Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Remembering 9/11

The night before I had quit my shitty job as a gas station attendant.  It was an overnight gig where I would sit in a booth for 8 hours, get stoned or drunk, and dispense snacks or cigarettes to customers through a drawer from behind bulletproof glass.  

I recall the Assistant Manager of the place practically begging me to cover for the night so she could plan the rest of the week properly while she tried to find a replacement, but I was being stubborn and told her that I'd had enough and couldn't handle it anymore, which was true.  So, I sat with my roommates and got stoned all night before heading off to bed.

When I woke up it was probably 7:30AM or so.  I doddered around the apartment in a bit of a daze, due not only to the stoned sleep I had woken from, but also realizing the reality of what I had done.  I had no plan for a new job whatsoever, yet I had casually bailed on a steady income.  There was a thrill to it, but also a bit of panic.

After eating breakfast I plopped down in front of the computer in my bedroom to start the job search.  In 2001 everyone was still using AOL Instant Messenger, so I made sure to fire mine up to keep communication with friends if they were around.  Most of them would probably be in class as we were 19 years old at the time.

Matt was the first to send me an IM.  It just said, "Turn on the news now!".  This alarmed me a bit as he knew that I wasn't very partial to watching the news.  I walked into the living room and turned on the TV and switched it to one of the major news channels.  I was instantly stunned by what I saw.  One of the Twin Towers of New York City had apparently experienced a major explosion.  

I sat in rapt attention as the reporters struggled to explain what they could only infer was happening.  No one knew for sure, other than there was a massive burning hole in the side of one of the towers.  What happened after that started to alarm more people as cell phone service was quickly being interrupted, not only in New York, but across New England and then the East Coast entirely.  

When the second plane hit, I was watching it happen live.  I can remember the news anchor remarking that there was a large plan coming into view and it seemed to be traveling far too low within the cities limits.  Then in slammed into the side of the second tower and even the people in the news studio couldn't disguise their alarm and horror.

That's when I yelled out myself and ran to Tom's room, slamming on his door to wake him and his companion up.  He groggily answered the door asking what was wrong and I just said, "Someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center tower."  His eyes widened and he quickly got his robe on and joined me in the living room.  

We sat in stunned silence as we flipped through the various news stations to see each one repeating, from various angles, the footage of the plane hitting the second tower.  Tom's guest, who was a Danish woman that had come to visit him, came out and joined us after a little while.  We all sat around speculating what was happening.

Dan came home from wherever he had been.  If I recall he had been let out of work early as most places were doing.  Matt informed me on IM that classes at Fitchburg State had been let out and cancelled and all buildings over a certain height in New England were to be evacuated.  F-15s were scrambled and were soon circling NYC.

The United States of America's heart and soul had been attacked by radicals from the Middle East.  They had struck directly and purposefully by flying 2 massive 747s into both of the World Trade Center Towers.  

Around 9:30AM or so we all watched as the second tower collapsed down to the streets below.  Massive clouds of smoke swelled through the city streets.  There was footage of hordes of people screaming and running away as quickly as they could.  Then, around 10AM or so, the first tower fell as well.

Thousands of people died that day.  Innocents who were just going about their day.  People on the flights, people in the towers, people on the streets, and then the heroes who did their best to rescue those in need.  So many lives lost because of radical beliefs.  Fanaticism at it's worst.

I remember my friends all meeting up and chatting about it.  We talked about how the country was going to war.  It must be.  This was the first direct foreign attack on the country since Pearl Harbor and it was shaping up to be far worse.

Later in the evening some of the cell service was recovered and I remember Tom's friend called back home to Denmark to talk to her family and assure them she was alright.  While on the phone she started to laugh with whomever she was chatting with in her native tongue.  Meanwhile in the background on the news they were still tallying the death toll.  At one point she even had the gall to say something along the lines of, "Now America understands what the rest of the world deals with."

I understand what she meant by that remark, but there's a time and place to say such criticisms and I definitely disagree with her timing.  I think my anger was very evident because Tom ushered her into his room.  She ended up leaving earlier than she had planned and later on Tom explained that he told her she needed to go because she was being utterly inappropriate.  Good on him for that!

Being jobless, I was glued to the TV for the next week or so as more and more information came to light.  I watched the footage as they played repeatedly.  I still feel the horror at watching as people would jump from 30+ stories up to escape being burned to death, only to fall to their deaths below.

17 years later, it still saddens me that this is the type of world we live in.  Other atrocities have happened since, and I suspect, will continue to.  This is a world where nihilism, fanatical radicalism, and mental instability cause people to go on shooting rampages.  Where bombings happen in places where the most people gather so as to cause maximum carnage.  

It's a world I don't understand.

My thoughts go out to people who suffer.  Any type of suffering.  That which is caused by others, that which has been caused by me, and that which seems to surround you for no other reason than being alive.  It's not easy to navigate our ways through this thing called life.  It's even harder to understand the reason for any of it, but I try my best to take solace in the kindnesses that others are capable of.

Be kind whenever possible.

Take care of yourselves.

-Phil

No comments:

Post a Comment