Friday, September 11, 2009

The end of 9/11: i. My final memory of 9/11.


September 10, 2001. A Monday.

I had recently been diagnosed with a couple of distressing illnesses. I was treating them both with vicious, hepatotoxic medication. One made me want to eat everything in sight. The other--methotrexate--constantly made me want to constantly vomit, and though I took it only once a week, the feeling for the next three days was like being pummeled mercilessly with baseball bats. But, that was better than being unable to move from psoriatic arthritis.

To minimize the disruption on my work schedule, I generally took my dose of methotrexate on Friday evenings. This, of course, obliterated my ability to enjoy the weekend. Mondays were especially rough--I went to bed every Sunday night wracked with anxiety, knowing I would have a miserable, miserable day at work the next day.

The reason I knew this is that I worked at a travel agency on a stupid project run by martinets who all served together in Delta Force. I am not fucking kidding. And while my part of the project was always fastidiously on time, the project was indeed lagging, and because of their obnoxious military background, the management liked to collectively punish us, usually by imprisoning us in a conference room and yelling at us about how incapable we were. This painful exercise took place every Monday morning.

I can't remember if it was the 10th, or the 3rd, or the week before that in late August, but I had been recently required by my management to take on more responsibility. I had pleaded with them not to do this to me--it was bad enough doing my own job being as sick as I was. But, you know, Delta Force. Any sort of decency or humanity or compassion had been forcibly purged from them, I am sure.

So, needless to say, I had an awful Monday. The office was on Harbor Island and I lived in Lynnwood. In peak rush hour, this was a morning commute of 50 minutes and an evening commute of 75-90 minutes. I got so tired of sitting in traffic after a long day of work that I would frequently work from 10-7 or even 8pm. However, Mondays required my presence at 9AM. Regardless, I ended up working especially late that night--perhaps 8:30 or even 9. Many Monday nights I arrived at home so exhausted that I fell into bed without even undressing. I'm sure this was one of them.


Even though on days other than Monday I didn't routinely arrive at the office until 10, I had been setting my alarm for 8. But at 7:45, the phone rings. I groggily grab the phone and check the caller ID--it's my boss, probably. What the fuck could he possibly want at 7:45?



"Don't bother coming into work today, we're sending everyone home company-wide."

"Why is that?"

A pause. "Oh, right. Turn on your TV. Something awful happened in New York." Then he hung up. The company headquarters was in New York. Hm.

Too tired. Yay, anyway, day off. Maybe I'll just sleep.


8 AM. Click, radio comes on. 710 AM, KIRO, at the time a news-talk station (now it's an ESPN affiliate). Network news music.

"The latest from New York is that both World Trade Center towers have collapsed."

What? What the fuck?

I'm so tired I'm hallucinating, I think. I hit the snooze for 30 minutes.


8:31 AM. Click, radio comes on again. I only half hear it. Planes crashing into the World Trade Center. Two of them. A catastrophic fire. The buildings couldn't handle it and collapsed. Also, apparently, a plane hit the Pentagon. Another crashed in Pennsylvania.

Obviously, something serious is going on. I guess that's why the brass at the company sent everyone home--the company's headquarters is in downtown Manhattan, and I bet downtown is absolutely fucked right now with, what, the largest office space in the entire world lying in ruins.

Jeez, that's not good. I wonder if everyone got out?


9:00 AM. I've been glued to CNN for the last half hour. Note that it is now noon on the East Coast--they're really beginning to piece this thing together. This is so incredibly bad. I have become somewhat estranged from my good friends G and B, and my ex-wife, C, who is currently living with them. But, I feel like this is a bad day to be alone, so I call B. She says, "Yes, definitely, come over. G and C have to stay at work anyway, and I have to stay here with the kid. I don't want to be alone, either."


6:30 PM. No one in New York is sleeping anytime soon. As the sun sets, I finally realize the world we live in was about to go from mostly stupid to downright moranic.

I would not be disappointed.


October 5, 2001. A Friday. About 4PM. I'm sitting in the office with a reasonably attractive co-worker named Liz. She's a tech writer. We're the only two left. We had been told earlier in the day that as a result of the events of 9/11, the future of the company was uncertain, and all projects had been suspended. One by one, coworkers had been disappearing from the office into the HR office. We didn't see them leave. We had been around the block a few times. We both knew what was happening. But we tried to talk about anything other than that or 9/11. Anything. I wish I remembered more about the conversation--she was a bright woman, so I'm sure it was interesting.

"Liz, you're next."

Alone again. This is not a good day to be alone, either. But now I am. It was my last day of work for 17 months. Had I known that, I definitely would've at least gotten Liz's number--I don't think either one of us wanted to be alone that night, but in our nervous chit-chat we forgot to exchange numbers.

I never heard from Liz again. I hope she's OK.

This is my experience of 9/11, from thousands of miles away. Fortunately, no one I knew was injured or killed.

Therefore, I give you my memory, so I can now let go of it. In the next post, I'll explain why.

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