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Eight Years Gone…

September 11, 2009

Today is the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The eighth anniversary of the day every American will remember for the rest of their lives.

I don’t have any great story from that day. All I have are my own recollections, where I was, what I was doing.

On September 11, 2001, I was a few weeks into my senior year at the University of Texas, and several months into an internship at GSD&M that would lead into a full-time job the following May. I’d been dating Jamie for eight months, was living with my best friend in an apartment complex off 360& Spicewood Springs.

My first memory of the day was Jamie calling me with news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. My first thought was “so?”. Terrible, thinking back on it now, but at the time my closest point of reference was the Cessna that had been flown into the White House, and I figured something similar had happened. A tragic accident, nothing more.

I started getting dressed for work when I got a second call, news of the second plane. And that’s when it hit. This wasn’t an accident. It was an attack.

I drove over to Jamie’s apartment. The radio was buzzing with news of an explosion at the Pentagon, speculation it was a helicopter crash.

It was only when I got to Jamie’s apartment and saw the television that I understood the full horror of what was unfolding. We held each other and watched, terrified, horrified, as the two towers collapsed.

Somehow, after that, I headed in to work. Tried to look up news on the internet, but all the news sites were down. We had a pitch team in the air. Their flight had been grounded, people were working to find rental cars for them. Someone turned on a TV in the new biz pit. The talking heads were asking why we hadn’t heard anything from President Bush. I remember thinking at the time how stupid that question was. He was on Air Force One, probably had bigger concerns on his mind that issuing a statement just then.

I didn’t stay at work the whole day. I don’t think anyone did. On the way home I collected Jamie and we went to my apartment. My roommate, Mark, was frantic. His brother was working in New York at the time, was one of those who evacuated over the Brooklyn Bridge. But we didn’t know it at the time. Mark spent much of the day trying to get in contact, but the cell network in New York was overloaded. He finally did, late in the day, much to everyone’s relief.

Somewhere in there, I went and got us all dinner at Subway. Weird how something trivial like that sticks.

That night, needing to clear my head and try to digest the day’s events, I went to Mt. Bonnell. There were a lot of people there. Sitting quietly on the rocks, watching the sky above, Lake Austin below. I ran into Mark. He had gone there, too. We ended up talking long into the night.

Looking back, I think a lot of mistakes were made in the aftermath of that tragic day. In a moment of terror, we surrendered to our fear and embraced security over freedom. The security theater that is the TSA. The Patriot Act. I think a lot of it stems from the nature of the attacks and the attackers. After Pearl Harbor, the country had a very real enemy against which to mobilize. 9/11 was different. How do you retaliate against a terrorist attack?

It’s a question we’re, sadly, still grappling with.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Bonnie MacDougall permalink
    September 11, 2009 2:50 pm

    Out my office window, about 40 or 50 miles from Manhattan, a smoke plume went across the sky continually well into December, and anywhere you went, you smelled that odor of all things incinerated, an odor imbedded in my brain.
    In D.C. couldn’t walk close enough to the Lincoln Memorial to make out who was sitting there so large. My Dad used to swerve his Pontiac right up to the curb so that the latest visitor could see the majesty of that monument.
    About twice a month I still wake with a start and need to check Drudge to see if we’ve been hit again.
    Check out the comments about the release of al-megrahi in the U.K. Guardian: passionate hatred of America, Americans, sight unseen. It’s only getting worse out there.

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