Thursday, September 11, 2003

Two Years Ago

Two Years Ago the phone rang early in the morning. It was Nardi, my mother-in-law, calling from southwestern Pennsylvania. Almost all our family lives in southwestern Pennsylvania, in the Pittsburgh area.

“Oh my god, Jeff,” she said, “They blew it up!”

After finding out who “they” and “it” were, I gave the phone to Kate and walked down three flights to the TV room. By that point the Towers were on fire and there were reports of an attack on the Pentagon. The pictures were only of the Towers from a distance, pyres of smoke rising above the skylines. The pictures we would remember would come later. The first tower may have already come down by that time. I don’t think it had. One, at least, was still standing, wreathed in smoke, a jagged shard against the sky.

I hugged Kate and went to work, following the news on the radio, and when I got to work, on the net. Not a lot of work to be done, in the face of everything. The second tower came down, and there were some stills of the devastation leaking into the office. And the news of a fourth plane, downed in southwestern Pennsylvania, in the Pittsburgh area.

Almost all our family lives in southwestern Pennsylvania

I made phone calls to family. My brother Scott said that the plane came down near Somerset, far to the south and east, near my niece’s horseback-riding camp. My parents were at rehab, doing the treadmills, watching CNN on the screens when the second aircraft hit the Towers. My sister’s husband came home early from work. There was no work really to be done. Not that day.

Later, reaching out through net and phone, I found out where the others were: friends in New York watching from their rooftops. A friend I thought was in Texas was 10 blocks north of Ground Zero with his dying father. Two friends returning from Europe felt the plane shift and heave, and the sun move from one side of the plane to the other as they returned to the continent, Newfoundland already being full. Other friends were scattered around the country, getting the news the same way I was. No one was at Ground Zero, no one I knew.

I was playing in the side yard that November day when Kennedy was shot. I was perched in a seat in the basement of my parent’s college dorm when the first men landed on the moon, watching the painfully distorted pictures on a black and white TV. I was dressed up in an psuedo-Native American shaman, my face painted half-white and half-black, with an buffalo headdress, watching Nixon resign. I was talking with Harold Johnson when Tracy Hickman burst into the room with the Challenger news. These are the connecting points, the supporting joints, of my generation, when we were all together, when we were all gathered together in one space, in one mind, in one emotion.

That’s all