What I can remember is bad

Seven years ago right now, I was sitting in my chair, drinking whiskey and writing about stuff.  By "stuff," I mean I was just having fun, writing an e-mail to a friend, maybe exploring the Interwebs.  Drinking, smoking, listening to loud music through headphones, relaxing.  I probably passed out around 0630–that was about my normal–and I slept off and on till 5 or so in the afternoon.  I got up, maybe took a shower, pulled on a pair of shorts and a shirt, and headed down to my truck.  I remember I checked my mail, and said something to a neighbor about baseball.  He said something cryptic back to me, like "We won't have to worry about that for awhile."

I got in my truck, and headed for Wendy's to grab some pre-work food.  I was listening to The Glenn Beck Program on WFLA (Glenn was the local afternoon host back then).  I thought I heard him say something like, "If you'd told me I'd ever hear about terrorists hijacking planes and crashing them into buildings–including the Pentagon–I would not have believed you.  I also can't believe I saw the World Trade Center towers crumble."

I turned the radio up.  They went into the 6:30 news, and the anchor recounted and confirmed what Glenn had said.

Holy crap. 

I drove to work, and went into our control room.  Alicia had the TV news on.  I sat down, and watched those horrible video clips.  The second plane hitting the WTC.  The first tower crumbling.  Then the second.  I remember not knowing how to feel: sad, scared, angry, worried, uncertain.  I didn't know whether my jaw should drop, I should throw up, or punch something. 

We were attacked, and we were at war, but with whom?

I didn't play any music that night.  We simulcast CNN, and all I did was punch in the commercials as scheduled.  It was ugly radio, an ugly story, an ugly night all round.  It was the damned uncertainty that got me.  Nobody on TV had any answers.  I remember feeling relieved when Garrick Utley started broadcasting.  I trusted him.  He seemed to imply we'd survive. 

That night, I left work at midnight, went to Dave's "We Gouge You, But We're Open Till Two" Liquors, and bought a half-gallon of Evan Williams.  I remember thinking it was crucial not to run out that night. I came home, and I drank and wrote.  I didn't have a blog back then, but I wrote regular "Dispatches from the Tom Zone," ostensibly amusing, smug, thousand-word commentaries about various things. 

I wrote one of the rawest dispatches I've ever written.  The last estimate I'd heard before leaving work was that 25,000 people were likely dead.  Thank God, it ended up being a fraction of that.  I don't have a copy anywhere.  I'm glad, I think.  I wrote a lot of thousand word dispatches in Fall 2001.  Most of them were pretty good for 800 words, then degenerated into mindless blathering.  There's no corroborating data, but I'd guarantee the blathering parts were written when my blood-alcohol level got above .25. 

It's hard to believe 9/11 was seven years ago today.  I mourn those who died or were injured in the attacks: the pilots and crew, the passengers, those who perished in the buildings, and especially the police and fire personnel who tried to rescue them. 

I've changed a lot since that hysteria.  I continued my 9/11 binge for another three and a half years (although, truth be told, 9/11 only provided lame justification for the same behavior I was practicing 9/10 and before).  I've hit various personal, physical, and professional bottoms, and I've rebounded.  Today, I am truly grateful to be alive.

Perhaps it's the seven years space, or that we're embroiled in a seemingly interminable election cycle, but I've had a few thoughts. 

First, I have a greater global awareness now than I did in September 2001.  I don't mean I'm necessarily better informed on international happenings–I've always been fairly globally cognizant–but because of my Interweb and Vox experience, I have friends in countries I'd barely heard of seven years ago.  When I heard that bombs went off in India a few weeks ago, I immediately thought of a friend there.  Same with a terrorist bombing in the Philippines a couple years ago.  Ditto when recent typhoons hit Manila and Hong Kong, or there are earthquakes or plane crashes in other countries.  9/11 was a big blow to the United States, but the other shoe never really dropped.  Thank God or the FBI or CIA or some Goon Squad or all of them working together, we really don't live in a terrorist-riddled country.  I don't worry about being attacked when I go to the store, or have dinner out with loved ones.  I don't look at people who are different from me, and worry that they're going to explode a vest-bomb.  Et cetera.

Second, one of the sickest post 9/11 things is that people have used this event to give credence to their hatred.  The 9/11 attacks gave carte blanche to hatemongers, who were able to rail against Arabs, et al; Muslims as individuals,  plus Islam as a whole.  Hey, even Israel and Jews got hit with it–remember all the crackpot theories about how all Jewish WTC employees were secretly called and told not to report for work that day? Oy vey.  I was moved by the rise in patriotism we felt, but the increased intolerance sucks.  Patriots good; xenophobes bad.

Finally, I wonder if the terrorists didn't win in the end.  Osama bin Laden is still alive.  As for us, we've been at war for 7 years.  We've lost over 4000 American military personnel, and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died.  Neither Iraq nor Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11.  The terrorists were mostly Saudi Arabian.  We still count Saudi Arabia as an ally.  Further, we gave away some of our rights in catchily titled legislation like "The Patriot Act" and "The Homeland Security Act." We have a color-coding system that only serves to scare the hell out of people.  "Oh, shit! We're up to level ORANGE!" The 2009 US Budget Deficit is estimated to be $438 BILLION.  That's $438,000,000,000–roughly the GDP of Sweden–in the red.  Our deficit, by the way, doesn't include the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae bailouts.  So we have an unending war, 4100+ dead soldiers, a $438 BILLION deficit, a collapsing real estate market, devalued dollar, increasing unemployment, a government and president nobody has faith in, and gas prices are three-times what they were on 9/11? Cynics decried the Iraq war as a "war for oil."  How? Earlier this summer, oil hit $120 a barrel higher than it was in 2003. 

What happened on September 11th, 2001, was horrible by any standard.  The people who perpetrated those attacks should burn forever in a jet fuel jacuzzi in hell.  I mourn those who died, innocently trying to go about their Tuesday.  I pay tribute to those who died in rescue efforts, and I honor those who've died in the resulting war.    

I had a program director once who offered this advice: don't shit, then step in it.  In other words, if something bad happens, don't make it worse than it already is. 

September 11th was some serious shit.  I just wonder if we haven't been stepping in it these past seven years.  

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10 Responses to “What I can remember is bad”

  1. The writing is, at least… *sigh*

  2. It's sad, but true. We have been stepping in it. You'd have to be blind not to acknowledge that. 😦

  3. you've nailed it, tom my friend.
    i was in NYC that fateful day, walking to my grad school class and drinking coffee. i am an eyewitness to the nightmare of those planes .. those buildings collapsing .. the dust and debris .. the chaos and eventually the coming-together. it was a strange, remarkable, frightening, and overwhelming time. i'm not sure that we're living any differently today, 7 years later.
    thank you for your insight.

  4. September 11th was some serious shit. I just wonder if we haven't been stepping in it these past seven years. We're still up to our eyeballs in it, and a lot of it is our own.Gah.Moving post……. ((((hugs))))

  5. Try having a little kid when all this happened. It takes on another level. Truly.

  6. Stepping in shit – is right. How bout all our soldiers who have come home as mere shadows of their former selves…….like my son-in-law? And for what? Higher oil prices?

  7. Nicely worded post. Describes my feelings about the whole thing very well. Lee and I watched dumbstruck the video replays that night… wondering what that would mean for us up here in the frozen north too!

  8. Great anniversary article. I'll never forget seeing those people jumping to their deaths to escape the fire… horrifying. It was the worst thing I've ever seen.

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