September 11th: What Should We Have Said?

The Walk To Work

Last night, on the 10th of September, I sat at my desk, wondering what I should do. Mention it? Not? And why had I never had this conundrum before? Maybe it's because I was in New York City that day, checking out the spectacle as I walked west on 13th Street.

Now, on this evening of September 11th, 2012, it makes sense. For people who were there, it's not a name you drop. It's not a thing you mention in passing.

My father says, "My goodness, whenever it comes up in conversation, I always mention that you were right there!" But he live in a small town in Vermont.

Even writing this makes me feel kind of icky. Like I'm betraying a lover for whom I still have feelings. Or like I'm trying to impress you by just happening to be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.

But I'll never forget listening to NPR while getting ready for work and hearing the report that there was smoke coming from one of the Twin Towers. Or, that as I started my walk to work, I saw the first tower in flames (presumably from a dingbat private pilot) and thought, "Wow, what an incredibly crazy thing to be able to see." Or, that as I stopped at the next avenue, I actually thought to myself, "How odd - something combustible must have transferred from the first tower to the second." Or, that I made my way another eight blocks to work without realising such a world-wide tragedy had been inflicted.

Once at my office, I was still so clueless that I called my parents. We didn't talk for long, but still. There were so many people who needed that network more than me. I was on AIM with a friend working for AOL in Washington, DC, and we were trying to make what we could of the situation, while discussing the fact that the Internet was truly coming into its own at this moment.

An hour later, my new best office girlfriend, who had been huddled around the screens with people who knew her better than I did, dropped to the ground. Her husband had been at a meeting at Windows on the World. They spoke on the phone, but still.

We all walked blocks and blocks home. I passed New York Presbyterian and St Vincents hospitals. Dozens of staff members were standing outside, waiting for the injured to come. Just standing in their white coats, with empty streets all around. I had to show ID to get to my apartment, which was just south of 14th Street.

September 11th was a Tuesday. That Friday night, I sat on my roof deck with a friend, listening to the thunder rolling in the distance. I said that to anyone still alive, this must sound like the end of the world coming. But, of course, there was probably no one alive at that point.

But we are. And we don't forget, even if we don't mention it.