past the Pentagon, as the plane crashed in. Shaken horribly up, he was devastated afterwards. For a while, with the aforementioned phone problems, there were problems contacting him as well. Luckily he was safe, and the two of them took some time away from things to deal with it all afterwards.
At Drew, they held an emergency assembly. Kean led the assembly, with soothing words and a hastily-prepared speech. Faculty, staff, and students packed the gymnasium. Songs were played, interfaith healing was offered, and people came together. At one point, a student walked in, and came up to me. He asked what was going on, and what everyone was talking about. By the afternoon, I had already broken the news to dozens of people online or offline, as I relayed the event one more time to this student. As I described what had occured, his face turned pale, and he fled.. muttering something about a parent working in downtown NYC. Some Drewids went to the observatory, where they could see the smoke easily.
Through that long day, the looks on people's faces was amazing. Not to sound calloused or cruel, but it was fascinating to see the variety of reactions. Most walked with a devastated sullen hallow look, like the walking dead. Some looked like they had been crying all day, others looked ready to beat the shit out of anything to get the rage and anguish out. The kalidescope of human emotions easily readable on faces was amazingly powerful. Walking about the small campus, passing the individuals I saw, that affected me more than the service ever could.
My co-workers ran the gambit of reactions as well. Some treated it as buiness as usual, saying that whatever they did at that point couldn't change anything. Others wanted to go home immediately, being shocked at others coping with it in such a way that they thought they were uncaring. After staying for a while longer, I went to my sweetie's place, staying there as her mother got home to keep her company after all she had been through. Driving north and west to her place, I could see the smoke rising upwards. During the drive and before it, I wanted badly to drive in and help, but everything I heard indicated that I wouldn't be able to make it in. They had shut down every entrance to the city, every bridge and tunnel. After I made it to her place, my sweetie went in to work, at the YMCA she coaches at right outside of NYC. Most of her kids have parents who work in NYC, and she could easily see the devastation as she drove down into work. While I tried to convince her not to go, she was glad that she went. It gave the kids something other to do, something else to focus on, instead of the world collapsing about them. The parents were incredibly grateful of her showing up and coaching.
Finally she returned to her place, where we spent the night lying on the floor of her living room. We laid on and under blankets, holding each other, watching the news all night long as her parents and brother sat on the couch. She held me sleeping most of that night, something she avoids doing at her parents place out of respect for them, because at that point she didn't really give a shit.
My roomie Dave was trapped in Hong Kong for some time. Every single person I knew who worked at the tower at some point in their lives survived, except for some person I sort of remember who attended my dad's church ages ago. Considering the number of people I know who work in NYC, I felt blessed. I frantically tried calling Pete all that day, who I knew was working there for some time. He had been transferred to a midtown location, and made it out safely. Every other person I knew had a close call. chiquib's former roomie had a meeting on a floor high in the tower that got cancelled at the last meeting. Had it occured, she would have died. aaronkliger's former girlfriend's former roommate was running late to work, saw everything occur as she emerged from the subway, and fled uptown to saftey. Story after story like that emerged over the next few days, of close calls and sudden schedule changes. People running late, people getting sick, people just being lazy and somehow surviving when they would have faced certain death. While one MOOer who lived in the city is still whereabouts unknown, she dropped off the radar a year before that, hopefully still alive.
Two days later, aaronkliger and my sweetie decided not to sign a lease for an amazing beautiful two-bedroom apartment in Lodi right near the real life strip club that plays the Badda Bing! on the Sopranos. Amazing huge porch, great kitchen and living room, oh well. aaronkliger was uncertain of his financial future, and my sweetie was unsure about moving with all that was going on in the world. We didn't talk again about moving in together for months afterwards without bitterness from me about losing that amazing find coming up. I was bitter for some time over that one.
For days, driving east from where I live or work led me towards a cloud of smoke. For days, chiquib saw jets flying about outside her apartment. For days, I heard choppers entering and leaving the arsenal, as my sweetie heard choppers flying overhead going to and from West Point. Weeks later, Pete and I went to NYC, and got amazing parking in the empty shell of a bustling city. Weeks after that, I saw the devastation at Ground Zero.
I loved those buildings. My sweetie thinks that I loved the WTC as she loved the Empire State Building due to me coming from central Jersey. Every time I saw the skyline or headed towards NYC, I could see the two twin blocks poking up. For her, the first recognizable landmark was the Empire State Building. It was probably also the Econ part of my Econ/Comp. Sci. double major personality. They were such amazing buildings to me, that looked so cool when you got up close to them. Shimmering, rippled, massive steel shells sticking way up to the sky. The summer things totally fell apart between my parents and I, I'd go into the city job hunting. Every day, I'd take the train into Penn Station, go to whatever interview I had, drop off resumes for whatever ad I had seen, and explore the city. The hustle and mindless bustle of the largest city in the country was a welcome respite from the hostile and painful home life I faced. I'd usually drop off things around the southern tip of Central Park, and just start walking south. Passing through the Village, Chinatown, and the various cool areas, I'd always aim towards the Twin Towers. They were my beacon every day that summer. I'd walk to them, spend some time in them, usually in the stores below the towers. After a while, I'd take the PATH back to Jersey, and the train home to hell.
My mother made a quilt before 9/11, called Windows on the World, based on the restaurant that was in the WTC. She remembered me going there as a child. I had returned once since, and will never return there again. I know it's easy to say that I loved those buildings now. Just like everyone had a flag on their house or car by 9/14 or 9/15 last year, but not on 9/10. Just like everyone is a Yankees or Giants fan when they're winning. But seriously, I loved those buildings back when they stood tall. I remember ferry rides into the city, them forming a proud anchor in the southern tip of the island. I remember staring at them from the hilltop castle that a former crazy suicidal lover loved to spend time at, marvelling at how beautiful and peaceful the dirty chaotic city looked from so far away, while the park about us seemed dirty and busy while being anything but by comparison. And they're gone now. More than anything else, I hope they are rebuilt. I know it's not looking that way, but I wish they could provide a memorial like the piers I linked to in an earlier post, AND rebuild them.
Listening to Stern's rebroadcast this morning of his 9/11 show was amazingly powerful. I remember every comment, every quip, and every caller. I remember Bobabooey wondering if it was an attack, Robin brushing it off, and Crazy Cabby wanting to crack skulls. Hearing it all replayed in its entirity this morning was just the memorial I needed.
I don't know where I'm going. Off the soapbox. Handing the conch away. FIN.