In 2001, I was living in this crap-hole of an apartment in South Salt Lake. Between me and my roommates, we had scrounged enough together each month to pay for a luxurious 1.5Mb broadband internet connection (back when it was AT&T and no one had ever heard of Comcast). I worked the closing shift at my work and typically didn’t get up till well after 11:00 AM each morning.
The only reason I bring any of this up is because September 11 did not start for me the same way it did many others. Instead of going in to work and seeing everything happen on the news (or worse, only hearing part of it and having to wait until you got home to hear what actually happened), I got my roommates annoying girlfriend throwing open my door and screaming in at me, “ZUKE! GET UP! Turn on the news! We are at war! Someone just shot a missile into the Twin Towers!”
I remember giving her kind of a dumbfounded look, a combination of my half-asleep stupor and the sheer idiocy of what she was suggesting. When it became clear she wasn’t, I immediately turned the TV to the news and fired up my computer. Having CNN on one side of me and a host of other news agencies laid out in front of me, I became immediately inundated with news reports as they came in. Without the mass communication we have now through social networks and whatnot, some things came in that were accurate and some were way off. Some were accurate, but no one knew it at the time. Flight 93 going down in Pennsylvania was a big question mark in everyone’s minds then, as no one could seem to even verify it even happened.
It seemed to take them forever to come out and say it was a terrorist attack. I’ll be honest, back then I had very little idea what a terrorist actually was. I knew Arnold Schwarzenegger killed a bunch in TrueLies, and I had just seen Swordfish in the dollar theater the night before (define “ironic”), but other than what Hollywood had told me I was in the dark.
I was also in shock; there’s something very different about seeing something and knowing it’s as real as it gets. In video games and movies we see buildings blow up all the time. People get killed in all sorts of manners, and in video games we’re often the ones doing it. Somehow, though, the scene in the movie where the Chrysler building is ripped in half by an asteroid and people are raining down from the windows in eye burning detail and uncomfortable close ups weren’t any match for some guy’s handicam and the sheer shock and terror in his voice.
Like a moron, I called my roommate (Dr Squishy, actually) and asked him if his sister was ok. I knew she lived in New York City at the time, and even knowing that it’s a BIG FRAKKING CITY, I somehow still inferred that she would be in danger just by being in the general area. Squishy hadn’t heard anything . . . literally. He had opened at work and didn’t know anything was going on. I believe the conversation went something like this:
“Is your sister ok?”
“The attacks! The attacks on New York! Is she ok?!”
“What attacks? What?”
“Terrorists are attacking New York! They just blew up the World Trade Center! IS SHE OK!?!”
He hung up at that point and I seem to remember him running out the door and coming straight home. I later had to remind him he did that, and that it’d probably be a good idea to call his boss and explain what happened (the boss was obviously pretty understanding).
The rest of the day was kind of a blur. The week, actually. I became glued to the news, just like many others. I cried a lot, like many others. I didn’t know anyone in the towers (or even in New York for that matter) but I grieved. It became so bad that after awhile I just didn’t want to hear about it any more. Each time anything was brought up about it, I just wanted to cry again and I was so tired of crying. Between you, me, and the rest of the internet, I still have a hard time keeping it reigned in when they start showing the memorial specials.
Eventually, we moved on. We sort of had to. We knee-jerked here, and we sat on our laurels there, but we moved on. I thought we/I had gotten better until a year and a half later when Columbia disintegrated on re-entry and I found myself glued to the news, crying again.
My heart still goes out to the families who lost loved ones in the attacks, and I still grieve for the lost civil servants who put the care and safety of strangers above their own and made the ultimate sacrifice.