I was surprised (or I guess not) how vivid the memories of that day still are and that perhaps I should document them. I also went into a journal I kept before I started my LJ and copied that entry.
I fell asleep with the TV on. I was half asleep that morning as I slowly woke up. I sort of heard something about a plane, building, New York. I was dazed still. Time passed as I went in and out of sleep. I heard screams/panic on the TV and when I turned over and opened my eyes: all I saw was smoke. wtf. I knew something was up. I rewound TiVo to see one of the WTC buildings on fire. I watched the speculation, fast forwarded here and there. I was watching when I saw the second plane come in and hit, and I gasped. I shortly caught up with real time.
I couldn't believe what I was watching. I didn't know what to think/say. Shortly after, there was rumbling about something in D.C. a car bomb, fire, something. We'd soon find out the Pentagon appeared to have been attacked. I think that was when I first got a little scared. The Pentagon? There were reports of people jumping from the towers. I thought: how bad. How bad would it have to be up there to jump to your death?
I was watching when the first tower started to fall. The reporter speaking didn't even realize it had happened before I grabbed my mouth. I instantly thought of the people in that building. The chaos. The panic. After the dust settled, you could see the second tower still on fire. And I briefly thought, how odd will the skyline be with just one tower left, a bitter memory of what happened to the first. But that was wishful thinking. As I saw it on fire, you knew. You knew those people were about to die too. The people left in that building who saw the other tower fall must have known too.
I think it was almost 11, when I thought that I guess I should go into work. I wasn't sure to go or not. I got to my car and onto the street. It was surreal. There weren't many cars. There was no sound of music. I remember sitting in the turning lane on Bundy and glanced over at drivers to my right. They were expressionless. I looked over at one lady who was sitting in her car, hands on the steering wheel, looking straight ahead. Her countenance was indescribable, but memorable. I'm sure my expression was the same. It was one of not knowing what to think or do. I knew that the world as I knew it had changed. And perhaps that best describes the look on everyone else's faces.
All aircraft had been grounded. Rick Dees was announcing the number of planes still unaccounted for in the sky. He estimated planes taking off from New Jersey would hit Los Angeles around noon to 12:30. The few people who were at the office were standing around televisions. It was nice to be around others. I was there maybe an hour before Wendy called and asked what I was still doing there and apologized for not calling sooner. She's from New York, and her family's still there, so it was understandable. No one knew what was going to happen, and we were all waiting for something to happen in L.A. I wasn't worried for myself as I don't live near any targets, but there was just so much uncertainty. I went home.
I'd spend the next days, weeks, glued to the television. For days after, I'd fall asleep to news, wake to news, listen to news in the car, and stream news at work. I'd almost panic when the stream would cut off. I felt helpless to help anyone. I thought I could donate blood. But being gay, I'd have to find some place that would take my blood. As the days went on, everyone realized, there would be no need.
Each night around 11, one of the news programs would list the names of those who were confirmed dead. Each night, the list got longer. I felt a need to read each name. I somehow felt I owed that ridiculously little bit to them. And I watched it every night. Eventually they stopped showing them.
I saved press images online of the tragedy. One day a friend from USC emailed some of us a PowerPoint file with pictures of the tragedy and of the heroism. A few people at the office were having trouble emailing it out and asked me for help. Truth is, the file size was just too large. I spent the next couple of nights creating a Flash movie of the images and added more of my own. It was impossible not to be affected. But somehow, this act was helping me deal with it. It made me feel as if I were doing something. It took all of my evenings and all of my nights to finish, but finally it had been done. And I uploaded it to a web server and gave the address to a few friends. I guess it got around as I started receiving emails from all over the world.
My bedroom windows looks east on the landing flight path of the Santa Monica Airport a small airport for private aircraft. Looking out, I can see planes landing. It was weird not seeing any come in. It was even weirder when they let private aircraft in the skies again. I didn't like the first few nights. As I'd sit at my computer, I'd notice the familiar and formerly innocuous lights of an airplane on approach. I'd either carefully watch each until it went out of view to the south. Eventually I'd just nervously notice them out the corner of my eye. It was another reminder my world had changed, along with the random spells of sadness, the random weeping for people I never knew, the waking to realize it wasn't all a nightmare. This was our generation's Pearl Harbor.
I visited New York the following year with a friend. It was weird not seeing the towers. Walking around Ground Zero, looking down surrounding side streets, I kept seeing in my mind, the streets covered in ash, the emergency vehicles, the people running.
My entry from 9/11/01