9/10/01: A Remembrance

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September 10, 2001 was a sweet day. We were at peace. The economy was in reasonably good shape, and New York City had a spectacular skyline, dominated by the twin World Trade Center towers.

A bunch of murderous bastards had big plans for the next day.

Stacey was 18, and Shortstop and Princess wouldn’t answer “Present” in earth’s roll-call for another three years.

I was the night jock at a jazz station. My life was chaotic, and I was trying to keep it together with twin plates of alcohol and depression spinning on sticks.

The Tenth, I bought a half-gallon of Evan Williams, a lovely and smooth Bourbon. After my show that night, I came home, fired up my computer, filled my special Bourbon-drinking glass (a Jack Daniel’s mason jar with a handle), and I wandered the Interwebs.

I wasn’t especially happy, but I was content. I had enough money to pay my bills and get drunk every night.

The world changed not twelve hours after I poured that first drink.

The next morning’s concurrent hijackings and attacks…shit, they were just masterful, brilliant, horrible.

There were certainly deaths. The passengers and crews on those airliners must have been terrified. The death toll at the World Trade Center could have been so much higher, and I shudder to think what damage Flight 93 might have wrought had it reached its target.

The deaths were tragic, and I mourned the victims of the attack, as well as New York’s Finest who responded.

What was more insidious, though, was the coverage. Millions and millions of Americans watched the second plane hit its Tower. We sat, transfixed, and we watched those two mighty buildings burn. We covered our mouths in shock as people jumped hundreds of feet to their deaths, rather than burn. Then the Towers fell.

Ho. Ly. Crap.

Not once live, but over and over and over, the networks played the video. The images were burned into our retinas as if we’d looked at the sun too long.

December 7, 1941, 2400 Americans were killed at Pearl Harbor. It was different: it wasn’t live and in color, in our classrooms and bars and livingrooms.

The reason I choose to mark 9/10/11 is because of what changed. Ten years ago today, you could pack as much damn shampoo as you wanted. You didn’t have to remove your shoes or have your privacy violated with scanners, gropes, x-rays, speculums, and whatnot.

We launched a war on a concept, and it crippled our economy. For seven years, our government spent trillions fighting a nebulous enemy–“Terror.” Hundreds of thousands of civilians died as we fought…whom? To me, the War on Terror™ should have ended when the number of dead soldiers surpassed the 9/11 death toll.

We gave up rights, and endured new inconveniences without question. Almost a decade later, we finally shot and killed Osama bin Laden. Was it worth it?

I’d have pulled the trigger myself, but I’d know that the bullet in his eye wouldn’t bring back one of the dead.

Many of the 9/11 families are litigating their pain away.

People will talk and remember. We’ll “share,” and the newscasts will show grim craters, as silver-throated announcers mark the occasion with beautiful copy.

I’m done mourning. I’m moving on.

I want 9/11 to be a day my friend Connie can celebrate her birthday. I want my friend S to be able to grieve her mother, who died on 9/11.

I just want to live and move on, just so I know those bastards didn’t win, that they’re not pausing from being cornholed in hell, smiling at all the dreadful pictures and saccharine talking heads, watching a broken country waiting still for that other shoe to drop.

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19 Responses to “9/10/01: A Remembrance”

  1. Nicely written, Tom.

    What a lovely picture of the New York skyline before.

    I’m not watching the tv blitz of melodrama. But I am thinking of those who lost loved ones, so many. And I SO agree with you that dropping Iraq like a hot potato would have been good when we lost the number of soldiers as victims of 9/11. No logic there, but any excuse to leave Iraq AND Afghanistan would be good. Let’s just get the heck out. Sigh. Nothing good came of any of that. I take that back. If a few women got the message that they should have rights…that was a bit of good.

    But, worth it? I doubt that anyone could finagle that any of it was “worth it”.

    I have pictures of my two youngest kids in front of the skyline of NYC back when we were on a school field trip in 1998. Some awesome ones of the twin towers.

    Sigh. I can’t say as I feel we have made any progress on the “humanity” front since then. Probably have gone quite a ways backwards.

    Ah well. Times for reflection. Have a nice Saturday! 🙂

    • Every now and then, I’ll see a Law & Order rerun or an old movie with the WTC in the background. That’s when it hits me that they’re gone.

      Like you, I wonder what toll the last decade has exacted from us. Thanks for stopping by (and for digging the weird Ray Lynch vid earlier). 😀

  2. Really good post, Tom. I’m not going to be watching any of the retrospectives. I don’t need my memories of that day refreshed, thank you.

    I look back on the last decade and think of the trillions we’ve wasted and the lives lost and derailed in the wake of that day and it makes me ill to think about.

    I honestly think it’s going to take another decade to cleanse it from our national consciousness.

    • Thanks Steve.

      I agree: this will be with us for a long time. I’m not sure how much it will fade, simply because the media have so much awesome tape, and they can keep stoking the fires.

      The trillions…I wonder how much we could have given every American instead of mounting the War on Terror™, and whether we’d have been any less safe without it.

  3. [this is good]

    The TV commemorations all seem like profiteering on the bones and souls of those who died. It’s distasteful.

    Sept. 10, 2001, I was actually on an airplane coming home after a visit to the parents. For some reason, I booked that flight for a Monday night instead of my usual Tuesday morning return, and I’ve certainly been glad I did — the thought of being stuck with them for the days after that is horrifying. But all that was on my mind was sleeping in my own bed, and humming the funny opera I’d seen on the 9th.

    By the time I collected the luggage, got home, greeted Miss Tortie, and got to sleep, the bastards were probably making their way to the airports.

    • Yikes @ your proximity. That would give me the collywobbles to be sure.

      I was working for a news-talk station during Desert Storm, and you are damn right: I don’t doubt the personal horror production and news people felt, but some part of them was a little giddy with the artistic possibilities.

      Regardless, I think any tortie will tell you where the credit belongs.

  4. Excellent post. I almost feel that I don’t have the right to comment on 9/11 because it wasn’t my country that was attacked. But the war on a concept has had ripple effects on any of us flying internationally now, and my country did enter the war in Afghanistan (though thankfully, not the one in Iraq). And it has spawned a slew of conservative leaders up here, looking to the Bush model.

    I have no idea what I was doing on 9/10, but it was the day before my attention span changed. Once I woke up the next morning and ever after, because of the rapidity of events on that day, I starting looking for breaking news constantly, because from that point on, it seemed anything could happen without warning.

    • Thanks, Laurie.

      One thing that has always bugged me–not a huge thing, mind, but a minor, niggling little thoughtlet–is that terrorism and death have plagued the world forever, but if 9/11 had happened somewhere else, somewhere other than America’s biggest media market, would it have been such a huge story?

      I ask this honestly, for I have no way of knowing. I know people who lost friends & family in NYC. My ex-fiancee lived in Manhattan, and my cousin was a 757 co-pilot for American Airlines. Beyond this closeness–and here’s my cynicism–9/11 was fantastic television. If this had happened in Mumbai, would it have been so indelible?

      Just a question. Either way, nice call shelving that novel idea (although I would love to have read it).

      • I thought that immediately, Tom. I remember thinking, well, now we know what so much of the world has to deal with on a daily basis. And I wondered if they would be whining as much as we were. Granted, the scope was huge and horrifying.
        But, no one should have to deal with random acts by people who feel hopeless to gain results by any other means.

        It’s sad.

        Remember the Russian theatre? I can’t remember how many hundreds died (a lot of them from the gas that the rescuers thought would put the terrorists to sleep).

        Sigh. The world has many problems.

      • After six months of moping about wasting a year getting most of the way done a manuscript that would be wasted effort, I decided I would finish it. By the time any publisher might have bought it and got to print with it, 2 more years would have to pass. So I do have it if you want to read it.

  5. Wait, now I remember. 9/10 was the last day for a very long time I worked on my black-comedy plane crash novel. Yeah, that got shelved immediately after.

      • The world has many problems. So true. It’s hard for me to be optimistic when the Jersey Skankwad show is a hit, and anyone gives a crap what a Kardashian does. Some days, I think, “Shit, I fought Peptostreptococcus and regrew a nardsack for this??”

        No. I didn’t. I fought and regrew, because that’s what I needed to do at the time. And now, there’s so much to mock. If they make me president, you’re my snerkmaster general. xox

    • I would love to read it. It would be an honour. (NB: the polite, respectful way I used the extra “u” in honor out of deference to your Canadianism. 😉 ) (Also, please don’t write anything about a large cracker being smited)

      • Okay, I’ll send it to you!
        It’s funny, I only use the extra “u” about half the time in my writing, because I expect my agent to shop things to US publishers.

    • Thanks! I shall read it and let you know. I’m sure it’s awesome.

      I can’t remember if I told you this over hush puppies and the perfect scallop, but our e-mail program at work is British, and tries to spellcheck me into colour, centre, etc. It has me so flummoxed, that now I can’t remember how to spell certain words.

      What I find is that I’m chatting online with an Aussie, Canadian, etc, I’ll add the “u”. It just happens, and I’m pro-U, so it’s a point of honour. 😉

  6. christinaheart Says:

    Looking back, I wish Americans as a whole would have handled the entire situation differently. Rather than being scared of those “different,” we could can acknowledged that these attacks were done by a small group of extremists. Instead of unity around a “common enemy” we could have created a unity around the idea that we’re Americans, damn it, and we will not be intimidated by asshats.

    It makes me so angry that the attacks by a couple of hateful men have made it more difficult for a mosque to be built. Islam is a very interesting and beautiful religion, but now many people’s impression of it has been tainted.

    That’s what makes me most sad, not so much that I can’t pack three bottles of shampoo and I have to take off my shoes if I’m flying… but we’ve become less accepting (and therefore less American) of our diversity.

    • I agree. If the attacks had been carried out by Baptists, we would have reacted very differently. I remember drinking in a bar the day of the Oklahoma City bombing. Somebody said, “God, i’d hate to be an Arab walking around tonight.” And it was Timothy McVeigh! White guy from Michigan or somewhere. No Arabs at all!

      The West Wing did a special episode shortly after 9/11. It was called “Isaac and Ishmael,” and it showed the knee-jerk anti-Arab reaction. It is pretty straightforward for network TV.

      It’s sad, the way things changed.

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