It’s hard to remember, I wrote in the intro to the First Draft book, just how many people lost their entire minds right after 9/11. I was at work, and so was almost everyone I knew, and by the end of week 3 I was so exhausted of hearing stupid shit that I could barely speak to anyone. There were a couple of things that made immediate sense in a way that the sheltered columnists screaming about torture and the unemployed dimwits beating up shopkeepers couldn’t.
More people come to stand with us on the corner. People walk out into the street to look. The building on a hundred million postcards, panned past in establishing shots in a thousand movies, visible from my bedroom window growing up, has an angry jagged yell full of twisted steel and fire punched into its side. I don’t know what else to do, so I stand there, mouth agape, and stare at it. It seems like a particularly realistic CGI rendering in a movie trailer. I try to get my brain to deal with what my eyes are telling it, but it’s just not sinking in, and just then a hot fragment of something or other lands on my head, and I duck my head to shake it free, and as I do, I see a shirt cuff land gently on the sidewalk a few feet away. I stare at that, too. “Dude, look at that, this is seriously seriously bad,” I start to say to Bob, who’s digging in his bag for his tape recorder, but I don’t have time, because I’ve turned my attention back to the building again, and the building has chosen that moment to die.
The second was this, literally the only fictional treatment of that time I can remotely stand, that doesn’t feel treacly or false or too little or too loud:
(The later seasons, and honestly, the later episodes of the first season, went really fucking far off the rails but that first one was like oh, thank God, something makes sense again. When he asks the therapist where the grief counseling was for every time he lost someone on the job because that happens all the time … yeah.)
For the life of me I can’t remember his name, and linkrot has ensured I can’t find the story, but I was interviewing a standup comic maybe a month later and asked him about all those columns declaring triviality and humor basically over. I’ll never forget what he said. “Every day is somebody’s 9/11.”