On September 11th, 2001, I turned on NPR on my car stereo on my way to work as usual. But that day, the news broadcast was reporting an impossible thing. They said a bomb or something had hit a tower of the World Trade Center and that tower was burning.
I thought, “This can’t be really happening. This must be another War Of The Worlds tale or something. But why would NPR pull that Orson Welles trick again? This can’t really be happening. It’s an awfully odd hour to do a Wellesian tall tale like this. This can’t really be happening.”
When I arrived to the office, I realized this was no tall tale, no fictional saga, no Wellesian trickery. In the front office, my coworkers were standing around a little tv, color drained from their faces. I will never forget their faces: blank stares, hands covering agonized expressions, tears. I knew the news report was real before I made it behind the front window to see the tv screen for myself. Their faces said everything.
I imagine my own face contracted the same affliction affecting theirs – horror and tears – as I saw for the first time the black smoke pouring out of that tower. I will never forget those moments. As I left the front office to report to my post, I proceeded in a state of shock.
That day, the phones didn’t ring too much. We workers didn’t chat in our downtime. We took turns visiting that front office; took turns revisiting that pain and horror like masochistic pawns in a mad man’s game. We sat together in grim repose while the second tower was hit, while both towers fell.
I relived the images as the day grew old. That night, I drove right on by the gullible lemmings queued up in hysterically long lines at the gas station. I had an altogether different kind of ‘fuel’ on my mind. As I drowned the day’s frightening events in a cadre of friendly, cool pints of beer, I screamed, I cried, I laughed, and I lived. And I will never forget it.