I had originally planned to eschew the entire idea of writing anything about “9/11,” purely because the media has already overplayed it for more than one full week now. However, I simply couldn’t bring myself to be funny today.
Of course, there are those who think I’m never all that funny – such as the hostess at the restaurant where I ate lunch yesterday. But that’s okay. I usually don’t find those folks all that funny either.
Still… I went to bed last night, secure in the thought that I would arise this morning and type out one of the several humorous incidents that have occurred in my life recently. Some of which wouldn’t even need embellishing. But, as I said, I just couldn’t bring myself to be funny.
And so… Where was I?
At the moment of the first impact, I was most likely listening to Molly Ivins. I adored Molly. Still do, actually. While I didn’t always agree with her, the vast majority of the time we were on the same wavelength; and even when we weren’t I couldn’t help but respect her unabashed, no-nonsense, call-it-like-she-sees-it commentary. If I’d had a different pair of chromosomes, I would have wanted to grow up to be just like her (without the breast cancer, of course).
But back to the story…
On THE 9/11 I had two books out, number three in the can, and feverishly working on number four. Nothing resembling a living wage was rolling in off these novels by an unknown writer from Saint Louis, so I was still working my “day job” at the time – which was as an electronics tech. My specialty, much like that of EKay’s, was printers. Although, I also handled networks and the like.
And I digress, as usual.
I was on my way to work, cruising along with traffic down the long stretch of blacktop known as Laclede Station Road. Our offices were on Watson, situated across from a now defunct movie theater. As usual, I had NPR (KWMU) tuned in on my truck radio, and it just so happened that they were airing an editorial by Molly Ivins.
Starting my day with Molly… I just knew it was going to be a good one.
A few minutes later I pulled into the parking lot, switched off the engine, and climbed out of the truck. Apparently, just a split second before NPR began reporting on the first strike. I dug out my tool kit, and with coffee mug in hand, I wandered into our offices, still chuckling at Molly’s wit and blissfully unaware that anything so heinous was happening a half-continent away.
I could hear a radio playing somewhere near the back of the building. Our dispatcher, Sharon, met me as I came around the corner to head to my bench. She was wearing a startled expression that was a mix of confusion and disbelief. Without ceremony or salutation, she said, “Did you hear that an airplane ran into the World Trade Center?”
“When?” I asked.
“Just now. Like just a couple of minutes ago.”
“Wow?” I said. “Was it like a small plane, like a small Cessna or something?”
Obviously my mind just couldn’t fathom it being anything more than a light aircraft. After all, an airplane had hit the Empire State Building once upon a time. Granted, that was a B-25 and not a Cessna, but still…
“I don’t know,” she replied.
By now, the owner of the company was in his office and tuning in the small, thirteen-inch TV he had sitting in the corner. We were a little surprised that it actually picked up a signal, honestly, as it was hooked to a VCR and all he ever used it for was to lock himself in the office and watch porn, even though he thought we didn’t know that’s what he was doing. (Just being truthful)…
As the image faded in on the old tube, the entire staff stood around staring at the billowing smoke rolling from the tower. There were a few gasps, an “Oh My God” or two, and I remember saying aloud, “That wasn’t caused by a Cessna…”
A moment later, as we watched the live newsfeed, a glint of sunlight from metal flashed in the corner of the screen and before our eyes the second airliner struck.
There were yelps of disbelief, gasps that rendered a vacuum in the small office, and then silence from all of us. The only sound to be heard was that of the news streaming in from the TV.
An hour later I was across the river in Illinois, making a service call on a printer for another small company. I had been listening to the news as I drove, hearing now about the Pentagon, and Flight 93. All air traffic was being grounded until further notice. The towers had fallen. Our world had changed forever.
When I arrived at my destination, I climbed out of my truck and looked upward. Above me, a lone jetliner was lining up on approach to Lambert International to my west. It was the only plane in my piece of the sky as far as the eye could see. I watched as it disappeared on the horizon, then I turned in place, scanning the blue…
An eerie silence had fallen, and for the first time I could recall in my lifetime, the sky was standing still.
More to come…