I think I was the last person in America to realize we were under attack. I had just moved back to Miami a few months earlier and had just moved into my first owned house a few days earlier. My life was chaos.
This was back before the Janet Jackson Super Bowl show, so Howard Stern was still on the air here in Miami. I woke up to his show every day. It was not that I was a fan, but rather that I found him so annoying it would motivate me to get out of bed and shut him off. It worked great and I rarely overslept for work.
On this particular morning I woke up to the most offensive joke I had ever heard Howard Stern do. It was obscene beyond anything I could tolerate and I can take quite a bit. I could not stop listening to it, however, because it was just too unreal to be believed and I was going to enjoy regaling my co-workers with something that actually offended me. Howard Stern was insisting a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
I finished getting dressed and had my morning cup of Diet Coke and left for work, eager to hear more of this horrible stunt he was pulling. I did not even give it a moment’s thought to it being real because if it was real, Howard Stern would not have been on the air; it would have been the news or something like that.
Howard telling me means joke, so I quickly tuned my car radio to the Howard Stern show to hear him announce the pun, but he didn’t. Instead, he said another plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, only the other tower this time. “Ha ha, Howard you sick bastard, but that is too unreal to even be believed as a joke.” I thought. “The FCC is going to have your ass for this.”
Then it became real and it was again Howard Stern that brought it to me. “There is another one hijacked.” “Shoot it the fuck down!” There is no way Howard “Largest Fines in FCC History” Stern was going to say the mother of all curse words on the air. This was fucking real! “Oh Shit” Howard Stern soon said, “They just hit the Capitol building.” He quickly corrected it as an assumed target of another plane and that it was not hit.
I got to work to find the office empty. I work for a sleep disorders center and we have rooms that are set up like hotel rooms. They have real beds, furniture, and televisions with cable. The entire office was piled in room 6 on the bed, watching CNN. There was now no doubt left in me that this was real.
We sat there for the entire morning, silent, all piled on the bed, watching it unfold. None of us could believe what we were seeing. I kept thinking that if this were the plot to a movie, I would walk out of it for being unbelievable. I mean one plane is possible; two planes unlikely; three planes impossible; four planes beyond Hollywood.
I spent the next few hours in a panic trying to reach my sister who lives in New York, but everyone else in the world with a sister in New York was trying the same thing and I had no luck getting through. I knew there was no reason for her to be in Manhattan, but there was always that chance. She was fine and nowhere near Ground Zero, I learned later from my mom.
Everything changed that day. Cliché I know, but there is no other way to say it. For three months after the attack I saw the "Norman Rockwell America" awake.
I saw a construction worker help an old woman cross the street. I saw people holding doors open for strangers. I saw people sharing grief and joy. I saw the world come together for a brief moment. I saw a sea of Old Glory and we were all Americans: not Republicans, not Democrats, but Americans. We forgot all the stupid things we choose to use as dividers and saw something more important.
I prefer to concentrate on these memories over the previous ones. It showed me an America I had heard about, but never saw. The reason I bring this up is that I do not want to end on a down note, because you can find something positive in anything.
It is a Jewish belief maybe. My father's mother died on the day my parents got married. The rabbi insisted on the wedding going forward because otherwise the day would forever be defined as a loss. She would want the wedding, so the wedding must happen. We celebrate the lives of those passed on and never mourn their passing. They are always in a better place. I see 9/11 the same way.
Richard Bach wrote, in Illusions, “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.” We were hit and hit hard on September 11th, 2001 and there is no changing that fact. Many people died horribly and the loss the families felt and still feel today should never be felt by anyone.
We can choose to focus on the doom of that day, or we can focus on the unity we all felt in the weeks after and try to regain that feeling without the tragedy. We all know we can feel it; we just have to remember.Powered by Sidelines