Most of us remember starting the day of September 11th 2001 saying “this has to be the most glorious day of the summer, I wish I didn't have to go to work today” or “this is a great day to be out fishing” or definitely something to that effect. All of us were either getting a cup of coffee before starting our work day, sitting on the subway dreaming about the summer past, or driving to get last minute school supplies for our children.
Then we heard the news. “Hey did you hear a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center?” was muttered to people with curiosity and some disbelief. “How could a plane hit the Twin Towers, it's almost impossible unless you tried!” was spoken by some “Aw, it must have been an old man in a Cessna who had a heart attack.” People carried on with their day just as New Yorkers always do, worrying about the things that our trendy, consumer oriented culture had evolved into; getting left behind in the current economic boom on Wall Street, who's buying a newer car, who just bought a new condominium or summer house in the Hamptons, and who got the latest promotion or big bonus.
Then the news of a second plane hitting the towers started breaking. “Oh, my God it must be some kind of terrorist attack.” People were glued to their radios and television sets. New York was under attack by an organized force. Even amid the chaos there still was a calm in the air in the outer Boroughs. “Thank God I'm not in downtown Manhattan today,” people were thinking to themselves. They were remembering the terror attack of 1993, and how it barely put a chink in the armor of our great City. In that attack, a highly organized plot had only been able to minimally disrupt our daily lives in New York, and the rest of the country didn't even bat an eyelash.
“The Pentagon is on fire and believed to have been struck by a plane.” The panic started to set in. The things that only Hollywood movies are made of started to become real. “There are 8 planes in the air and are currently unaccounted for.” The reality was becoming apparent; our entire Nation was under attack.
There was now a rush for home. People clamored the phone lines and computer terminals reaching out to parents, siblings, spouses, and children. All of the petty squabbles and slights of the recent past became insignificant. All of the worries and problems we thought were monumental in our self-absorbed lives became trivial. It was a wake up call of the worst kind, shattering the illusions and disillusions of a society high on themselves and an economy created by corrupt CEOs and bogus accountants. It was the beginning of the end of an era. The next day there was a common bond present among Americans that had not been seen in this land in decades.
The days of self-indulgence and self-centeredness had become a thing of the past overnight. We were all in this together. Our world had changed forever.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE SEPTEMBER 2002 JUNIPER BERRY MAGAZINE