Ten Years Gone

Ten years ago this morning, I walked out of my new apartment and hopped a short bus ride down the Ave to the transfer point at 45th. Waiting for the 44, I bumped into my co-worker, who asked me if I had heard the news this morning. Something about a bombing in New York or bombing falling in DC and all the airplanes being grounded. I looked at the blue sky. I look bank across the street. I looked at the seeming oblivious people waiting for their buses or driving their cars.

If true, why weren’t people reacting? Why was everyone still going about their daily business? A man joins our conversation and says it’s a foreign attack. That New York is being bombed. My co-worked catches a different bus, this man and I catch the 44 moments later. He tells me only a sovereign state has the resources to train pilots and buy strategic bombing aircraft. I ask who, ask how? He mentions the Saudis. I don’t buy it, but I’ve got nothing else.

He exits the bus after a few minutes and I’m alone. I ride the bus wondering what is happening. No smartphone, no cell phone, no portable radio. We hadn’t even hooked up the phone line at the apartment yet. The day is beautiful, traffic smooth, and my fellow passengers seem content with their commutes.

I exit the bus, overhearing two old men talking about war and I practically run to the apartment building where I work. My boss and co-worker aren’t in. I call a tenant who’s out of work and helping us maintain the building. He comes downstairs as my teammates arrive. No one can explain what’s happening, so we go upstairs to watch his television. Perhaps it was 8:30 Pacific Time, maybe a little later, but by then, the airplanes have all crashed and the towers collapsed. He’d been taping the news all morning. We watched tape of the towers falling, of airplanes striking still-standing towers, of live analysis, of dust clouds rising over Manhattan, of crowds walking across bridges, and of more towers falling. The Pentagon is burning, but the hole looks so small in that giant building. We rewind the tapes to see people leaping from towers. And I remember that my uncle worked in the Twin Towers, but I don’t have his number.

We watch video and live footage all morning. No apartments are painted, no sidewalks swept. I call my girlfriend, a New York-ophile and Woody Allen fan. Kate doesn’t pick up the phone. When I get ahold of her later that morning, she’s a wreck. She makes her way to Hillel to be with others.

Though no one feels like eating, my team breaks for lunch, and returns to the get some work done in the afternoon. We avoid NPR and pretend to listen to music. We wrap up after a few hours; no one can focus. I catch the bus back to my apartment get my uncle’s number and return to my old house, still rented by close friends. I don’t want to be alone and I need to make a phone call. I reach my uncle. He’d been downsized in August and watched the towers burn from a golf course outside the city. The death toll estimates are staggering.

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