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Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11 - Ten Years After

Here in the New York metropolitan area, the news media and governments are up in arms about a possible terrorist threat this weekend. A Pakistani informant, who has been helpful in the past, gave authorities a tip about possible attacks in NYC and Washington, DC. I stand by my opinion that the government and news media are using these tips to whip up emotions on the crest of the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and that these supposed tips are not unusual in nature.

As if I need to have my emotions whipped up. This anniversary is difficult to wrap my head around. Television and the person I look at in the mirror all tell me that ten years have passed, but my mind and heart tell me the images and emotions of that day are too fresh to have happened so long ago. I cannot viscerally understand that that day was not yesterday. This tears my emotions in several directions, and even though ten is just a number in our culture it means something, and that meaning is not lost on me.

Living the normal life I have lived in these past fifty years, I have had many grim days. Maybe more than normal, maybe not. I don't spend much time thinking about it. I will say that this day is burned in my memory as among the most grim. This anniversary is especially difficult. I don't want to watch specials, or see pictures, or re-live the day. It's too real and too alive still. Yet in spite of this, I am compelled to write about my experiences, however peripheral they may have been. Forgive me for indulging that need. Maybe you'll find it interesting, maybe you'll find it an unnecessary addition to your existing burden.

Back in 2001 I was working as a sales manager for a firm that supplied technical items to schools and universities. I spent alot of time on the road and on Monday, September 10, I started my day at West Point Military Academy and ended it at a small school on University Place just up from Washington Square park in Greenwich Village. I was originally scheduled to go on Tuesday instead of Monday, but my client in Manhattan needed to move our appointment from Tuesday morning to Monday afternoon. I used the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) trains out of the WTC station that day, like I did on my twice weekly trips into Manhattan. That evening I bought a motorcycle.

The next morning was as bright, clear and calm as we've all been told for ten years it was. I set out on my miserably long commute around seven-thirty. When planes at Newark International Airport were landing to the north, the monotony of my commute was thankfully broken by the line of aircraft on approach. Their approach paralleled the highway I used for quite a distance, so as I muddled along in traffic, sometimes reaching 35 MPH, I watched the planes - I've spent a great deal of my career traveling and I have become an unapologetic plane spotter.

The phantasm my mind has created around that day tell me specifically that I saw a plane on an unusual approach. I absolutely know I remarked to myself that the plane was too low and heading slightly too far to the east to be on a regular approach, but I honestly don't believe I saw the first plane to hit the WTC. I mean, I know what I saw, but I just don't believe what I saw had anything to do with anything. But to this day, I think it did.

I was mindlessly listening to the Howard Stern show as I drove over the bridge that gave me my first view of Manhattan. The producer of the Stern show came on air and said that "a plane just hit one of the World Trade Center towers." Much speculation took place as to whether it was a light plane, an accident, or an attack. One thing was clear however, there was smoke over the skyline of lower Manhattan. Seeing smoke from fires is nothing unusual in this most densely populated place in the country, but it was clear to me the top of one of the WTC towers was on fire.

I walked into my office bearing the news that the WTC was on fire and was greeted with the news that a second plane had hit the second tower. Now we heard about a plane down in Pennsylvania or Ohio, followed by news that the Capitol was being attacked. The White House. The Pentagon. Chicago. LA. One of towers has collapsed. The news coming over the radios and televisions we had on was overwhelming and too rapid fire to process. I couldn't believe my ears, and since it was a two minute drive from my office to the docks on NY Harbor - and an unobstructed and close view of Manhattan - I left and headed out to give my eyes a chance to tell my ears they were liars...

Continues tomorrow.

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