Thursday, September 10, 2015

Recalling 9/11

K called from Florida, "Planes crashed into the World Trade Center and one of the towers just fell." Unemployed in Los Angeles and half asleep at 7:30 AM, I shuffled downstairs to the TV, past Joy as she prepared for work. At first, all I saw was a dirty cloud obscuring southern Manhattan. Then a stunned announcer said the second tower had just collapsed. Joy joined me, work forgotten as we learned of the attack.

Other friends phoned throughout the day. Paul Rugg speculated about the pilots of the doomed aircraft, certain they weren't Americans forced to crash. TJ, a Vietnam vet, was incensed at the footage of jubilant Palestinians with their candy and AK-47s. He wished he could gift them with a nice buttering of napalm. In a grim mood, I agreed.

Watching TV and power-chewing Nicorette, I mostly felt numb — except when the subject was jumpers. Then I felt horror. Go to work, sip coffee, joke with your pals, then decide whether you'll suffocate, burn alive, or leap a quarter mile to certain death. Questions of etiquette arise: jump solo or hold hands with a co-worker? Perhaps several of you link arms and form a chain, finding courage in numbers. Or do you clutch a table cloth and step into the air, desperately hoping it slows your fall?



The journey takes ten seconds.


Air velocity rips away your shoes.


You explode on impact.


I will always be haunted by the jumpers of 9/11.


Oceans of paper were blasted from the towers, filling the New York sky like the Devil's ticker tape. Invoices and wedding invitations floated down to gray sidewalks.

My friend Cathy, who worked in D.C., reported chaos as the government sent everyone home at once following the Pentagon attack. One jammed intersection turned scary as a man leaped out of an SUV brandishing a pistol and attempting to direct traffic.

Being murdered is not a heroic act, though it can be. Flight 93 passengers fought back and died, saving many more in their sacrifice. North Tower Port Authority employees rescued over 70 people before perishing.


There were many heroes that day.

My sister Mary Pat and I had dinner at a coffee shop. She was passing through town, leaving a job in Mountain View, CA to return to Phoenix. Depressed by the day's events, our meal was not jolly.

Later, Joy tried to give blood, but the hospital was overwhelmed with donations and refused.

Vulnerability, grief, dismay, anger.

Such a beautiful morning with a sky so blue.

(Photos from: Little Green Footballs.)

Repost: Sept. 11, 2008

Update: Strange to reread this. TJ died in 2009 and K passed away just over a year ago. My wife, Joy, and I are doing well, as is Paul Rugg who now rides the train

Repost: Sept. 11, 2013

Update: I had cancer surgery last year, but recovered. My wife is doing well and my sister battles her own health woes. I have not heard from my friend Cathy in a few years.  Paul Rugg continues riding the train in addition to being a voice over machine.

2 comments:

Joanna Gillian said...

Okay, I'm like.... a month late. I don't like to dwell on that day. I remember where I was when it happened and how sick I felt for ....days after. SICK. ANGRY. Suspicious. Name it.

Funny, but I've never been inside the WTC. I've seen it in movies (1976 King Kong, Mazes and Monsters with Tom Hanks...late 70's, early 80's) It was ICONIC.

John P. McCann said...

I remember seeing it in NYC, but never got closer than the Empire State building. Now I wish I'd stopped by.