Sunday, September 11, 2011

In remembrance of a really crappy day that took place 10 yrs ago

It was a dark and stormy night.

That's the famous opening line to the 1830 novel Paul Clifford. It became the benchmark opening line to create a setting that tapped into the readers deepest fears, hoping to hook them into the story. A few years ago I attended a writer's conference where a speaker debunked the myth of the dark and stormy night, and made the case that the best way to maximize the horror factor was to have the "bad things" happen in a place nobody expects them to happen. And when I think back to September 11, 2001, on that perfect sunny September morning, there wasn't even the smallest of hints that such indescribable horror was about to take place.

Those responsible for the darkest memories of that day were not the best human beings (major understatement) but did have a knack for storytelling - unfortunately for them, it didn't have the ending they envisioned, but I'll get to that later. A tale is often judged by whether it "sticks" with you, and using that standard, the story of 9/11 is still vivid in my mind, ten years later.

I can still remember arriving at work in Westport, Connecticut, bemoaning the idea having to spend the next eight plus hours at work on such an ideal day. I remember Joanne, the office manager, mentioning that a plane had hit the WTC, and my immediate thought was it was a small plane like the one that once crashed into the Empire State Building years ago. I can still hear the voice shouting down the hallway that a second plane had hit, and like every American did at that exact moment, I had that "aha...uh-oh" moment. Since I lived closest to the office, a handful of my co-workers found refuge at my place after we were sent home that morning, and together we watched as the unthinkable took place before our eyes on the TV. I can still see where Laurie was sitting, and Kris, and Keith, and Alicia, and the expressions on their faces are engraved in my mind when the towers fell to the ground. Later that afternoon, my now sister-in-law brought her kids over and I remember watching them play basketball - under that damn perfect sky - too young to understand what was happening just an hour away. And I will never forget going out to eat that night, sitting by the window and watching the military trucks roll by - wondering if things would ever be the same.