That’s all I keep thinking today, the lyric of that U2 song. Bullet the blue sky, bullet the blue…
Today’s sky looks identical to the one ripped apart on September 11, 2001.
Yeah, Peeps, I know, everyone is writing about this today. Or has written about it in the 11 years since. (11 years? wow!). But, ya know, I like Bandwagons. They are fun. Tons of people talking all at once. Lots of singing. Anyway…
Just now a plane flew over the house. Planes used to symbolize adventure or business trips. They made me wonder where all those people are going. Are they coming home or going away? I hope it’s someplace tropical and lovely.
The terrorists took those planes and turned them into weapons. So even now, all these years later, all this distance from the crash sites, I still hold my breath. Just for a second, until I hear the plane pass safely by.
Bestie called me yesterday evening b/c her Little A (who is not so little anymore, sniff-sniff) learned about 9/11 in school that day. Wow. That day that still shines so brightly in my mind is now a history lesson. While the war still rages on. While there are people still suffering and dying from what happened that day. Time is a funny thing.
Bestie had told her kiddles about how she remembered that day and I’m sure when Lala & Loopsy are old enough, I will do the same. Their father will have a different perspective, as he was working in Midtown that morning. His perspective is different. But, we lived through it, even though we were nowhere near the danger. We experienced it in the way that our parents’ generation experienced the moon landing or the assassinations of the Kennedys and MLK. (Another plane is passing by, Peeps, and I still check the sky outside my window). This blog entry will serve as my account of that day, for my girls to read, to contemplate, when their teacher tells them about that historical event. (Note… Events are mildly fictionalized. I can’t remember exactly who was doing or saying what in the office, it was 11 years ago so… Yeah.)
I step out of Bestie’s green-blue Hyundai into the crisp fall-like morning sunshine. Swinging my purse onto my shoulder, I take a sip of my Big Gulp. Another day at the office. Only Tuesday too, I sigh. I take a look up, feel the sunlight on my face, and wonder if it’s too early to make plans with that Dude for this weekend.
Bestie’s already high-tailing it inside, so I quick step it to catch up.
“Damn, look at that sky. So clear.” We walk across the black top to the unimpressive tan brick building with a fancy name.
She glances up and blinks into the bright blue, but doesn’t slow her pace.
I smile. I’m not sure if she’s anxious to get inside so she won’t be late, or because of her new boyfriend in the department over from hers. They make a cute couple. Maybe those crazy kids will get married someday, I chuckle.
We part ways in the main hall. I switch my soda to my left hand in order to pull my employee ID from where it’s attached via the retractable badge holder at my waist. Buzz, clink. The day begins. As I walk in, I look down to do one last check of my outfit. Damn, did my pants look this wrinkled at home? Oh well.
“Cornell!” I hear my buddy Chris whisper. I look up at him and he does that little head flick thing that guys do. He’s weird. But he makes me smile. I wink at him and walk over to my desk in the corner. I like being in the corner.
I put my bag under my desk and my Big Gulp in the trash. Damn, done already? I’ll have to go to the cafe earlier than I expected. Oh well. I log onto my computer and go over to the printer to pick up the day’s reject report. I see that Denise had already sorted it, and I thank her. Pretty sure I just got an eye roll for my gratitude. Oh well.
Just as I sit down, I hear the “I’ll be your huckleberry” sound bite from Tombstone that Larry set up as my IM alert. I click the mouse to open and see it’s from Bestie.
Bestie: Plane hit Twin Towers
Me: Like a plane, plane or like that little plane that almost hit the Statue of Liberty last week?
Bestie: Dunno. Try to get on cnn.com. No one here can get it to open.
I try and get an error message. Weird. I become aware of the buzz going on behind me.
“I have a radio.” Glenda offers. She’s setting it up on the ledge created by her cubicle and Amy’s.
“Bestie says a plane hit the World Trade Center?” I tell Cheryl. She blinks and nods. I think she might be stoned.
“Yeah,” Jeannie interjects, “A commuter jet, I heard.”
“A jet?” My heart skips a beat. How could that accident happen? Accident. I hold onto that word.
I hear someone on the other side of the room say the word “hijack.” But that can’t be. That only happens in movies. Or Europe. My face flushes.
Glenda gets the radio to pick up a news station. The announcer starts telling about how it appears a commercial airliner has hit one of the Twin Towers. He says explicitly which one and where, but I’ve never been there. I have no frame of reference besides photographs. I can’t even imagine in my mind what it would look like. I mean, jets are huge! Wouldn’t it have flown right through? How big are those buildings anyway?
I try to go about my day in a haze. We get rumors, theories, scattered news coverage. I go to the fax machine and send over an error report to my coworker, Sam, in NYC. I dial the number once, twice, three times. Busy signals.
My heart falls into my gut.
“Where is Sam’s office?” I ask Jeannie.
“Um, I don’t know. Somewhere in Manhattan.”
“Oh God.” I just stand there a minute. Looking at the fax. I check the list of numbers and offices posted by the machine. There it is. Sam’s in 5 WTC.
“Where’s 5 World Trade Center?” I ask to no one in particular.
Larry answers from his desk behind me. “It’s a smaller building. Not one of the Towers.” I turn to him, my report in hand.
“But the fax…” I grip the pages tighter, wrinkling them.
“Lines are down.” He says succinctly, looking me in the eyes. I can see his military training here. He’s keeping calm. All is well, soldier. Carry on.
Just then Amy seems to pop up, out of her cubicle and runs out of the office, white-faced. Jen follows close behind.
I turn to Glenda.
“Jen can’t get in touch with Johnny or Mike in Midtown. And Cantor… Cantor is in the Tower…” She says and turns back to her work.
I look around the office, and everyone is either trying to work, or glued to the radio or the computer or on the phone, trying to call NY, or just reaching out to their own loved ones at home.
Soon, it becomes obvious that no work can be done. No market in session. No work. We sit around and wait for someone, anyone to tell us what to do.
My phone rings and it’s my brother. “Get outta there! They’re targeting financial places! Banks!” I laugh.
“Doug, we’re a tiny office in Timonium. No one knows where Timonium is!”
“Yeah. Come home anyway.”
“We probably will. There’s nothing to do here…” My other line rings. It’s my aunt.
“Gotta go. It’s Josie.”
“Be careful!” He says as I hit the button for line 2.
“Oh my God, Jenny…” She begins, breathless, “The whole of Manhattan is covered in smoke…” She travels there for work so often. I’m certain she’s thinking of days she walked those streets, seen those buildings, been inside.
We talk for several minutes and she gives me the latest news she’s watching on TV. I tell her about how we can’t get any work done. That there is nothing to do. She repeats over and over how she just wants to go pick up her kids from school. She just wants to hug them. The whole damn island, she keeps saying. I think she is too stunned and scared to cry.
From across the room, I hear someone say “The Pentagon is on fire.”
“Aunt Jo?” I say into the receiver I’m gripping in my suddenly sweating hand, “Is the Pentagon hit?”
“Um…” She’s quiet for a bit as she reads the breaking news scroll. “Yeah, they don’t know if it was a rocket or a bomb.”
“But the PENTAGON?” I’m suddenly realizing the depth of it. We are under attack. How silly we’ve been to think we were safe.
Jeannie and Larry call us to attention and I say my goodbyes and hang up.
They tell us to go home, that they’ll call us tomorrow to let us know if we should come in.
I hear Val Kilmer and see a new IM from Bestie.
Bestie: Letting us go home.
Me: Us too.
Bestie: Meet you at the car. I need a drink.
That afternoon and evening was spent either glued to the TV in our living room, beer in hand, or glued to the TV at Kildaire.
We tried to make sense of it. (“Look at all those birds falling,” Bestie said as we watched footage of the Towers burning. “Those aren’t birds, Deb.” I said quietly. “Then what…Oh God!”)
We theorized about survivors. (The news reports say that employees of Cantor Fitzgerald were told to head up, to the roof. “Maybe there WERE helicopter rescues.” I say, hopeful. “Jen, there was no roof.” our friend Dave reminds me.)
We made horrible jokes to keep ourselves sane. (My contribution: “Guess Gary Condit’s pretty relieved.” “Al Gore too.” Someone else joked).
We gathered as a tribe: coworkers, neighbors, friends, family. All realizing at last what the United in the United States of America really meant.
God Bless America. Never forget.