September 12, 2001

Any Other Day


For about two hours today, I felt almost normal.

That was at bowling.

I really didn't feel like going but I did, since I'm responsible for making sure the statistics are accurate and records are kept by the book. Plus, for soothing down any disgruntlements, real or imagined.

It looked like any other Wednesday. While I was there it felt like any other Wednesday apart from a heavy air of tension and overheard snippets of solemn discussion:
"... they were going to die anyway..."
"... he called home from the plane on his cellphone..."

There was of course the inevitable incident involving my new teammate, The Witch, and Phyllis, a friendly but rather brittle lady on the other team.

The Witch: -Throws second ball, attempting a spare; as is her custom, doesn't stand and wait to see what happens but immediately turns around and walks back off the lane. She gets only two out of three standing pins.

Phyllis: "You GOT it!"

The Witch: -Turns around to check.   "No I didn't, I knew I didn't have it!"

Phyllis: "Oh.. well I thought you did. Sorry."

The Witch: "That's stupid, YOU'RE stupid, I knew I didn't have it." -Walks off

Phyllis: -Stands there, deciding whether to take offense.

Me: -Shrugs my shoulders in a dismissive gesture intended to tell Phyllis that The Witch is a Shithead, don't mind her.

Phyllis: "She called me STUPID!"

Me: "That's not the worst thing she's called anyone. Just consider the source."

Phyllis: -Calming down.. "mutter mutter grumble grumble never satisfied, sad person, mutter mutter...."


Yesterday morning I awoke around 9 AM.
Grabbed my coffee, logged on.

I get "Breaking News" emails from CNN; they average maybe three or four a week. There were already several in the inbox by 9:15 AM.

Plane crashes into World Trade Center.

Huh??
Turn on TV.

Second plane crashes into World Trade Center.

My sleepy brain already knows this is no longer an accident.

The rest unfolds before my eyes, be it from afar.

Too many times it seemed as if I were watching a disaster movie.
I kept expecting them to say it was a simulation, a test of the Emergency Response System.
I expected Orson Welles to come out and laugh and it would all go away.

My kids were sent home from work and school by noon.
My twenty year old son kept asking me if there would be a war and if so would he be in it.
They both watched the news for the first time in their lives.
They kept asking me why.
I was glad that they were old enough for me to just be able to answer, "I don't know."

By evening the networks had film of the NY crashes from several different camera angles.
No special effects.
They repeated them over and over and I couldn't look away.
I waited for the inevitable list of famous people who were on the planes. The one best known to me was Barbara Olson, a lawyer who often provided commentary on CNN.
I wondered why being able to put a face on mass death made it worse, even if it wasn't anyone I knew personally.

I also wondered about my cousins who live in and near New York, but by this morning everyone had been accounted for.
I thought about an old IRC friend who works on Wall Street. This is someone I'd met in person; our families shared pizza in Upstate NY one year on our way home from Florida.
He too survived, and his account, from an email to his online friends, is posted (with permission) in Stephanie's journal.

As I write this, the Breaking News bulletins continue to come in, two or three an hour, sometimes more.

This is the latest, at 10:30 PM Eastern:

BREAKING NEWS from CNN.com

-- Empire State Building being evacuated. Details soon.

(That turned out to be a false alarm of some sort.)

I'm lucky of course.. no one I knew was killed or injured (that I'm aware of at the moment, anyway.) Certainly no one I'm close to.
I can't pretend to be personally affected...
Except by the words and images that will certainly endure, and by the change in the world that this brings.

This is now the biggest event of a current post-war lifetime. All our concepts of history and the world order are in review.

And it started out just like any other day.

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