I love listening to people's stories about where
they were and what they were doing on the morning of 9/11, especially
the stories from the ones who, through luck or fate, were allowed to
For instance, there's this guy who had just returned the day before
from his honeymoon. That night, on September 10, his new bride thought
she's make him her special homemade burrito. The burrito was terrible,
like eating tar stripped off the center line of the Major Deegan expressway.
But love ignores all of that and what counts is the gesture, not the
digestion. He told her how grateful he was and how much he loved her.
And he asked for another.
The next morning, September 11,2001, he's in the subway from Brooklyn
to his job on one of the top floors of the World Trade Center. The subway
might have been heading to Manhattan, but the burrito was heading southm
and I don't mean the Jersey shore. He starts to get sick, real sick,
and decides to get off just one stop before the World Trade Center. He
runs up the subway stairs in a desparate search for facilities, But this
is New York and that was not to be. And thus, on the corner of Park Row
and Broadway, he became a poster boy for Depends.
Embarrassed and humiliated-but feeling much better!-he flagged down
a gypsy cab and offered him a hundred dollars to take him home ($9 for
the ride, and $91 toward the price of a new car).
When the man got home, he ran inside to take a shower and to put on
a new set of clothes so he could get back to Manhattan. Coming out of
the shower he flipped on the TV and, as he stood there, he watched the
plane slam right into the floor where he worked, where he would have
been right now had his loving wife not made him that wonderful-that absolutely
perfectly incredible amazing...He broke down and began to cry.
My own 9/11 story wasn't so close a call. I was asleep in Santa Monica.
The phone rang around 6:30 a.m. and it was my mother-in-law. "New York
is under attack!" is what I heard her say through my half-awake ear.
I wanted to say, "Yeah so what's new-and it's 6:30 in the morning!"
"New York is at war," she continued. This made no sense other than,
again, it always feels like war in New York. "Turn on the TV," she said.
And so I did. I woke up my wife and as the television faded on there
were the towers, on fire. We tried to call our daughter back home in
New York, no luck, and then tried to call our friend Joanne (who works
near the World Trade Center), no luck, and then we just sat there stunned.
We didn't leave the bed or the TV until five that afternoon when we finallly
found out that our daughter and Joanne were okay
But a line producer wer had just worked with, Bill Weems, was not okay.
As the networks started to run a scroll along the bottom of the TV with
the names of those who were on the planes, along came Bill's name on
that screen. My last memory of him was the two of us horsing around at
a funeral home where we were shooting a piece about the tobacco industry.
Put two guys with a dark sense of humor around a bunch of undertakers
and you've got what we would call nirvana. Three months later he was
dead and- how do they say it?-"life as we knew it changed forever."
Really? Did it? How has it changed? Is there enough distance from that
tragic day to ask that question and find an intelligent answer? Things
certainly changed for Bill's wife and his seven-year-old daughter. There's
the crime, right there, to have her daddy taken from her at such a young
age. And life changed for the loved ones of the other 3,000 who were
murdered. They will never lose the sorrow they feel. They are told that
they "must move on". Move on to where? Those of us who have lost someone
(and I guess that's eventually everyone) know that while life does "move
on" the sock in the gut, the sorrow in the heart, will never leave, so
ways must be found to embrace it and make it work for you and the living.
Somehow we all work our way through our own personal losses and we get
up the next morning after that and fix the kids' breakfast and do another
load of laundry and pay the bills and ......
Meanwhile, in faraway Washington, D.C., life is changing, too. Taking
advantage our grief, and our fear that "it" may happen again, an appointed
president uses the dead of 9/11 as a convenient cover, a justification,
for permanently altering our American way of life. Is that why they died,
so that George W. Bush can turn the country into Texas? We've already
conducted two wars since 9/11, and an upcoming third or fourth is not
all that unlikely. If this is allowed to continue, then all we will have
accomplished is to dishonor those 3,000-plus dead. I know Bill Weems
didn't die so he could be used as an excuse to bomb innocents overseas.
If his death, his life, is to have a greater meaning from this moment
forward, it is to make sure that no one else like him will have to lose
his or her life in this insane, violent world, a world we now seem hell-bent
on running any way we damn well please.
(for full text of this reserve, please see the Circulation Librarian)-