Saturday, September 10, 2011

My 9/11

The media is in a frenzy this weekend over remembrances of 9/11. My natural inclination is to not spend too much time and emotional energy looking backward; I like to keep my gaze straight ahead. But it is certainly appropriate to reflect at least a little on that dreadful day, but for me, a little is plenty. I will largely avoid the replaying of footage of the tragedy, because I personally don't want to go back and experience the whole awful thing all over again. But some reflection; yes, I will do that. 

My 9/11 a decade ago started early, getting to work at my office, a few miles from the World Trade Center, around 7 am. I was going to go out on the town that night with my wife and friends, leaving just about at 5 pm, so I wanted to get a full day's work in. I was in my office typing away on the computer when someone ambled by and said a plane had hit one of the towers. I thought it was probably an accident, or a suicide. I had no idea it was a full jet. I continued working. A little while later I got up to go to the copy room, and someone then told me excitedly that another plane had hit the other tower, and they had seen it live on TV. 

Uh oh. That was obviously no accident. 

We turned on the big TV in our conference room and, like just about everyone else in the world, watched the incredible images that just hours before would have seemed only possible in some big-budget Hollywood production.

I was antsy. What to do? We then started hearing that other planes were aloft and possibly part of this attack, and before I knew it confirmation came on the air that a plane had hit the Pentagon. I found out later that my nephew was in a meeting at the Pentagon and had only minutes before left that part of the building, which ended up being crushed in the crash. Some of the meeting attendees didn't make it out.

At some point someone suggested that we might be able to see the towers from the roof of our building, so I and a few others went up there. Sure enough, there they were. Again, the cinematic unreality of what I saw was striking. We weren't up there more than 5 minutes when the first tower fell. This huge structure didn't go down with a high-decibel crash; it let out the faintest of moans.

Clearly, any plans for the night were scratched, and I realized I had to get home to my family. But it turns out the authorities had decided to stop all trains leaving from Manhattan, so I was stuck in the city. Some time went by, and I either watched the news on TV or surfed on the internet trying to get the latest news. There was another plane that had crashed in Pennsylvania, they said. 

My club at the time was the Princeton Club, right near Grand Central Station. It sounds odd, I realize, but I thought that I might go over there and play a game of squash, since I was stuck, and there I could await the restarting of the train service in relative comfort, getting quickly to the station as soon as possible. But the thought came and went quickly. It was an old impulse -- I have free time, I should get a match in! But who the hell could concentrate on a game when all this was happening....

So a decade has gone by; a lot has happened, some not so pretty. One of the early reactions to the tragedy was to blame Muslims, which is ridiculous and untenable. We should blame religious zealots, that's who we should blame, and there are plenty to go around from all religions. There are Christian nuts and Jewish nuts and Muslim nuts and...., etc. Sadly, we still have a few thoughtless boobs out there whose bias against Muslims, formed 10 years ago, remains strong. 

With the exception of my personal physician, who is a Muslim, every other Muslim I've ever had more than a passing conversation with I've met on the squash court. I just played a Lebanese last night, as it happens, and like all the others I've met, he was smart, funny, and urbane. 

I was going out that 9/11 a decade ago because 9/11 happens to be my birthday. That birthday certainly sucked, but the rest have been good. And I think it is important to remember that no one has stolen a day off the calendar and declared that from now on it is to be a sorrowful day. It has that aspect to it, true, but there are also little babies being born all over the world, to the great joy of their families; people exulting in their private and public successes; engaging conversations crackling between interesting people; great ideas occurring to brilliant minds; sparkling art illuminating unusual viewpoints.... It's life out there, not death. That's what I celebrate on my 9/11.    


1 comment:

  1. Here's a link to an excellent article that touches on 9/11, squash and Muslims in America. Check it out here:


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