9/11: My own humble story

On September 11, 2002, I posted the following article to a newsgroup I was then frequenting.  I did some minor editing to the article for the 10th Anniversary post, and have done a little more for this 15th Anniversary, but it’s fundamentally the same as the original.

And to those who may consider it “inappropriate” to post such an article to a hobby site, I make absolutely no apologies whatsoever.

I was working at a small telephone company at the time. Actually, I don’t remember when I first heard about a plane hitting the building.  What I do recall is, while I was going over some details in a customer’s file, in my headset I overheard her discussing this with a visitor.  I think I recall them discussing the second plane, but I’m not sure.  I do remember taking the news of a plane hitting the building in stride, so to speak.  After all, airliners had crashed into buildings before.  In fact I had just a few days prior seen a documentary on one of the “educational” cable channels, telling the story of such a crash in the ’30s or ’40s (I think), which featured survivors and witness describe how the plane had hit the Empire State Building, and how it just hung there.  So this new crash was, as it were, nothing new.  Sad, of course; and upsetting to think that even with a cockpit full of modern technology, a pilot could make that poor a mistake.  But these things happen.

But then the talk and murmur of the second plane began to grow; slowly I began to realize the seriousness of it.  I don’t really recall when I heard about the plane hitting the Pentagon, or when I heard about the one that went down in Pennsylvania.  What I recall is the First Rumor, and the First Rumor was that Eight Planes Were Unaccounted For.  Our government had determined this was a genuine attack and had grounded all flights, yet still there were Eight Planes Unaccounted For.

During a break I was able to get to a phone and call my Mom to see how she was. I was also able find some privacy and reaffirm my acceptance of Jesus Christ as my personal savior (I think by then I had realized we were effectively at war, and I wanted to make sure I was straight on that issue).

Later I heard the Second Rumor, that The Towers Had Collapsed.  I knew that was ridiculous; the towers had stood for several decades, and certainly were built using what was then the highest architectural technology of the time.  And as I mentioned above, the Empire State Building remained standing when it was struck, so certainly such modern towers would survive.

(The next day or so, I remember a co-worker making a comment, something on the order of “nuking those bastards.”  I agreed but I advised him that first we needed to figure out which bastards; I was a little surprised when he agreed with me on that point.  I reflected silently on how we had grown as country.  For example, when the Imperial Japanese fleet struck Pearl Harbor, we immediately rounded up any- and everyone of  Japanese descent.  But when the van blew up in the WTC parking garage, there was talk of Arab terrorists, but we did not round up any Arabic people then.  When the bomb went off at the Murrah building, again Arabs were suspected, but almost immediately I saw the attitude change to “Well, no, let’s try to find out who actually did this.”  We had grown from having a knee-jerk reaction regarding whom we considered the “obvious suspects” to stepping back to gather information so we could take the best corrective action.)

About mid-afternoon, the bosses had decided to let us go home early.  I went to my Mom’s place to see how she was doing; she was about 20 during Pearl Harbor, and I wanted to make sure she was all right.  When I got home, I realized I needed to keep up, so I turned on the news.  I saw different videos, shot from different angles, of the planes going into the towers, and my stomach turned.  It was hard to believe that someone had actually chosen to do this to people.  And the videos kept running …

…And then there was the footage of the towers going down.  Dear God.  The towers had actually collapsed.

Several days later, I received an e-mail containing the photograph of a tourist on top of the WTC that was allegedly taken just before a plane struck, the plane itself clearly visible in the background just off from the building.  I was able to laugh at this, because it was so ridiculous.  And I was able to laugh at it being so ridiculous because by then, The Lie was over, for me at least.  Almost immediately we heard political and media figures talking sanctimoniously about how the attacks had unified America.  “There are no Democrats and Republicans here, today we’re only Americans.”  I knew this was lie, and within about a week exactly the people I knew would do so were saying exactly the divisive things I expected them to say.  And so, for me, The Lie was over and I could go back to living my own life, including my very partisan support of those who to me had long been unified before the attacks.*

*[Over the intervening years, sadly I have seen those who back then had my “very partisan support” degenerate into their own finger-pointing circular firing squad. I have since officially registered as “independent” and no longer offer support to any ideological group. ~WM]

I had received an e-mail from an Air Force buddy of mine.  A close friend of his (whom I did not know) was in the Pentagon when the plane hit, in or near that section; he was okay.  I also got an e-mail from my sister: my nephew, who had served in the Gulf War and was now a trucker, was making a delivery into New York that morning, and was only a couple of miles away when the planes hit; he, too, was okay.

As  you watch the commemorative programming on TV during this tenth fifteenth anniversary, obviously the most common question asked by reporters will be, “…And where were YOU on this day?”

Well, that’s where I was.

~WM

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