Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where Were You?

The destruction of the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001 has faded to one of those "Where were you when. . ." memories. In my lifetime, other globe-shattering events occurred December 7, 1941, November 22, 1963, and on a personal level, April 11, 2001. Here's my 9/11 story.

On 9/11/01, I had a phone call from my son telling me to turn on the TV news. Just as I tuned in, the second tower was hit and shortly after, both towers crumpled. It was 7:00 in the morning in California and I was scheduled to attend a local hearing for a permit to build an addition to my home.  I placed a phone call and learned the hearing was proceeding in spite of the events of the day. In spite of the fact that schools, businesses, and public transportation were shut down, this committee was dedicated to preserving the standards of the community. So I went and presented my plans. Unfortunately, when I presented the drawings, they also revealed that I had installed a second driveway allowing access to my backyard to park my boat. Not to be swayed from their commitment to protect the community from any ugliness, they scheduled a visit to my property for that afternoon. While the rest of the world remained glued to television sets in disbelief and shock, this fearless quartet determined that my driveway was indeed a gross violation of the neighborhood standards and  parking my boat in my backyard would cause property values to plummet.  They ruled that my addition would not be approved until the driveway was removed. Yes, they were right, the driveway was a violation and I accept that. However, the addition was an entirely separate matter and they had no business holding that approval hostage to the removal of the driveway. I  could have argued, but I was too beat down and worn out by all the really important events of 2001. It seemed surreal to me that we could be talking about such petty shit when apparently the country was under attack. I still can't believe it. That episode typifies the small-mindedness of the community I chose to leave in 2005.

Ironically, I had visited the World Trade Towers twice on 9/11 in earlier years. Once with my son, Kevin, and a second time with my grandson Bill. In May of 2006, I visited the site which at that time was still a hole in the ground. It evoked power and grief just as I had experienced visiting Omaha Beach in Normandy. The feeling of despair, lost hope for humanity, and just how, how can people do these atrocious things?

And yet, we do recover. The light does return and good outweighs evil. And my capacity for joy is restored.


  1. I was working in what is now Upper Elementary. The HS librarian called me and told me to turn on my television, the first plane had crashed into the tower and the morning news shows were broadcasting the Trade Center "accident." We both were watching when the second plane crashed into the second tower. The staff was told not to turn on their televisions and spent much of their free time watching on a television located in my office which was off limits to students.
    I remember the confusion we all felt as the morning unfolded. Many parents came to school that day to pick up their children as the day wore progressed. I think they just wanted to hold them close.
    To this day, I am overwhelmed on this day of remembrance. We all lost a lot of innocence and trust that day. Far too many lost everything.

  2. I was on the phone, calling you. I still have my ticket stub from when we visited the World Trade Center. It is dated 9/11/88.