20 years already? Sigh …

Wow, has it really been 20 years since September 11, 2001, that beautiful morning when the sky was blue and the sun was shining and the autumn leaves were just starting to turn … and four planes were hijacked? Sometimes it seems like just yesterday … sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago.

Anyway, given that this weekend will be the official anniversary/commemoration, I’m going to forego the weight loss stuff this week and post my usual “9/11 diary,” which I’ve also recorded as a podcast. Here’s the link to the podcast (https://anchor.fm/christine-a-lehman). (So far I’ve only recorded Part 1. I’ll drop Part 2 closer to the weekend). What follows is the text if you don’t feel like listening.

September 11, 2001 … about 10 a.m.

“… a day that will live in infamy …”

and we are all wondering what’s next.

I woke up to the radio at 5:30 a.m., as usual. KFI AM 640, my favorite station. I listened to the headlines. Nothing major, no dead movie stars or anything. So I hit the snooze alarm and got an extra 9 minutes of pleasant drowsing. It would be the last pleasant minutes of the day …

When the radio came back on I heard the words “breaking news … we’re switching live to our affiliate in New York …”, a lot of confusion, voices, then the startling news that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. Hmm, well, very sad, I thought, and flashed onto an old “Simpsons” episode – the one where Homer’s car is illegally parked at the Towers and he’s running back and forth trying to get to the bathroom before he gets another ticket.

I’ve never been to NY so that’s the most vivid image I have of the Twin Towers. I get up, dress and get ready to go to work, still listening. It’s still at the point where it’s “oh, too bad, a plane crash; hope no one’s hurt.”

(I just had to stop writing because on Fox News they showed a tape of people leaning out the windows of the building, still hoping for rescue – then, the announcer said, a lot of them just jumped out to end their misery. God, oh god.)

Anyway …

I got in my car and drove through the quiet streets of North Hollywood to the subway station, still listening to the radio. I switched from KFI to 89.3, the NPR station, but they weren’t talking about it so I switched back. Now, of course, the 2nd tower had been hit and the reporters were obviously getting caught up in “ohmigod” mode. So it seemed pretty serious. I wondered if I should get on the subway, but figured they’d have shut it down if there were a serious threat.

When I got to the office I decided to go upstairs and get my little portable TV out of my desk so I could watch the news while I ate my breakfast. See – even at this point – I still thought – as bad as it was – that it was “just” a plane crash. A really bad one of course, but still, planes do crash so …

When I got to my area, Theresa [my boss] was there and listening to the radio. She told me that the Pentagon had been hit, and that’s when I understood it was a lot worse than “just” a plane crash. This was war. This was the beginning of something.

As Theresa was talking, my phone rang – a double ring for an outside call, so I answered it. It was my mom. She was worried about me being at work and wanted to know if I was watching all this. I told her I was still finding out what was going on but that I was sure we would be okay. I told her I’d talk to her later.

I went downstairs to my little “hiding place” – the cot room next to the coffee room on 45, taking with me a “vending machine” breakfast – two Rice Krispies bars and a Coke. (I got the REAL stuff – caffeine and NON-diet – figured I’d need it!), then I settled in and started watching the unbelievable – but very real – horror in NYC. I couldn’t believe it, just kept saying out loud, “God, oh my God, oh Jesus, oh shit.” Just like the rest of us at that point.

Then – as I was watching ABC with Peter Jennings – the 2nd Tower collapsed. They were both gone. I’d never gotten to visit them – only seen them in a cartoon – and now they were gone.

And the worst part was knowing all the people who were there, inside. People like me, just trying to make a living, just going to work and doing their best. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

(I just had to stop writing because on Fox News they showed a tape of people leaning out the windows of the building, still hoping for rescue – then, the announcer said, a lot of them just jumped out to end their misery. God, oh god.)

Anyway …

It was 7:30, and I didn’t have to start working till 8:00 AM, but I couldn’t watch any more, so I just decided to go back upstairs, start working, and maybe they’d let us leave early. As I headed for the elevator, I passed 3 men coming in to work, talking about it. I told them the 2nd Tower had just collapsed, and they were shocked.

I want to be very honest here, as sometimes you read stories about historical events and you have a hard time identifying with the people involved. So maybe this will make it more real to you, if I tell you that even as horrified and sad as I felt, I also felt kind of a perverse pleasure at being the bearer of bad news to people who hadn’t heard it yet. I know it was awful to feel that way even at the time, but I still felt it. I’m sorry …

Anyway …

When I got back upstairs Theresa was still listening to the radio and I went to my computer to get online. Yahoo! News was still up at that time but only had one brief story – “Plane hits World Trade Center,” nothing else. I checked my email, then went to my chat board and wrote a little message asking everyone, no matter what their beliefs, to pray/send good thoughts or whatever, for all the people who were suffering. As I finished, someone told us the building was shutting down, and that the managing partner had confirmed we should all go home.

I was only too glad to get out. Everyone on the elevator was talking about it, and I got to be the 1st one to offer the cliche about how this must be what Pearl Harbor was like. At that point till I got back to my car, I got overwhelmed by sadness and fear. I met a few co-workers coming up the hill, told them about the closure and some of them turned around to go back Some people, who obviously hadn’t heard the news, thought it was a joke and went on. I shrugged – they’d find out too soon.

The ride home on the subway seemed to take forever, even though it was the normal 20 minutes. I tried to read my book (“The Perfect Storm”), but really couldn’t concentrate, so just gave up and stared out the window. When I got back to North Hollywood I walked to my car feeling what we were all feeling that morning, I’m sure – walking wounded.

I drove back to my apartment and went upstairs. Tried to find some news online, but Yahoo and Drudge were down, so I just decided to sign off. Called Mom and we rehashed all the news. Mom said she’d heard something about shopping malls being closed, and we laughed. Even in the horror we were able to joke – that if we can’t go shopping we KNOW it’s serious!

I don’t really know what else to write. I’m sitting here watching TV and wondering what else is going to happen, just like everyone else. But it seems like, if I could somehow send this notebook back in time, even just a few months ago, it would seem like a science fiction story. It still seems like that now, as I’m watching the pictures. Just unbelievable.

But it really did happen.

And now – life goes on. I’m hungry. I’m going to “nuke” a frozen dinner and totally go off my diet today. Because the whole world has changed. But I’m hungry.

I have to add this – I just switched to The Weather Channel to get a break from The Terror – and the weather guys are very somber, wearing black suits, and saying things like, “Weatherwise, at least, it’s calm on the East Coast.” They look very sad.

My feeling about the plane that went down in Pennsylvania – that wasn’t the plan, it was aiming somewhere else but failed. Maybe the crew, the passengers, stopped it from reaching its goal.

And wow – QVC, the shopping channel, has suspended its broadcast “in light of these events.” Now you know it’s big when they stop selling! (HGTV too, and the Food Channel)

Well, that’s it, my 9/11 diary published for the first time in its entirety, because I really don’t want to be dwelling on it for more than one post. If you’re interested, as I said, check out my podcast. Oh, and I found this on YouTube – a sample of the Weather Channel’s broadcast on 9/11/01! Haven’t seen this for literally 20 years. They did a good job, didn’t they?

See you next week!

One thought on “20 years already? Sigh …

  1. I lived in NYC at that time, but was in Detroit for HHD services ( they were the week after; I was rehearsing the choir). Worst day I can remember. I had no idea if I even had an apartment, or friends still okay.
    I’ve lived through a stroke since, and it’s still the worst day!

    Love,
    Garold

    Liked by 1 person

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