The second Tuesday in September. I still remember looking forward to that day. I had Diamondbacks tickets and our division rivals, the Colorado Rockies, were in town to start a series.
I was awoken by a phone call from my roommate. He worked at an office and I worked from home, so his day began earlier than mine.
“They flew a plane into the World Trade Center. We’re under attack” he had said.
My first response was “which one?” as if I knew the difference between the north and south tower. I had never been to New York at that time and didn’t even know how they differentiated between the two.
He just said “both of them.”
After disconnecting, I turned on my television. It was a scene from a helicopter’s point-of-view. It was hard to make out what I was looking at. Grey smoke filled the screen. How are people breathing, I thought. And then Katie Couric, in a calm, straight voice said, “and there goes the second, and final tower.” I saw it fall. But I still didn’t understand it.
The news then switched back and forth between live shots of lower Manhattan covered in dust and video of the images that were recorded. Most of the videos were of people falling.
Later that day, and for the weeks to come, those that fell to their deaths were referred to as “jumpers”. Pundits would talk about what a decision these people had to make, stay in the building, or jump to their deaths. They were and are wrong. These people didn’t jump. They were forced out of those buildings. Either by the inability to breath or the heat from burning jet fule. No one jumped that day. They were thrown.
The replays showed what no one will show today; people trying to hang on for their lives outside the World Trade Center. And people falling. There was lots of video of people falling.
Then the video of the collapse started coming in. People running from the grey smoke.
Commentators starting guessing at how many dead there were. Thousands if not tens of thousands.
Cut to a scene to Washington. The Pentagon is on fire. Was it also struck by a plane?
Flights are being grounded. Fox News starts having a news scroll at the bottom of their screen. Other stations follow. Some are scrolls, some are just news flashes at the bottom of the screen. All were trying to get the ever changing news and updates as fast as possible.
Mayor Giuliani was assuring people that first responders were doing their best. Commissioner Selig cancelled all ballgames until further notice. One of the scariest moments of my life was underreported. The president’s location was classified as he was flown to a secret location. My president, our leader, was publicly unaccounted for. This was crazy. I had no idea how much of a security blanket it was knowing that your president is always accountable for, was. Then, per procedure, he disappeared. All we knew is that he was in a secure location.
More video of people running from smoke. People falling. Pentagon still on fire. There was talk of more planes and that the attack wasn’t over yet.
Video of a plane hitting the the second tower starting emerging. How big was it? I thought it was a smaller plane. Only later did I understand that I did not appreciate the size of those towers. Those planes looked tiny compared to those massive monoliths.
Live video of lower Manhattan. Building 7 was still on fire. There was talk that it too may collapse. Then it did. I had witnessed two building fall in one day.
It was way past lunch time and I was starving, not having eaten all day. This is weird to say, but I felt guilty that I had to get something to eat. I left the house and went to a place I knew would be open, McDonald’s. There was a weird sense on the road that day. Everyone seeming to think, what I’m supposed to be doing? People are dying, donating blood, and I’m grabbing a cheeseburger. It just didn’t feel right.
Then I saw something that was very eery. I should say, what I didn’t see. Planes. There were no planes in the air. I never gave it much thought before. Planes in the air are and were a constant all my life. But then, there it was, nothing. Clear and quiet skies.
There still wasn’t a September 11th. It was what was happening now. Then it became yesterday. Last week. Ten days ago.
A plane was shot down. Maybe it wasn’t. There might be other planes that have been shot down. The president landed on the South Lawn. One bit of good news.
Our representatives gathered in front of the capital. After some remarks they burst into an unplanned rendition of God Bless America. I remember thinking how beautiful it was. I remember thinking that I didn’t know the words to that song. Or in fact, most Americans didn’t. Not so anymore.
After the president’s remarks, more video. Lots of the same videos. Leaders around the world sending their condolences. Celebrations on the streets of Iraq. Explosions in Afghanistan. Had America already struck? I was sure of it. I knew if I were president, I’d a let every missel rip.
It was late. Should I go to sleep? Again, another feeling of guilt. I’ll rest in bed while people die.
Today is the first Tuesday since that tragic day that the 11th of September again falls on a Tuesday.
When people ask, what was the worse day of your life, mine will always be that second Tuesday in September.