It was a beautiful late summer morning, a lot like today.
Here on the west coast, it had already all gone down by the time most of us found out. The news slowly infected us, one human at a time. A nation that began the day flush with post-Cold-War hubris, slowly blanketed itself in a murk of fear and grief. It was a black cloud as undeniable as the one unleashed on the canyons of lower Manhattan when the towers finally collapsed.
Where were you? I learned about it as I switched on the car radio after dropping off my six-year-old daughter at school. That’s ridiculous, I remember thinking. Planes don’t get hijacked anymore, not since, like, D.B. Cooper in the Seventies. Both towers collapsed? From two planes? Is this some kind of Orson Welles-type radio bullshit?
Doesn’t seem like it. And how does a plane fly into the Pentagon? How could a lumbering jetliner strike the nerve center of our military? I must be getting bad information.
To wit, some of it was bad. Remember the rumors of mysterious packages outside Camp David, terrorist activity at the Brooklyn Bridge, our streets jammed with celebrating Arab Americans?
Who was the first person you called? Did you have a spouse at the time? Kids? Were you stuck somewhere distant, unable to find a flight or rental car to get back home?
Then there were the substantiated peripheral events. On September 18, when the first anthrax-laced envelopes arrived at the offices of media and congressional members, the scales really seemed to tip. All factors pointed to the most effectively planned and executed conspiracy against America in our history.
What else do the terrorists have in store? How deep does this go? I can vividly recall my wife and I being about one exploded Amtrack from whisking the family away and getting all Green Acres-like as a gentleman farmer and bead maker in the Idaho panhandle. Did you have similar thoughts?
Were you glued to your TV? Were you suspicious of strangers? How did you sleep?
So much happened on that horrible day—My Pet Goat, Cheney hightailing it to his bunker—loaded-down firefighters scurrying into the inferno as soot-soaked New Yorkers ran from harm’s way.
I’d really like to hear your story. What happened with you that horrible day and how has September 11 affected your life’s trajectory these past thirteen years?