September 11th, 2001. I remember this day very well. My wife Susan and I had just recently moved to Rochester, NY. We had been there only about a week or so and were living in a very small one bedroom studio on University Avenue. The studio was so small that sue got the bedroom with a twin bed in it and I slept on the couch in the living/dining room. I always slept with the TV on, still do. At the time I was addicted to watching CNN 24 hours a day. No particular reason, I just like news. I don’t know what made me wake up as early as I did that morning, I just remember something was telling me to wake up. As I was coming back to life after what I’m sure was another drunken night and sitting up while rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I remember looking at the television and it took a moment or two for my head to register what I was watching. I was awake and alert right after the first plane hit a tower at the World Trade Center in New York City. I quickly went to wake Susan up. She was grumpy as always when I wake her up but I told her she MUST come see this. Susan joined me in the living room and we sat together looking at the television. At first we were writing this off as some kind of freak airline accident. Perhaps a plane had malfunctioned, or maybe it was just a case of pilot error, maybe the error was the
pilot had a few too many before takeoff. But whatever it was… It certainly must be an accident. No sooner than we were trying to justify or find reason in the tragedy we were witnessing on television the second plane hit the second tower at the World Trade Center. There was no justification now. Susan and I were both awestruck. Mouths wide open, hearts beating fast, and so many thoughts spinning through our minds. Accident, pilot error, equipment error, all excuses we could possibly think of were as quickly thrown out the window as a plane can slice through a concrete and steel tower. The people in the towers. The families of the people in the towers. The businesses they worked for. The emergency responders. Their families. Pets, pollution, toxic chaos… Oh my lord! I just saw someone jump! Another! A third! The senseless loss of life. Anger becomes me now. I want to help! I must go! I can’t. I mean, I can, but would I be helping or hindering? It’s a six hour drive. I wait.
*BREAKING NEWS* Reports of another plane hitting The Pentagon. We are at war. My family! My family lives outside Washington, D.C.!! Do I go protect my family or to NYC to either help or hinder? My sister Beth, My Mother! MY FAMILY!!! I Cry. Fear. Anger. Urgency. I call my mother. I tell her I want to come down now. She tells me to wait but I don’t want to. We are at war!! Even being the drunk fuck‐up that I am, I will stand! I will Fight! You will not take my country, my family, YOU WILL NOT TAKE ME ALIVE!! I WILL STAND! My mother and my wife calm me down. I am to wait. But the thoughts are already scrambling through my mind. How do I get to D.C.? I know how to get there, but what if we are at war? Food. I need food. I need to protect myself. Anarchy will set in. I am ready to protect.
Eventually I calm down. All the time I am planning for the worst case scenario the news is providing more and more information. Not all of it totally correct at the time as we now know today. But it was beginning to look more and more like the work of a small group and not a total blown out war. No bombs were falling. Just buildings, lives, dreams, families, hopes, plans and futures. We will never fully recover from September 11, 2001 as a nation, as a people and I will never fully recover or understand that day. There are families that will forever be without a father, a mother, or a child. There are vacations that were never taken, weddings that never happened and dreams that never came true after that day. But the reality that happened after 9‐11 was a reality that made us all stronger and closer. As a nation, as a people and as individuals. We can’t change the past, we can’t get back what we lost. But what we can do is unite as one, help each other heal and move forward knowing that what we lost that day will only make us stronger in the future.