If you read my column on a regular basis, you’ve probably come to expect something light-hearted, occasionally funny and technology-oriented. Given that we are fast approaching the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America, I wanted to use this month’s column to reflect back on that day, as well as the days, weeks and months that followed. In all likelihood, this will be one of a thousand columns that you’ll read this month, written by a thousand self-important journalists like myself, all hoping to say something deep and meaningful about that day. I can’t promise that I will say something meaningful. I can’t even promise that my sentiments will echo yours. But I do promise to speak from the heart on this one.
Of all the things I remember about September 11, the thing I recall most vividly was the weather. Hours before the first plane crash, I remember observing the cloudless blue sky and the cool—but far from cold—air. It was as if we were in some sort of a seasonal limbo—not quite summer anymore, but not yet autumn. I remember realizing later in the day the perverse irony that such a horrible event could take place on such a beautiful day.
I remember being in a meeting when the news of the first plane crash broke, and I remember snickering at the not-so-nice “drunk pilot” jokes we traded. I remember feeling pretty bad about those jokes when the scope of the tragedy became apparent. And most of all, I remember that nauseous feeling that washed over me when the second plane hit and we all realized that this was not an accident after all.
I remember learning, a week after the attacks, just how close I had come to losing someone as a result of the tragedy. A good friend of mine had flown on American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles on September 10. I hadn’t seen him in two years, and before September 11 we had not done a very good job of keeping in touch with one another. We now talk once a week on the telephone and have traveled to visit one another a half-dozen times since then.
I remember the first movie (“Don’t Say a Word”) that I saw after September 11 that featured a shot of the World Trade Center buildings. It was comforting in a strange way. I also remember the first time I saw a movie (“Zoolander”) where the towers were conspicuous by their absence—for whatever reason, it bothered me a lot not having them there.
I remember my first time back on a plane, just a few weeks after the attacks. I remember putting on a tough-guy front and saying things like “if anything, the skies are better protected now than ever before,” without really believing it. I remember on that flight, scrutinizing fellow passengers who were of Middle Eastern descent, and afterwards feeling more than a little ashamed that I had done so.
I remember the news—the newspapers, the radio, the magazines, the internet reports and especially the non-stop television coverage. I remember how after about three days I was begging to see a baseball game, or a re-run of “Seinfeld.” Not because I was being insensitive, but because it was all just so overwhelming.
I remember going home from work that day and having some of the best conversations of my life with the people I love and care about the most. I’ll bet I said “I love you” a hundred times that evening, and heard it two hundred times back.
I remember crying—really crying—for the first time in five years and praying for the first time in at least ten.