I had just gotten off a flight from San Diego. Mr. A and I had taken a brief vacation there, to see Doug Flutie play for the Chargers and to just get the fuck away after a grueling few months at work. It had been an amazing trip, and we’d talked about staying longer, but in the end, we decided to come back when we were scheduled to come back: September 10, 2001.
I was on my way to work the next morning when the news broke. I thought it was a joke at first, like a War of the Worlds scenario. I had a sunburn and a hangover and wasn’t in the mood. By the time I got to the newsroom the place was already insane. One reporter who’d called in sick with violent flu shoved a handful of meds down her throat, came in and was making calls. An editor I’d never thought much of before was proving to be an absolute brick, doling out assignments and instructions and telling people who were freaking out to fucking cowboy up and do their jobs. Another editor was stuck in London when the flights were all shut down; she was angry she wasn’t there to help us but was interviewing people and calling stuff in when the cell signals let her. They were evacuating downtown Chicago, and everybody was on trains out while we were trying to get people in. I called my mom, told her to turn on CNN and stay put because nobody knew what this was yet.
Then there was a big blur of like three weeks of hate crimes during which everybody just worked and talked about cop stuff all the goddamn time.
I’ve always said war stories aren’t about the war. They’re about how we have to remember the war in order to survive the next one. So we have these hazy stories of national unity and national tragedy, of the courage we have to think about instead of the craziness. We have The Narrative, as reflected in our current batshit insane debates over the “Ground Zero” “mosque” and this Quran-burner moron and the songs people sang about it. And then we have how it actually was.
Where were you? What happened where you were?