Not My Story I don't like September 11th. I don't like reading about it. I don't like talking about it. I don't like writing about it. And not for the usual reasons. Not because thousands of people died. Not because even more families had lost loved ones. Not because I "don't feel safe anymore". I just don't like it. I've smoked three cigarettes before writing this, trying to get my shit together and not piss anyone off too much, but to be honest I just feel sick when I try to do this. So bear with me.
Honestly, it doesn't matter what I think. It doesn't matter what I have to say about it. Because I wasn't there. All of my friends were okay. Nothing happened to me at all that day, and nothing happened to countless others.
But some serious, serious shit happened to a hell of a lot of people. Awful, awful shit that I, luckily, have never experienced. I can't imagine what it must have been like for the people in the towers, around the towers, in the Pentagon, in the cities of New York and Washington DC. I can't imagine what it felt to be the families, friends, and other such loved ones of those who had died in the attacks. I can't. So I won't. Because it's not my right and it's not my place. And every time I read an article or watch a TV news special or whatever all I see are opportunistic swine taking advantage of the opportunity to further their careers as writers, journalists, reporters, whatever. Taking the loss and fear and sorrow of countless people and turning into a bullet point on their fucking resumes.
It's not their story. It's not mine either.
But I'm going to tell it anyway.
I should start by saying that, from early on, I've had a weird sort of psychic edge to me. Once, in the summer between sixth and seventh grade, I had accurately guessed what song would be playing on a particular radio station before turning it on 64 times in a row. No one ever believes this, but you can ask my old friend Scott, if you can find him. He was there, and he'll back me up. When I was even younger, I used to tell my parents that "so-and-so is coming over for a visit" – even though we hadn't seen said "so-and-so" in years. Lo and behold, the "so-and-so"'s would show up unannounced and my parents would be shocked. This happened at least five times. And one god-awful time… well, I don't know why I'm telling this, but it seems important. I was going out with a girl who I, well, fuck it, I loved her a lot. And she was very, very upset one night about the fact that she could never have children. So I just kinda laid my hands on her stomach, held them there for a few seconds, and said, "Okay. There. From now on, you'll be able to have children." She didn't believe me, of course. But several months later she was raped, and became pregnant from the rape. Again, I don't know why I'm telling you this, but it feels important.
I walked into work a bit early that morning, which, at that time in my life, was quite an accomplishment for me. I sat down at my desk, looked at my cell phone, and noticed that the date was September 11. 9-1-1.
Looking back and knowing my history, I probably never should have said this, but I said ‘Holy crap. Today's date is 9-1-1. Something really messed up is going to happen today."
Everyone just kinda shrugged it off – including myself. Being early and all, I hadn't drank any coffee yet, and neither had most of my office buddies. So I decided I'd go out and buy them all coffee and whatnot. Because I liked them – most of them, anyway – and thought they should all have coffee.
I walked across the street to the café, and the place was going insane. Mary, the owner, kept running in and out of the kitchen. "The tower's been hit". (What tower? Where? What's going on?)
"What's going on?"
"You haven't heard? A plane just flew into the world trade center.
I had not had my coffee yet, so this didn't exactly register with me. That part's a blur. The first plane had just hit the tower, and everyone was scrambling around the radio, getting coffee, giving it out… I took my coffee and went back to work.
Back at work, no one had heard a thing.
"Guys –a plane just flew into the world trade center…"
Lots of chaos. Lots of wondering what happened. Lots of hypothesizing. Couldn't get on to any news sites ‘cuz they were all jammed and shit. Then word hit that the second tower was hit, first tower fell, second tower fell, Pentagon was hit. You know what happened.
This one woman who worked there turned to me with a smile on her face and said, "Does this mean we get to go home?" I don't think I've ever wanted to punch someone in the face as much as I did at that moment. And I often feel like punching someone in the face.
I IMed my friend John. He was OK. He worked from home and was sitting in his Apt. on 14th St, scrambling to find his friends and make sure they were OK. I tried to get on the phone to as many of my NYC peeps as possible. Got through to my friend Gabe, who I hadn't talked to in ages. Since graduation. And I just remember him saying "Yeah, it's crazy here, but knowing that you cared and called is making me feel a lot better right now."
And then an "Oh shit" feeling came over me. My old college girlfriend who I had recently gotten back in touch with was working underneath the World Trade Center. Panic, fear, lots of memories and shit just flew threw my head, and desperately I tried to find her. Phone didn't work. Not on IM (obviously). Called some of her friends. Got through to one who hadn't heard from her and didn't know where she was. Went outside, chain-smoked some cigs while on the phone with David, one of my best friends from college (and often shows up here on the robot) who was living in Florida at the time. We, along with another of our old college buddies formed an alliance where we made a checklist of all the people we could think of to check on, and went to work trying to get in contact with them.
11:30, and still no sign of my old girlfriend. Had found several of the people we wanted to, but not too many. Looking back, I probably should have just let them be well enough alone. The last thing they need is some old friend pestering them with "Are you okay" phone calls. But fuck it. I did it anyway. And if that makes me a bad person, then fuck you too.
Work had called an all-staff meeting. I was walking up the stairs to the boardroom with my office buddies… And one guy I worked with freaked out as he went up the stairs.
"Do you know what this means, Chris? It means that we are going to war. like tomorrow… and we're gonna get drafted! You and me, Chris! You and me! And we're going to die." I just turned to him and said, "I love you, man, but shut the fuck up."
Blah blah. They let us out of work early. I went home and hit the Scotch while David and I called each other every thirty minutes or so, updating our lists and sharing the stories those people had told us. This went on into the night. We had found most of the people we wanted to. But my old girlfriend still was nowhere to be found, and that still bugged the fuck out of me.
The majority of the evening I spent sitting on the deck, smoking assloads of cigarettes and drinking fuckloads of Scotch. She worked under the WTC. She was one of only a couple of people I hadn't gotten in touch with yet. She was (at that point, at least) the great love of my life. And she was gone.
My phone rang at 11:30. It was her. She had quite her job at the WTC a week ago, was at home in Brooklyn or wherever the hell she was. She was fine. But I will never be a New Yorker again. Not because I wouldn't want to live there, because I do. Someday. But because I had lived there, gone to school there, considered myself a New Yorker. But I left, and I wasn't there when the shit hit the fan. I can never be a New Yorker again.
There. That's it for me. It's not my story. It didn't happen to me. I was fine.