I was working at STA Travel and living with my Mom and Ed in the SCV. I worked the 630a-230p shift and picked up a co-worker on the way in to the Wilshire/Fairfax area so I was on the road pretty early. It was early and chilly, so I was wearing a maroon sweatshirt and running pants – the beauty of working in a high-rise and not with the public was that I could look shlubby and it didn’t matter. The morning radio often kept me awake, and that morning was no different in that respect. Except what I heard on the radio did more than keep me awake. I usually listened to 98.7 and at the time, the DJs announced that a plane had flown into one of the WTC buildings. At first they said it was a small plane and an accident. I immediately called my Mom on the cell phone to tell them to turn on the TV if they hadn’t already. Unfortunately they had and were aware of the most recent developments. It was a passenger jet. And it wasn’t really looking like an accident. I really enjoyed the company of my co-worker in the morning as driving in LA is always better in pairs. But that morning I truly was happy to see her. We listened to the radio all the way in to work and the news didn’t get any better. A second plane crashes into the other tower. This is definitely not an accident. How in the hell could this happen? On our soil? We get into work and people (including us) are looking pretty shell-shocked. Some have gathered in a room to watch for updates on a TV but it doesn’t seem to work, so we turn on the radio. A literally unbelievable situation slowly became even more nightmarish. I sat at a desk and listened to talk of a fire at the Pentagon. A fire likely caused by yet a third passenger jet – hijacked. HOW is this happening? We were supposed to be the most amazing superpower so how exactly was this all happening? Just before 7a, the radio announcer tells us in an incredibly grave tone that the South Tower of the WTC has collapsed. This is where I lost my marbles. Having been born in NYC, and having spent so many summers as a child there, loving the beauty of the city skyline and the Golden Glow at sundown, feeling truly a New Yorker at heart – the realization that one of those towers had actually collapsed completely slayed me. I got up from my chair saying, “No! Noooo!” and walked in between some file cabinets that were behind me. Both hands went to my head and down the back of my neck and if I could have come out of my skin at that very moment I would have. Sobbing, I dialed my Mom… “Mom, the Tower collapsed!” I cried. She replied that she knew…and anywayI wasn’t really calling to tell her as somewhere in my crazed brain, I knew she was sitting watching the whole thing unfold on television. I just wanted to commiserate and be soothed by her voice. As the 2nd tower fell, we discovered that 2 more planes had been hijacked – and one had done its job by crashing into the Pentagon. Reality as I had known it was OVAH. Only later would I think about how this event would affect my livelihood (4 hijackings of airplanes by terrorists + several thousand deaths in + travel industry = caca) …and only much later how it truly affected my psyche. I left work early that day (I worked in a high-rise and at the time, we had no idea how far this hijacking thing went) and drove shakily to a friend’s house to watch the news and give them a squeeze. I remember how eerie it was – no one on the roads, NOTHING in the air. (This was only relatively more creepy than when the airspace reopened ….after being used as a WMD, those planes will never look the same to me again). I spent the next few months angry and depressed, and shovelling french fries into my mouth. I visited NYC in late October of that year (like a crazy person) and stayed with my Great Aunt and Uncle in Brooklyn. He had seen the 2nd plane crash with his own eyes out of his window. I went down to Ground Zero because I had to see it for myself. At this point, people were still wearing masks, and I only had my scarf. The air tasted acrid, like buildings and chemicals and ..though I tried not to think about it — probably people. It was unbelievable to see that area so raw, but comforting at the same time as all around me, people were going about their daily business. Not as if nothing had ever happened, but as if to say, “We’re New Yorkas. You can crash whatevah you want into buildings – we’ll suhvive and come back bettah than evah.”
I remember thinking back on that day….”Bringing a kid into THIS world…maybe not such a good idea.” So now that I have a kid, what do I think? Well, obviously my tune has changed…but other things have also changed. I have an addiction to CNN that I haven’t been able to kick. It’s improved, but I still need to make sure that I have the most current news information (despite 98% of today’s “news” being crap.) It’s something about not wanting to be caught off guard — and 9/11 is probably the most off guard I have ever felt in my life. I have horrible thoughts that never would have entered my mind prior to that day…like if I’m crossing the street, I sometimes get a flash of being struck by a car. It’s in the motions of doing ordinary things, I find myself confronted with flashes of disaster that could potentially happen, but probably won’t. Perhaps I was naive before that I didn’t think of these things on a daily basis, but ignorance was bliss.
My question is now, am I the only person whose mental outlook is still significantly altered like this? Do I need to see a shrink? Other than the obvious (looking for terrorists or other suspicious folk, being more aware than before…etc.) – what has changed for you since 9/11/01? Where were you that day? I’d love to hear your stories.