Monday, September 11, 2006

We're Not Afraid

No, I was not afraid during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I was angry -- angry with a white hot fury I'd never felt inside of me, and I haven't felt since. I wanted to seek immediate revenge. I wanted bombs and guns and lawyers and lots of money to go and get the people who were killing us. I wished at the time I was a member of the military, with a license to kill our enemy - whoever the f that was at the time. I wanted to DO something. Anything. I wanted an F-16 in particular.

Instead, I sat in my Home Depot headquarters cubicle here in Atlanta, on the phone with my brother, Chris, who had walked past the twin towers just minutes before the attacks, as he did every workday morning on his way to his Wall Street office. I stayed on the phone with him as the North Tower collapsed. I could hear Chris' building shaking and rumbling over the phone. And then the line went dead.

I had no idea what was going on at the time, other than what was on CNN, which I'm watching the replay of now, no clue about what had happened to Chris. I wouldn't know for another two hours or so.

After the phone connection failed, Chris fled with the crowds and the smoke thru Lower Manhattan and made his way, slowly, up towards Midtown where his wife Jane's office was located. Jane and I emailed back and forth, frantically, until Chris was able to place a cell phone call letting her know he was alive and headed her way on foot. I thought periodically of how Chris had loved to photograph the twin towers from all sorts of intriquing angles.

I was wiped-out with relief at that point, and moreorless in a state of stunned disbelief for what seemed like weeks afterwards. I vaguely remember picking Ava up at daycare by early afternoon on 9/11, but I have no recall of the hours afterwards. I assume I just sat in front of ABC and CNN for hours on end. I remember Peter Jennings and his cool, calm smoothness throughout it all. I remember Mayor Giuliani emerging through the media as a strong, intelligent, reassuring, competent leader. I have no memory or sense of George Bush assuming any kind of credible leadership role - ever.

I've visited NYC several times since. The first time after 9/11, I looked back across the Hudson River on my way out of town over to New Jersey to absorb the Manhattan skyline. The sensation of the newly-transformed skyline was strange and sobering and disconcerting without the WTCs rising up at the end. A few trips later, through the passing years, and I no longer expect to see the towers when I gaze the powerful skyline.

My anger flares momentarily from time to time, but ultimately I am not afraid of terrorism or these goddamn terrorists. After all, we are Americans, and we will fight them to the end.

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