Weekend Question Thread

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?


29 thoughts on “Weekend Question Thread

  1. I know exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was supposed to be working with my diss adviser on a project later that morning. The Missus had gone to Jeff City to train for a new job. I was getting dressed and I got a phone call from my adviser who said she was canceling. When I asked why, she said, “My daughter’s in New York.” I paused, “Uh huh…?” She replied, “Turn on the TV.” I tuned in just in time to see the second plane hit.
    I got dressed and went to the doctoral student office. The two gas stations across the street were crammed with people gassing up. The grocery story was packed and people were screaming. I got to the office and there were two other former journalists there with me, watching a black and white TV someone had dragged in. Less than a month earlier, my adviser pulled me out of the newsroom, forcing me to pick between the doc program and the paper. It was the first time in a long time that a disaster had happened and I didn’t have to work it. Same thing for my two friends. We just stood around, not knowing what to do because there was nothing to do. It was a very very strange thing for all of us.
    One of those colleagues and I had a stats class that afternoon. All of our other classes had been canceled, but the prof of this class was on the West Coast because he was helping his kid pick colleges. He left the TA, who was from Singapore, in charge. We showed up, expecting to be dismissed. The kid, in broken English, began the lecture. I said, “You are not seriously having this class.” She replied, “Don’t worry. Professor left notes. He said we still have class.” We sat through two hours in a daze. To this day, I still can’t do a log regression.
    I went home and the Missus was home, sitting in the spare room, just stunned. We hugged and went for food.
    The gas stations were still jammed. I managed to get in line for gas and filled the tank. We went home and went to bed. I can’t believe we actually slept. By the time we woke up, every newspaper in town was sold out. Everyone, apparently, wanted a souvenir for the end of the world.

  2. I was working in the hot shop, gathering glass out of the furnace, making vases, and listening to NPR as I was working. I’d begun working early in the morning, and as I worked, I had a perfect seat for listening to the events of the day as they unfolded through the voices of the Morning Edition announcers, who first mentioned a plane crashing into the towers as a possible accident, and then the horror creeping into their voices as they chronicled the second plane, and the one that went into the Pentagon, and a possibly related crash in Shanksville. It was then that I stopped glassworking, walked into the storefront we operated, asked to get the TV hooked up, and turned it on just in time to see the towers collapse.
    The rest of my day was spent trying to get through to my aunt in Manhattan – even though I knew she and my uncle had divorced, and that neither one of them lived near lower Manhattan, I was worried about where my uncle was working since he’d moved to a new law firm and I didn’t know where his new office was. I was worried about my cousins, who might have been headed for a field trip there or some such thing. I was worried that my grandparents or my great-aunt and great-uncle had had to go into the city from Long Island or Brooklyn for some reason. Calls went out to all of them, too. My grandma was amazed that I’d even managed to get my aunt’s voice mail, as she hadn’t been able to get anything but a busy tone.
    I kept trying for another hour, and then, by the time I’d thrown in the towel, my aunt called. In a twist, she was asking ME for information – she went to pick up my younger cousin from school once she’d heard about the first plane, and just as they were leaving the school building, they saw the south tower collapse. To spare my cousin any more insanity, she took him home and kept the TV and radio off. I could hear military planes patrolling the city in the background as she talked: she said they were flying by at regular intervals, ready to shoot down anything else that approached Manhattan. She and my family in NYC lost good friends in the towers that day.
    The rest of the week in New Orleans was insane after that, like being in a daze. It was in some ways a preview of what happened here after 8/29/05: lots of conventions cancelled right off the bat, encounters with B&B owners in my neighborhood who were facing a lot of cancelled reservations and didn’t know what they were going to do. Hard times brought on by a newfound national fear of flying were here.
    And then, six months later, we’d moved to Queens to find a city still in hurt. My husband’s employer’s offices, once headquartered in the WTC, were scattered all over Manhattan – thirteen employees lost their lives that day, names that are now memorialized on the wall of their new HQ in downtown Brooklyn. A friend we’d met through our synagogue in Forest Hills couldn’t go into Manhattan at night anymore – he’d worked at Deutsche Bank by the towers and had had to run when they’d collapsed. There were still memorial services for fire, police, and rescue men and women who’d lost their lives that day going on every day at the Trinity church right by Ground Zero as cleanup work went on in the “bathtub” foundation of the towers.
    The times were, emotionally, even harder in New York.

  3. I was on jury duty in NOLA sitting in the basement lounge. I recall that it took 3 viewings for most of us to believe that someone had crashed planes into buildings. They kept us until 1PM and we didn’t have to report again for 2 weeks. No trials in Orleans Parish Criminal Court for most of the month.

  4. I was waiting for my Arabic class to start in college when the Copt and her local-yokel friend walked in an said someone rammed a plane into the WTC – we all immediately told her to come up with something more believable next time. She insisted she wasn’t joking this time; the teacher told her she needed better material. Eventually, we had to send another student to the AV room in the building to confirm/deny. Only “unity” I remember was the lynch-mobs out to string up Latinos for being “close enough”

  5. I was working a night shift in the ER the night of 9/11 so I slept late, until 2pm or so. Helen and I had just bought a fixer-upper house, pouring most of our spare energy into it when we weren’t slaving away at the hospital. So, of course the TV was on HGTV much of the time. I poured a cup of coffee, clicked on the TV and the HGTV channel popped on. There was no programming – just a screen saying they were canceling things out of respect for those affected by events in NYC. It was a little cryptic.
    I said to Helen ” something really big must have happened”…
    I clicked to CNN, got caught up in things like everybody else. The ER that night was fairly routine, actually. I remember the next night some middle aged white lady looking at one of our doctors who is Sikh, and one of our best, eyeing his traditional turban and saying something in a hostile tone like “I wouldn’t be wearing that around here if I was him.” I bit my tongue, like nurses do, and moved on.

  6. I was reading the newspaper, relaxing because I had a handyman job to go make an estimate on in a couple of hours. My sister-in-law phoned and said the WTC was on fire and an airplane had hit it. So I turned CNN on, awakened my wife, and we sat in shock, watching that building burn, followed by the second one getting hit and burning. I kept watching the people entering and leaving the buildings, wondering about the courage it took for firemen to go up there.
    Then the shock doubled when I saw that one building was obviously collapsing in slow motion. Soon the other one did the same. All I could think of was those firemen who had been going in the buildings.
    Soon, it was my time to go do my job. I felt obligated to go ahead, so I did. I estimated and offered to install a garage laundry tub in an almost new house. The owner wanted it done right away, so I went and purchased the stuff I needed, but soon noticed that my estimate left off half of the needed stuff. I just did the job anyway, in a daze, and lost about $100 on that job. But, I can’t remember any of the actual work.
    Later I realized that when you are in a state of shock isn’t the best time to do a job requiring some thinking. From that day on I refused to watch any TV where they might show video of the buildings collapsing, and it was at least 2 years before I watched again.
    Just remembering that day still gets to me.

  7. I was at work — heard the basics from a colleague (a plane crashed into the tower), knew something was up when web sites were slow load if at all.
    Eventually a large television in a conference room was cut on. I’d look in on that between reading the news (BBC was the most reliable web site I could find.) Watched the north tower collapse with a sinking feeling in my gut.
    The previous month I’d been in NYC, and would stare at the twin towers from the window in my friend’s kitchen while making coffee. The same friend’s office was pretty close to Ground Zero…that afternoon managed to contact him by telephone and find out he was ok, though obviously a little shaken (was on his way to work when the second plane struck.)

  8. I was at a fairly new job. I could hear people talking about something around me, but I didn’t really know anyone well enough to ask what had happened.
    My brother lived outside of DC and works at HHS. I didn’t know where he might have been, or anyone in his wife’s family. I spent the day watching CNN and trying to get hold of him.
    I won’t watch the footage.

  9. I didn’t know anything was happening until I woke up that morning and checked email–and there was a message from an ex-girlfriend I hadn’t heard from in a year, saying, “oh, isn’t it terrible!” Don’t have television and didn’t have anything but dial-up at home, so, I heard about it mostly when I got to work (I was supervising two different shifts, and had work of my own to do, so I typically went in about ten and stayed until late evening–twelve-hour workdays were normal).
    At work, it was pretty much subdued chaos–everyone was watching CNN as best as they could (at the time, we only had a 384K pipe for perhaps 100 computers). Most everyone else was just watching the towers coming down over and over again all day, so there was no point in trying to get anyone to do any actual work. I’d seen the video once, and that was pretty much enough of that for me.
    Which gave me lots of time to think and check recent history–about 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000 and then 2001. By the time I left for home that night, I was convinced that all these events were somehow connected to American soldiers in Saudi Arabia and to events surrounding the first Gulf war, and by the time I went to bed, I was also convinced that there was going to be another war, in part because so many of the players in the first Gulf war were in government in 2001.
    I’m still convinced of that, and that one of the objects of first Gulf war was to permanently place American ground and air forces in the Middle East. The two Bush administrations and the Clinton administration all figured that the Saudi royals could keep a lid on the religious extremists, and they figured wrong.

  10. i was waking up, the 1st plane had hit when my clock radio went off. went downstairs to check teevee. called my grandpa. my uncle paul worked a bit north of the WTC. went on internets and read that anoter lane had hit. ok, it’s teevee time, got the landscape i was working on from the basement and was working on it and made a booboo when the 1st tower collapsed. finished the painting while watching 9/11 unfold, heavyhearted because of lack of faith in georgee and republikklans.

  11. I remember being on the subway that morning — part of my ride from Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan was outdoors on an elevated bridge — and noticing what a particularly beautiful day it was.
    I walked into the office I worked in on the 45th floor of a midtown skyscraper and the normally cool, sarcastic receptionist was in hysterics: babbling something about someone hitting something, I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about.
    I soon found out. Streams of people gathered in the south-facing office of one of the founders of the firm, where we could see just a couple of miles south of us the plumes of smoke rising from the WTC tower (at that point only one had been hit). We stared, dumbfounded. We wandered back to our various offices & cubicles; we turned on the local news radio and listened for any hard facts — there were very few. Just that a plane had hit the tower; whether it was accidental or deliberate wasn’t clear.
    When the tower finally collapsed under the strain, I remember thinking, from now one there will only be one World Trade Center tower; it’ll never be the same again. I was right, but in such a wrong way. When the second tower was hit, and we knew we were under attack, the firm announced that we were closing and everyone had to leave the building. Some of us gathered nearby in Bryant Park; we debated what to do, where to go. We knew there was no transportation off Manhattan Island. A coworker and I decided to start on foot for downtown, though we didn’t know how or if we’d be able to cross over the river into Brooklyn.
    All the way downtown, the streets were packed with people; cellphones were useless, dozens lined up at payphones trying to reach loved ones. Somehow I had been able to reach my mother in Florida before I left the office, so she knew I was all right. And I knew my wife was okay; she had been scheduled to have a work interview that morning literally across the street from the WTC, but had run late and canceled the appointment. I was never so glad for her tardiness as I was that day.
    As I walked downtown I saw crowds streaming north — those who had been in the World Trade neighborhood were easy to identify, they were covered in soot and ash, grey from head to foot, like bizarre statues come to life, their faces frozen in expressions of horror, exhaustion, disbelief. All along the way, merchants handed out bottles of water to anyone who needed them.
    I made my way east and south and was stopped when I reached the Manhattan Bridge — no traffic was being allowed over the bridge and downtown was blocked off by the police from Canal Street on. I got on an endless line to use a payphone to call my wife, but before I got to the phone, the cops announced they were opening the Manhattan Bridge to foot traffic. Immediately thousands of us headed over the bridge, nervously glancing to our right where giant black greasy clouds of incredibly foul-smelling smoke billowed from the wreckage of the WTC. I felt incredibly vulnerable walking on that open exposed bridge — who knew if the attacks were over? I’m sure we all felt like breaking into a run, but somehow the crowd kept its composure and we made it across. Strangers talked to strangers, comforting each other, even passing the occasional nervous gallows joke.
    In total it took me about 3 1/2 hours to walk home that day. It wasn’t until I reached Park Slope that I noticed the strange snow blowing through the air — charred bits of paper from offices in the World Trade Center — memos, reports, who knows what, just flying tatters now, brown around the edges, reminders of the simpler world of the day before.
    I was never so glad to get home in all my life. From our 4th floor walk-up we had a clear view westward all the way to lower Manhattan and past that, into New Jersey. We used to love to sit by those windows, watching thunder storms come in from the west; sometimes we saw lightning strike the towers and provide us with our own private light show. No more. For days, the wind came from the west, blowing the foul stench of that burning right into our windows. We sat and watched in wonder at the sky, for the first time ever, clear of airplanes. And waited, to see what our world would turn into.

  12. Living in Queens, NY. I had Tuesdays and Sundays off from my job and was sleeping in. I got up to check the score of the Yankee game, I think Roger Clemens was 19-1 and the time and pitching the night before. I hate Roger Clemens but you root for the laundry and 20-1 doesn’t happen every day. Anyway I woke up a and put on my TV and couldn’t find the score. I thought there was some kind of weird static on my incredibly shitty old TV. I turned up the sound on my stolen cable (free with my illegal basement apartment!) and then realized the weird static was the sky, I rushed outside and the grey blur I saw on my TV was drifting out over the Atlantic, vaporized towers and people and WTF.
    I called work to see if they wanted me to come in (I worked at JFK in a warehouse) and they didn’t. Everybody was just sitting tight. My next instinct was to go home, home where I grew up. That meant driving to Connecticut. By the time I got to the bridges off of Long Island they were closed — with National Guard units and police on them. Seeing Guard units in Humvees with weapons on city streets was a new thing. Traffic was heavy but very calm, I think the power was out on the lights but everybody was driving like they were trying to pass drivers ed. I was so spent from the traffic and detours that I spent the beter part of the day in a Chinese restaurant in Flushing, first to get a meal, then to watch TV with strangers. People were polite and accepting with only a few questions about why the President was playing hopscotch in his airplane. Early estimates of the dead went from 100,000 then down to 10,000 by the end of the day. Everybody knew it was a lot of people gone in a bad way.
    I lived in a heavily Sikh neighborhood at the time and the FBI was there to investigate an arson case soon after 9/11. I remember an old Sikh man being beaten in the street. I remember being at a Wendy’s and a young mom with two toddlers in heavy coats having to take them to the bathroom almost immediately after plopping down with her tray and food. I was eating alone after work, living the vida loca and all that. I must have looked like a decent person because she asked me ‘Hey, can you make sure nobody puts anthrax on my food or nothing?’. I said sure.

  13. I was on my way down to take my shower before heading off to work, and heard about the first aircraft hitting the WTC on the kitchen TV, and thought it sounded just like when the B-25 ran into the Empire State Building during WWII. In the shower, however, CBS radio announced the second tower had been hit, and my thought was one hit could have been an accident; two sounded a lot like war.
    When I got down to the newsroom, I told my news editor that I thought we might be at war, and he thought I was joking. Then we got a call informing us that another airliner had hit the Pentagon.
    I had no idea that the bunch of sniveling cowards that called itself the Bush Administration would go absolutely apeshit over the next several years destroying the U.S. Constitution in some sort of twisted reaction to prove they were really, really tough guys.

  14. I was taking my son to school…he was in the 5th grade…(I was in the 5th grade when Kennedy was shot)…and we heard on the radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center…I told him, “how awful, just think about those people who work there who are starting their day”…dropped him off and before I got to my office, I heard about the second plane…called my husband who was still at home and told him to turn on the TV…got to the office and we had on the TV in the lunchroom, kept it on all day and I also listened to the radio all day at my desk. Could not stay at work, so I left early and picked my son up and went home to watch more the rest of the night.
    I was glued to the coverage. My husband told me later he was worried that I was becoming a tragedy junkie. I had never been attracted to this kind of stuff before, but my heart just wrenched at the images. I have a dear friend who lives on W. 72nd St…called her and finally got hold of her…she is an artist and paints all night and sleeps in the day. She slept through it…when I spoke with her, all she could say was that the buildings were GONE! As a New Yorker, she told me she was so used to using them as a navigation tool…and she could look out of her apartment windows and see them…suddenly, they were not a part of the landscape and she had a really hard time getting her mind around that.
    I guess as the tragedy junkie, I was compelled to go there, so in early January, 2002, I and a friend of mine went…the photos and images that family members had posted were still up and they broke my heart. The fire stations were heartbreaking too. We went to the Ground Zero site and just cried our eyes out.
    What Bush did afterwards was worse…and you will never convince me that they did not allow it to happen so they could advance their desires.

  15. I was at my job as a Junior ROTC instructor at a high school and didn’t have class until 9:30. An officer from another school had come to discuss something with the other ROTC instructor at our school and when he walked in , he said a plane had hit one of the world trade center buildings. I actually thought it was a terrorist attack for two reasons; I spent the majority of my AF career in intel, and because I had read the Tom Clancy book ‘Debt of Honor’. I thought that it was entirely possible that someone did it on purpose. We shared a classroom with a history teacher (and army vet). I interrupted his class, told him what happened and that I wanted to hook up our TV during his class. He agreed and we turned it on just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower. When his class was over, we decided to spend the day not really teaching and left the TV on all day during classes. All the teachers and many students during their free periods came in to watch the coverage. I almost returned to the military after that – they were taking retirees back in certain career fields, but I changed my mind when I realized that the dick head really wanted to go into Iraq.
    Every time I see the coverage it makes me sad that I wasn’t able to contribute more and how brave all those people on the airplanes were in the face of certain death.

  16. liprap, did you work at that wonderful glass studio on Magazine street? Every time I go to NOLA I go there.
    I have a deep and abiding love for glasswork.

  17. I had the day off because we were becoming adoptive parents. The kids actually moved in the night before, and they were all asleep when I heard the news (Bob Edwards on NPR). Called to my DH to turn on the TV, we watched in horror and disbelief. Soon our caseworker arrived to fill out our adoption paperwork; all three of us watched stunned as the towers fell down.
    Later we took the kids to enroll in their new school, where frantic parents were lined up to pull their kids out for the day. Everywhere we went–Target for school supplies, fast food for lunch–televisions were on and all the world seemed focused on New York.
    (Oh, and my boss was in NY on business–so I called our office to see if anyone had heard from him; thankfully he was okay, but others from our parent company died on the planes or in the WTC.)
    Trying to bring stability and peace to kids whose lives had been in turmoil up until then was our primary objective–but on that day it was all we could do to hold ourselves together.

  18. I got to the bridges off of Long Island they were closed with National Guard units and police on them. Seeing Guard units in Humvees with weapons on city streets was a new thing. Traffic was heavy but very calm, I think the power was out on the lights but everybody was driving like they were trying to pass drivers ed. I was so spent from the traffic and detours that I spent the beter part of the day in a Chinese restaurant in Flushing, first to get a meal, then to watch TV with strangers. People were polite and accepting with only a few questions about why the President was playing hopscotch in his airplane.

  19. I had read the Tom Clancy book ‘Debt of Honor’. I thought that it was entirely possible that someone did it on purpose. We shared a classroom with a history teacher (and army vet). I interrupted his class, told him what happened and that I wanted to hook up our TV during his class. He agreed and we turned it on just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower. When his class was over, we decided to spend the day not really teaching and left the TV on all day during classes. I was all right. And I knew my wife was okay; she had been scheduled to have a work interview that morning literally across the street from the WTC, but had run late and canceled the appointment. I was never so glad for her tardiness as I was that day.

  20. I was at work. My IT company supports Fidelity Investments, and I was on that team at that time. One of my co-workers in the next low-walled cube stood up with a face as white as paper. She was on the phone with one of the NY Fidelity users when the first plane hit. The guy told her that something had exploded in the tower, and there was a fire. (he did make it out).
    We went into the break room one at a time – I saw the second plane hit, and said out loud (with someone else’s voice) “That’s some pretty good CGI.”
    I went back to my cube and sat there, stunned. They dismissed everyone a little before noon. There weren’t a lot of calls coming in.

  21. Gummo – I remember that. I watched some weather program before I left and they kept talking about what a beautiful morning it was.
    I flinched for months whenever someone said that.

  22. My sister was visiting and we were camping on the northern California coast that day. We had planned to spend the whole day on the coast, hiking and generally being disengaged from civilization, but when my camping stove didn’t work we drove into Moss Beach to grab breakfast at a cafe. We walked in and everyone was glued to the TV, which was showing what I at first thought was some action flick. Of course, I quickly realized the images of the WTC towers collapsing was real. I was shocked and horrified like everyone else, but after a few moments of grieving for those lost and trying to imagine how horrible it must have been to be trapped in those towers, my thoughts quickly turned to my boyfriend and his family – all Pakistani Muslims. I fervently hoped that the attackers weren’t Middle Eastern, because at that moment I saw the future laid out in front of us: war, death, and destruction of far greater magnitude than we were seeing now, and harassment (or worse) of all Middle Eastern-looking people. Sure enough, the harassment – by police as well as average citizens – and death threats started almost immediately for my then-partner and his family, and within 2 months I was on the streets of San Francisco protesting the Afghanistan invasion with the rest of the dirty hippies. Hard to believe that was 9 years ago now – and we’re still in Afghanistan, without bin Laden.

  23. I was at home, desperately sick with mononucleosis, and my mother came barging into the room where I was sleeping and raved something about terrorists flying a plane into the World Trade Centre. I kind of blinked at her and said, “Terrorists. Yeah, right. Wasn’t thatlast year?”
    My dad was a commercial pilot at the time, and even though he was working for a small regional airline, my mother was turning green with worry. My dad was supposed to be home around 11 o’clock and was AWOL for several hours before he could even get to a phone. He said that in the crew parts of Pearson airport, people were stacked up dozens deep at any available phone.
    He wrote about ithere, actually.
    I don’t have a lot of coherent memories of the day except some wag put “Music For Airports” on the CBC at about 11 o’clock in the morning, and I still can’t listen to the piece without getting creeped out; and going to the lab next to the doctor’s office to get blood drawn and their not being able to get a vein on me because I hadn’t been able to eat or drink, and their not understanding because they’d been at work since 8AM and hadn’t had the radio on, and didn’t believe me when I said, “The world is blowing up and my father was missing for four hours; I’ve been too stressed to eat.”

  24. I remember going to work, and hearing it on the radio – NPR. Getting to the office, and calling my husband, and telling him to turn the tv on.
    My boss was in the conference room. We didn’t have cable at the office then, so, he had the tiny tv tuned to the local NBC affiliate, over the air. He was signing checks, and watching the coverage, and we’d wander in to see what was happening. My most vivid memory of that day was being in that room and they were showing the first tower, burning, and the boss looked up at the burning building on tv and said “That building is coming down” and about a minute or so later, it started to fall. I remember wondering what he had seen that made him say that, because to me it looked like the same footage of a burning building we’d been looking at for ten minutes. He said it would come down, and then it did.
    None of us got much done that day. I still can’t watch footage of it. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those of you who were actually in that city.

  25. Abo gato, I first worked for the GlassWorks on Magazine when I came down here on ’96, then I moved to a studio much further uptown – which is where I was working on 9/11/01.

  26. Having worked an overnight shift at the newspaper and tumbled into bed around 6:00 a.m. (Central time), I slept through the whole thing.
    My then-girlfriend came into the bedroom at some point and said that the World Trade Center had been attacked and collapsed. I remember coming half awake, saying “damn” and falling asleep again. Woke up just before noon, walked downtown, saw an actual newspaper street vendor — for the only time during my stint at the paper — and few other people.
    I ended up in the city campus union, at a computer terminal, huddling together with acquaintances on a telnet BBS while CNN, et al., played in the background on TVs in the common area.
    For a while after, in my nightly production report e-mails, I would include pacifist quotes or op-ed passages that were unfavorable to the administration. When I got to this one: “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it” [George Bernard Shaw], my boss’s boss came around to tell me to knock it off.

  27. Well, I was driving in Switzerland, going to a town called Flaach to pick up my clients on a bike tour who didn’t want to ride all the way into Winterthur. I was a bike tour guide at the time. I had the radio on, per usual, and the news guy was going on and on about planes flying into the WTC and explosions and fire, etc. Now, my German is not great and was especially not great at that time, so I figured that I was misunderstanding the news announcer. I thought maybe a small plane clipped a building in NY, or crashed or something like that. Anyway, I got to Flaach, picked up the clients and we all went on into Winterthur. When we pulled up to the hotel, I told the clients they might want to turn on their TVs because I’d heard that some kind of something had happened in NYC. Then I futzed around at the van, gathered up my things and headed into reception, where the horrified receptionist asked me immediately if I had heard what had happened. I thought she meant about one of my clients, so I said no, and she just turned the computer screen on the front desk around to show the buildings on fire. She said “It’s on the big screen in the bar,” so I proceeded to the bar where there were a lot of people. I came in just in time to see the towers collapse. I really couldn’t believe it. The first words out of my mouth? “Great, and we have an idiot for president. This will not be good.” I could see it all coming down the pike.
    We had a group dinner that night and I wasn’t quite sure exactly what the mood would be among my clients. As it turned out, they all wanted to drink heavily. People who had loved ones in Manhattan had heard from them and knew they were safe and the feeling was very much like “who knows what’s happening next–might as well party.” I must say I was very, very happy to be in Switzerland at that moment. When we were hearing that the flights were being shut down, etc., I started to wonder if I was going to be a refugee.
    I must say that I am really happy I wasn’t in the US when the attacks happened–and also not for the aftermath. I am glad I missed the jingoism, the hyperventilating shit, etc. It was great to not have to be part of the panic…

  28. At work, half an hour into a routine morning.
    Had an IM open with my SO, and he asked me to check news websites — his building had a security alert. Nothing national would open — LA Times, NYT, CBS, ABC, NPR, nada. I let
    him know, the phone rang — my son, asking if I’d heard.
    Heard what?
    He brought down a little B&W tv and plugged it in — we lived 10 minutes away — and we watched.
    But it was the plane falling out of the sky on takeoff 10 days into air traffic renewal I remember standing out more. Airbus 300 with structural failure, but everybody — including us, in our office where now we had to be careful about sending samples and carrying gear by air (and we were subject to deployment all over the South and the East Coast) thought it was another attack, the day it happened.

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