September 11, 2013

Twelve Years Ago.

On a Tuesday morning in September.

In my cassette player Chicago played Carnegie Hall with the late great Terry Kath.  I believe I was into "Mother" or "Lowdown" when I got into what was then the nursing building for Dr. John Plude's Analytical Chem 302 lecture.  Got to the door, last one in... running late like every other day.  There are seven people already seated, and here's the dirtball slacker rolling in the door.  The lecture had already started, figured maybe I'm down like five minutes.

I opened the door and took a step.  Plude looked over, (oh shit maybe he's had it with me...) took a step my way where I'm just trying to slink in like every other day... "Have you seen any news this morning?".

"No, and I didn't mean to..." (come here late)
"There was a plane crash"
"Into the World Trade Center".

---I remembered seeing old accounts of the B-25 that crashed into the Empire State Building on a foggy morning... figured "Ouch... not good for the pilot.". 

"It was a jet"

I'm thinking something like a Citation or a Cessna.  Like a ten passenger.  I took my seat in the front so I could read his blackboard henscratch (I'm nearsighted) and somebody came to the door.  Dr. Plude spoke with whoever it was outside for a moment and came back in to announce "There's been a second plane crash into the World Trade Center".  And then he stood there for a minute.


Nobody knew anything, and we had a lesson to plow through.  Plude gave us the Cliff's Notes version of the day's lecture and adjourned early.  I cornered the guy afterward to let him know I intended to skip the rest of the week to go caving in Missouri with my buddy Kaiser.  He brushed me off with a quick consent and I was on my way... off to the place I worked (a tavern then known as "The Distillery") to collect my pay and get shit ready for camping and frivolity.

Listening to AM radio as I walked to the bar, it became apparent that this thing wasn't just bad... it was worse.  Fucking jumbo jets?  Once is a fuck up, two is an attack.  I hadn't seen television footage of the scene up to that point so my understanding of the damage was still skewed by the mental image of the B-25 into the Empire State Building... and I'm listening to news radio as the announcers start to shout  "WHAT'S HAPPENING OH MY GOD THE TOWER IS COLLAPSING OH MY GOD THE TOWER" Oh Fuck. 

I got into the bar and silence except the televisions.  Usual crowd and I don't know I think Rabbit was tending the bar.  Frank was there.  I sat next to him and holy fuck Frank do you believe this shit man?  Holy fuck.  Holy fuck.  Papers feathering their way down and look at that dude climbing down the outside of the building do you think they can get helicopters to people on the roof and fuck that dude just jumped and oh my god WHERE ARE THE HELICOPTERS fuck fuck oh my god THE FUCKING THING'S GOING DOWN  fuck OH FUCK.


I don't know.  I guess we were all just dumbfounded.  They collapsed?  Fucking collapsed?  Fuck. 

The news was talking about the 10 thousand who would be at work in each building at that time.  Fuck.


Kaiser and I made it to someplace in Iowa as the trees cast late afternoon shadows and the gas station had a line as people filled their cars and fuel tanks with gas which was double the price from the morning.  "I guess we might have picked the wrong day to do this".  The radio was all re-hash and nobody knew anything other than DC was bunkered and the President was in the stratosphere and the towers were down and God only knows how many were dead.  We drove through the night and kept glued to the repeated repeated repeated news that nobody knew shit other than that which everybody knew.  A lot of people were killed.  Fuck.

Couple days pass and the radio was on heart-rending repeat.

Parked out by the Jack's Fork of the Current River near Eminence alongside beautiful bluffs.  Listening to the radio, and nobody knew shit.  Holding out for survivors.  Let's race this thing like sometimes they find buried earthquake victims after a couple days, hanging on.  "Fuck, man.  They're taking a long time to dig people out..."

The sky was blue and the weather was great.  Not a plane in the sky.  Not a fucking one.  Kaiser and I were in the area of Fort Leonard Wood, and typically there are rumblings from jet engines... and anywhere you might travel in the country there are jets or condensation trails which crisscross the sky... this time there was nothing.  Strange since I've never in my life seen the sky without some sign of flight.  Blue skies, and the horrible radio talking about the search for survivors.  People who were on the phone with family on the planes.  People who had messages on their machines.  People who posted photos of their missing in case they could come home again.  The flight over Pennsylvania.

I don't believe I'll ever forget the kids standing at the gas station in northern Missouri handing out little American flags on a Saturday afternoon.  And the little girl holding a collection jar to send whatever help they could muster.  Or the guy standing solitary on a freeway overpass holding the flag.  Standing.

There's been a lot done, and a lot more killed because of that day.  For a little while, at least, we were united.

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