Call me a sap. Call me a weakling. I don't care. Two years later and I still can't get my mind totally around it. I don't think I ever will. Like a lot of people, perhaps, there is a pre-9/11 me and a post-9/11 me.
I'm not special. Until the day before, I swam the backstroke in a sea of oblivion, my Speedos emblazoned with "What, me worry?" across my ass, a case of Bud and a big screen TV awaiting me on the beach. I had called in sick to work in order to finish a programming project for school. Then my Mom called. "Put on the TV."
Vix and I watched, dismissing it initially as a freak accident. We switched between ABC and CNN, and those early reports referred to a possible private plane, not really quite yet grasping the scope and dimensions of the impact on Tower One. My mother-in-law
called to see if we were watching. My Dad called back. Then we saw the South Tower explode.
I can't write about this without my chest tightening and tears welling. Like I said, call me a sap. I don't recall sitting, only standing and pacing, squatting occassionally to get a better look at the nightmare glowing on our tiny TV. Then we heard about the Pentagon.
"They're heading south." We wonder if and when Disney, less than an hour away, will shut down. (It does sometime before noon, I think.)
An uneven stream of information punctuated the unreal pictures we saw. The White House evacuated. The President is in Air Force One, destination unknown.
Then the South Tower collapsed. "It's gone," I said. "It's just gone." "No," she said. "It was another explosion." "Yes. Oh God, it's gone." She started crying. "Who would do this? Who would do this to us?" She cried and hugged me, she who never does this. Pulling away, she held herself, keeping the witnessed chaos from tearing her apart. "Should we get the boys from school?" "No," I said. "School is the best place for them now. They don't need to see this." This is probably one of my better decisions.
Twenty-three minutes later, the North Tower peeled away in a catastrophic ballet of fire and smoke and debris and bodies.
I felt like I'd been hit in the face with a shovel. Only the momentary impact never ended. All day long the horror hammered away at us in a numbing assault. A blinding poison of anger and helplessness and heartbreak and rage raced through me. I alternately wanted to kill and save.
Then why did I keep watching? Good question. Part of me wanted to know what would happen next. What could possibly compound this massacre? Another part knew, absolutely knew, that these events on this day marked a turning point in this country, if not the world. I stepped in to my backyard before getting the boys from school and looked up. We live in the landing path of OIA. The sky was silent, and slowly, I felt myself change.
How? Until a few months ago, it was a prolonged reactionary change. From liberal pacifist hippie to right-wing Rumsfeld-booster. I found out quickly I was too old for any armed service or even the reserves or National Guard. Too old to be a sky marshall. So I supported the president, and I think he did a good job in those
following months. I wore a flag pin every day (still do). My workouts became tougher because now I never knew when I might meet these bastards. Every plane was a bomb.
Now I've swung back, just not all the way. My old beliefs don't quite seem valid today, although I've revisited them lately and have picked out a lot of the seeds and stems. What's left I've rolled in a yellowed copy of Patton's speech. I'll smoke this at a
future date in an undisclosed location, wearing tie-dyed boxers and wrapped in the flag.