WHERE WERE YOU ON 9/11?

“Turn on the TV”: the
Blurt staff and contributors offer up their personal remembrances.

 

BY FRED MILLS

 

Though it may well be one of the week’s most shopworn
clichés, “Where were you on 9/11?” has an inevitable, indelible resonance for today’s generation, just as surely
as “Where were you when Kennedy was
shot?”
was an earlier generational signpost. Hence our assembly of members of
the editorial staff and contributing writers, to mark the tenth anniversary of
that life- and nation-changing event. As humans, we all feel the need from time
to time to enter our voices into the public record, and for an event of such
tragic magnitude as 9/11 there’s also a collective urgency to ensure that,
unlike perhaps the ephemeral tragedies of everyday life, no one no one ever
forgets.

 

        Some of the
entries come from folks who, like me, found themselves far away from Ground
Zero yet were still affected, in ways large and small, by the relentless radio
and television coverage and 9/11’s awful lingering aftermath. Others are
offered by those who at the time lived and worked in New York or had associates and close friends
there. In compiling these stories, I found myself revisiting my own, and in
turn experiencing all the emotions that so many of us wish we could push aside
permanently but probably need to revisit from time to time because they are
memories that need to be carried forward.

 

        I’m struck by
a remark one of the contributors made when I first broached the subject of a Blurt 9/11 meditation. “It’s a wonderful
idea, but I’m not so sure I should participate,” the writer told me. “My story
just seems so trivial, it’s bound to be out of place among all the others.”

 

        Hardly. The
term “trivial” suggests something without worth or relevance, something that
should be ignored or discarded. There are no stories here that fit that
definition, at least not by my reckoning. True, none of the Blurt-ers charged up a smoke-filled stairwell or dug an injured person out
of a pile of rubble – although one of our NYC-based correspondents did help
some of his stranded co-workers get out of Lower Manhattan rather than think
solely about his own ass, and another one provided lodging for a relative who,
due to the traffic disruptions, was unable to return home to his wife and
children in New Jersey. There are no trivialities uttered in these essays,
merely honest reflections and accounts of how average people reacted on that
anything-but-average Tuesday morning and how they went about processing what
happened. It’s a fool’s game, anyway, to try to predict what one will do under
the influence of extreme shock, disbelief, and grief (my own entry is a classic
example of someone behaving, initially at least, in a manner wholly opposite to
how I might have predicted or wished myself reacting).

 

        It’s probably
another cliché to note that in sharing such remembrances, we’re also
acknowledging the ties that bind us as Americans and as humans. If there’s
something wrong with that, however, I don’t want to hear about it. To the
writer who fretted about coming across as “trivial” – and to everyone else who
contributed – thanks for ultimately putting aside such concerns and for laying
your reflections out for all of us to read. Oh, and a special thanks to
singer-songwriter Ruth Gerson as well, who wrote about her experience being in
New York City on 9/11 (36 months pregnant at the time) for us as part of our
ongoing series of artist-penned essays, “The Most Fucked Up Thing I’ve Ever
Seen.” You can read it here on the BLURT website.

 

***

 

Nancy Dunham, Alexandria VA (9/11: on Alaskan cruise)

I woke up slowly the morning of our 10th wedding
anniversary. Why not? The Alaskan cruise we were on was nothing if not
relaxing. Slowly I remembered the plans we had on this day, though, and I felt
a burst of energy. We then heard some mumbled announcement from the ship’s PA
system, but the ship’s hallway speakers weren’t the best and we couldn’t make
out what they were saying. Something about weather, we thought, as I climbed
out of bed and headed for the shower while my husband turned on the TV.

        I had never
really thought that much about my American citizenship or what it meant to me.
Sure, I had decided not to pursue a journalism post in Canada, but
that was more instinct than patriotism. The best way I can describe my change
in attitude during and following the acts of terrorism against the U.S. is by
likening it to the overpowering love you feel when you fear for a loved one’s
safety. I feared for our friends who were working in the Pentagon during the
attack. I feared for my friends and sister who lived and worked in New York. Most of all, I
feared for our country.

        Yet there was
no need. True, the United
States isn’t perfect because we aren’t perfect.
That has always been the case. But it’s also still the case that we are strong.
We are brave. No matter what trouble and turmoil we face – internal or external
– we are indivisible. We are, after all, the U.S.A.

 

Jose Martinez, Los Angeles CA

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was
recovering from a late night out at the Hollywood Ceremony in celebration for
the new Slayer release. Piles of the band’s new CD lay in a coffin in a hearse,
while we enjoyed an open bar inside a small chapel. I remember thinking in the
back of my mind, this is so wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if this blasphemous
moment would cause the end of the world.

        Sleeping in, I
woke up when I got a call from my father. He said, “The world is on fire and
you’re still in bed.” I had no idea what he meant. He said planes had crashed
into the World Trade
Center, and that the Twin Towers,
which I had visited that summer, were on fire, and that another plane had
crashed in the Pentagon and yet another in a field in Pittsburgh. I said ‘Pittsburgh!’ and rolled over in bed, but I
couldn’t shake the feeling that he wouldn’t be making up such stories so I
reached for the remote control and turned on the TV.

        I would be
fixed to the television for days. But as a magazine editor, I remember
thinking: we have shots scheduled in New
York City. I quickly called a music publicist for an
artist we needed to shoot in Los Angeles but had been told there was not time;
well, she wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, so I said, make it happen. It
was strange, I felt guilty working. Yet my thoughts were 100% in the moment of
what had just occurred. I love NY and have an affinity for the city and its
vibrant energy and I have a lot of friends and contacts there. The notion that
someone could be killed just for showing up and doing their work was very off
putting, yet it was reassuring watching everyone rally together and unite and
do what needed to be done to help one another. I know I’ll never forget what
happened. That feeling has never fully gone away and I guess it never will.

 

John Schacht,
Charlotte NC

I’d just stepped from the shower when the first airplane hit
the North Tower
of the World Trade Center
and sucked all the oxygen out of world. A friend called and left a concise message
on my answering machine: “Dude, turn your TV on.” From then on I watched in
mounting horror and disbelief as another plane hit the South tower – I’d been
in New York a
few months earlier and stopped in at the WTC#5 Borders during my downtown
peregrinations – and then another smashed into the Pentagon.

        Before the towers collapsed, I was
already numb with shock; the horror and grief sketched on each upturned face
put every empathetic human in the streets of New York, too. But the memories that stick
with me most were the people who leapt or fell to their deaths from the upper
floors. A few years prior I’d seen similar images from the infamous Joelma
high-rise fire in Sao Paolo,
Brazil, and
they, too, were branded onto my memory forever – what went through a person’s
mind at that fateful moment? Was it sadness? Anger at the injustice? Or an
unknowable relief that fight or flight was over?

        Eventually,
September 11’s nightmare images added a realpolitik dimension – we were
at war, and I knew with certainty that the justifiable anger we felt that day
would be twisted into a jingoistic response by Bush and his Puppet Masters,
with the knowing consent and/or idiocy of the cable news sound-bite ninnies.
(For the record, I was – and still am – all about wiping out Al Qaeda and the
backward scourge of Talibanism.) You didn’t know it then, but the solidarity
the rest of the civilized world felt with us was already under assault by the
Machiavellian machinations of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the Baghdad
Bungler Bremmer.

        In the
following years, I waited for a musician to capture the horror of those events
and channel it into something transcendent. Something we might all rally around
again. Springsteen gave it a shot with The
Rising
, but fell well short; Black Heart Procession captured the mounting
angst and paranoia of the Bush years with The
Spell
, but not the humanity that made it so horrific; Calexico’s misguided
left-turn Garden Ruin merely proved
how out-of-sorts most of us were during the Bush era. Eventually I realized
that a defining LP or song wasn’t just impossible, it wasn’t even necessary –
all good music is a rebuke to the medieval criminals responsible for 9/11, and
that is enough.

 

Fred Mills, BLURT
Editor, Asheville NC
(9/11: in Wadesboro NC)

On the morning of September 11 my bags were packed and
beside the front door; living at the time in my tiny hometown located on the
NC/SC border, I’d spent the previous evening getting ready for a trip to New York City for the
annual CMJ music conference, my first visit to the city in ages. (I spent my
honeymoon in NYC.) Literally just minutes before I was to drive to the airport,
my wife’s sister called and said, simply, “Turn on the TV.”

        They say we
process shock in so many different ways it’s impossible to catalogue them all,
and in my case a big component was anger – at being “inconvenienced” and having
my travel plans so summarily “disrupted.” I distinctly remember getting on the
phone to dial the CMJ offices, and when I got through after a few tries the
person on the other end of the line sounded more than a little unsettled herself,
telling me that she was certain some of the scheduled shows would be cancelled
but that she wasn’t sure yet if the entire conference was off. After a few more
hours it was clear that pretty much everything scheduled in NYC that week would
probably be cancelled…

        For a long
time I’ve felt ashamed at that initial reaction, but I realize now that I was
no more behaving rationally that 99% of the rest of America. As the day progressed my
feelings gave way to weird surges of adrenalin twinned with massive waves of
grief and tears; utter exhaustion would follow. At one point I glanced over at
my wife, who was sitting on the floor reading softly to my 8-month-old son,
innocent and oblivious to the unfolding chaos, and suddenly I felt a sense of
relief, too, knowing how lucky I was to be safe at home with my family. How would I have felt if I’d been in the
air, or stuck at an airport
, I wondered to myself? I’ve never been able to
answer that question. Each subsequent 9/11 anniversary has been accompanied by
a return of those emotions for me, and I think as a byproduct I’ve gained a
heightened degree of empathy and compassion for people I don’t know but with
whom I’m somehow linked due to the events of that day.

        A month later,
with CMJ having been rescheduled for mid-October, I finally boarded my plane to
New York. One
of my assignments was to interview Joe Strummer, whose band The Mescaleros was
booked at Irving Plaza,
and Strummer, a veteran of many, many NYC sojourns, had nothing but admiration for
the people of Manhattan
and how they had all pulled together. At one point, talking about the
terrorists, he just looked down and shook his head in disbelief. “People are
nuts,” he said. The next afternoon my friend Herb met me for coffee then took
me over to view Ground Zero. A huge section was blocked off so we could only
get within a few blocks, but I’ll never forget (a) the sight and smell of smoke
still rising from the area, along with glimpses of massive piles of rubble; (b)
people – many of them children – walking around the area or waiting for buses
while wearing white medical masks over their mouths and noses; and (c) handmade
signs and posters hanging from the second- and third-story windows of some of
the nearby buildings that read, What are
you looking at?
As I gawked, I had the uncomfortable feeling of intruding
upon someone’s personal tragedy, and while the tragedy was, in the larger sense,
every American’s, there’s no way I could liken my feelings about 9/11 to those
of someone who lived down here.

        For the second
time in so many months, I felt ashamed of myself, and I told Herb we should
probably go.

 

A.D. Amorosi, BLURT Contributing Editor, Philadelphia PA

My 9/11 memory is simple. My wife
and I had been married a little over a year and had moved into our new house in
the Italian Market area of South Philly at the same time. We had a skylight
window above us in our bedroom, a wide deck in front of that room and a garden
below us (we still do). It was a sunny morning and my wife was just saying how
great a day it was going to be and how beautiful the garden looked and how blue
the sky was.

        I wouldn’t call myself an idyllic sort
(nor a lounge-about past 6 a.m.) but this just happened to be one of those
perfect morning-to-be-in-bed moments. “We should always remember this day, our
lives could change on a dime,” my wife said. 

        Both of us are CNN watchers but for
some reason, FOX News was on, maybe something had blinked on our cable for a
moment, so we were having coffee and lying with our dogs. Then FOX’s morning
news turned grave – quizzical – a team turning from the light fare of weight
loss and anti-Democrat rhetoric to something harder and sadder.

        The morning quickly shifted to one of
alarm. My wife was no longer beaming and cheerful but frightened and tortured
for the loss of life you could see and hear before us.

 

Jason Gross, Manhattan

That
morning I was at work early in the East
Village and heard the
first plane fly overhead, having no idea what was going on. I heard a commotion
outside and went to see a huge gapping hole in Tower One with smoke coming out,
thinking it was an accident. Suddenly, I saw the second plane hit and explode
into Tower Two. A chill ran through me then. I don’t remember when I felt more
helpless.

        Later, from our work rooftop, we saw
the skyline with only one tower, still smoking. As it crumbled and disappeared,
we heard cries and screams from people on the street and on other rooftops. I
think back to what someone on a music mailing list mournfully pleaded later:
“I want my skyline back!”

        I took home seven co-workers who
couldn’t travel back because the trains and buses were out of service. We saw
several people walking back from the Tower site, covered in soot. We woke up my
roommate and broke the news to him and spend the rest of the day watching CNN,
but even all the details coming in couldn’t explain what happened to all of us.
I escorted some of them back to the train station to make sure they got out
safely. As one coworker said,  “It’s
going to be years before we really understand this.” Later, my roommate would
note that for the first time since he’d known me, I’d spend days without
listening to any music.

        About a month later, I was at CMJ
Festival where they had an impromptu panel on the attack. At one point, the
moderator broke down and cried. We all knew how he felt. One of the panelists
said that he’d also been watching CNN for days, when he noticed that on the
crawling headline marquee at the bottom of the screen, there was a story about
Anna Nicole Smith. He found comfort in that: “Finally, there’s a place in
our lives for idle bullshit again!”

        Somehow, I found comfort in that too.

 

Kenny Herzog, Beacon NY (9/11: in Brooklyn)

I’m not paying a ton of attention to the media coverage
around this anniversary. I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about this
anniversary. It’s only reminded me of how I still haven’t thoroughly processed
that morning and the ensuing days and weeks. Which, in turn, leads to thoughts
of everyone we lost and the lifetime of struggles ahead for those who loved
them. It really is too much to bear.

        I was born in
Queens, and raised there until I was 9, before moving to Long
Island. By the age of 14, I was spending most of my spare time in Manhattan, buying records
and seeing bands. After college, I spent nearly a decade living throughout North Brooklyn. Only this year did I move a significant
distance from New York City,
about 100 miles upstate. But this anniversary makes me think about my
grandmother Blanche, who was born in Brooklyn more than 60 years before the World Trade
Center towers opened. And
my grandparents Magda and Joe, who emigrated to Washington Heights
after surviving the Holocaust, roughly a quarter-century before WTC had broken
ground. And the drives my family would take over the Whitestone and Throgs Neck
Bridges, criss-crossing
the city and spying the epic downtown skyline.

       All of this
makes it impossible not to span the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway or Manhattan Bridge today without squinting and
hoping the buildings will re-appear. That it will be 2000 or 1985 or the turn
of the 20th century. Because knowing how many New Yorkers had
endured through so much life and loss for well over a century, never realizing
this kind of destruction was ahead, is devastating. And we still don’t know
what lies ahead from now, nor do our children and grandchildren.

        Those were
strange days, just after 9/11. I listened to System of a Down’s Toxicity a lot. It tapped into
something. A rage, a helpless fear and sadness. Something. And I was lucky
enough to have more music. To see Built to Spill encore with John Lennon’s
“Imagine” at Irving
Plaza less than a month
after the attacks. And in that same week in late September, rally with hundreds
of others around Wilco’s “California Stars” at Town Hall, which itself happened
mere days after Sigur Rós delivered selfless catharsis to myself and a forever
grateful Beacon Theater audience.

        Sigur Rós and
System of a Down. What a weird world. And nothing’s been normal since. I’d give
anything to make all of it unreal.

 

Dave Steinfeld, Manhattan
I remember September 11th, 2001 vividly. I was working in an office full-time,
writing for a radio network based in midtown Manhattan. I was also living in Greenwich
Village, in an apartment that I loved, where I could see the tops of the towers
of the World Trade Center
from my window.

        That morning
started out like any other, except for the fact that the weather was
particularly nice – one of those crisp, clear early fall mornings. I was in the
shower when the first plane hit, shortly before 9:00 am. A few minutes later, I
went next door to grab a cup of coffee before work. While I was on line, a guy
who worked in my building tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Wanna see
something incredible?” I honestly remember thinking that he was going to point out
some woman walking down the street. Instead, he told me to walk to the corner
of the block and look at the towers. I did, and was shocked to see what looked
like an airplane sticking out of the North tower, replete with fire and smoke.
Terrorism didn’t enter my mind at that point; I thought it was just a freak
accident. It wasn’t until the second plane hit that I knew something was
horribly wrong.

        For the next
few hours, things happened quickly and no one knew what was going to happen
next. It was both scary, sad and surreal. I withdrew some money from an ATM and
walked to my cousin’s office. I wanted to be with someone I knew. My cousin
Jeff was unable to get back to New Jersey that night to be with his wife and
young kids, so he spent the night at my apartment – which, ironically, had been
his apartment years earlier,

        I remember
that in the weeks following September 11th, New York was affected in ways both good and
bad. There was a sense of solidarity in the city (and beyond it) that was unusual.
My Dad, who happens to be a therapist, came in from Connecticut that weekend to provide free
counseling to people. But on the flipside, whenever anything remotely
suspicious happened after 9/11 – like a fluke plane crash in Queens
that November – many of us assumed it was terrorism.

        The stupidest
comment I can remember was from my boss at the time. When I went to work on the
morning of Friday the 14th, I remember him saying, “Well! It looks like things
are back to normal now.” 10 years later, things still aren’t really back to normal. The landscape has changed
forever – literally and figuratively.

        I’m in my 40s
now. I’m a child of the 1970s – particularly, of the late ‘70s – and I glorify
that period, which I guess many of us do about the time we grew up in. But
being as objective as I can, I really think that in most respects the world was
a better place back then. I never would have believed that the events of 9/11 –
or of its aftermath – could possibly have happened until they did.

        Incidentally, I’ve spoken with a few musicians about 9/11 over the years
but Suzanne Vega is probably the one who stands out the most. She’s a real New
Yorker. When she released her last studio album, Beauty and Crime — an
album that deals partly with 9/11, its aftermath and its effects on her late
brother, Tim Vega — I asked her if she ever considered leaving Manhattan after the
attacks. She said no, and I remember her specifically saying, “It never
presented itself as an option” — even though she could very easily have
moved. To me, that said a lot about her connection to this city.

 

Rick Allen,
Doylestown PA

I was the all-night disc jockey at a Philadelphia radio station located on
Independence Mall. Most days my wife was on her way to work by the time I got
home, which was usually around 7. That morning I put a tape in the VCR and fell
asleep in my armchair. The film was over when I woke up so I flipped over to
‘TV’ while I rewound it. The “Today Show” was in the midst of showing tape of the
first bombing. While they were reviewing that crash the report of the second
plane hitting came in. That’s when talk started of something other than just a
plane crash going on. And that’s when I got scared.

        I called my
wife and the buzz was going around her office. I wanted her to come home right
away but at that point neither one of us knew how serious things were. Before
another hour had passed she called to say that the office was closing and she
was coming home. By this time terms like “terrorist” were being bounced around
and there was no sense as to how many more attacks were coming and what
businesses types were being targeted. Things began to seem even more insane
when we heard about the Pentagon and the crash in Pennsylvania. With the attacks coming inland
and closer to the Philadelphia area I knew I couldn’t even come close to
relaxing until my wife got home. The wait was interminable.

        I don’t even
remember the exact time she got home. Between the two of us, we had immediate
family in Michigan, Oklahoma,
Arizona, D.C., Virginia
and different parts of Pennsylvania.
By the time we contacted some of them I was more than scared; I was angry;
angry at the people directly behind the attack and the people who had
engineered the conditions that led to it. I was angry because the people who
were killed were killed without any sensible purpose that I could see. I was
angry at the possibility of personal loss and I was filled with a great anger
as an American and the thought of my countrymen and women losing their lives
just because they were Americans. I had to go to work that night and our
studios were on a street perpendicular to Independence Hall, within fifty yards
of the Liberty Bell. I worried that the area would be a prime symbolic target
and also a practical one as it was part of the communication system. That worry
lasted a while.

        And I’m still
angry too.

 

Lee Zimmerman, BLURT
Contributing Editor, Miami FL

Like most people on the East Coast, I got news of the planes
hitting the Twin Towers as it happened, while driving to
my job. I was listening to Howard Stern – when he was on terrestrial radio – as
I did every morning on my way to work. It took something truly cataclysmic to
jolt Stern and his crew out of their usual self-indulgent childish chatter, so
when they began talking about the fact that an airplane had hit a skyscraper,
it was apparent that something horrible had indeed transpired.

        Then, as now,
I worked at a television station, WFOR-TV/CBS4, a network-owned outlet that
covers South Florida. It was difficult not to
be glued to our television monitors and TV sets throughout the entire day – and
in fact, the days and weeks to come. We’re news hounds after all, but more than
that, we’re also people, and the visceral images of our fellow citizens leaping
to their deaths, the first responders racing towards the scene of the carnage,
bystanders covered in dust wandering dazed in the streets, and the towers
crashing to the ground were both horrifying and transfixing.

        I remember
tearing up on the first anniversary of 9/11, watching the memorial services for
those brave souls in Pennsylvania, and to this day, it’s still heartbreaking to
watch the replays of the planes hitting the buildings and thinking about what
those terrified passengers must have been thinking at the end. Seeing the
ghoulish images of the monsters that perpetrated this massacre still brings a
rush of anger and repulsion, and I must admit that my bloodlust hasn’t
diminished. I take no pity on those who have been subject to extreme
interrogation or confined to Guantanamo.
I don’t advocate for their rights or promote any need for civil trials. Those
involved aren’t criminals, nor are they prisoners of war. They’re monsters and
ought to be treated as such. I vehemently disagree with those who suggest they
deserve better or ought to be dealt with in accordance with our standard rules
of prosecution. If we’re to set any example for the world, let’s set one that
only these barbarians understand. You fuck with us, and we will fuck you up. No
mercy. You’ll be treated like the barbarians you are.

        The lines
between truth, logic and political correctness were blurred forever on 9/11.
Now it’s time to do what we have to do. Killing Bin Laden was just a start. All
of his henchmen need to meet the same fate. Only next time, no burial rituals
and religious respect please. The people on those planes didn’t get the benefit
of any such sacraments. Therefore, the cowards that brought their demise ought
not either. Let’s treat them like the scum they are.

        My memories of
9/11 linger on and the lingering impressions I retain are tinted black, white
and red.

 

Jennifer Kelly, BLURT
Contributing Editor, Walpole
NH

Late August of 2001, I had gotten my only son off to first
grade and was enjoying, for the first time in six years, uninterrupted days to
get my work done, which, then as now, consisted mostly of writing marketing
materials for financial services companies. I was really busy, too, in the
good, doable kind of way. I remember meeting a friend for coffee (unheard of!)
and saying, “Things are going so well. Something awful will probably happen,”
and we both laughed.

        The next week,
a Tuesday, my husband called me from the YMCA. “Turn on the TV,” he said, and I
did, just in time to see the second tower fall. That was Tuesday. I was
supposed to be in the city on Thursday to meet a client downtown, an
appointment that was, obviously cancelled. And in fact, almost everything was
cancelled. I had written an article about something, in which four of five
sources had offices in the Trade
Towers. I spent the week
trying to find out, tactfully, if any of them had died (none had). In another
assignment, an article about an asset management company, pretty much everybody
but one guy whose kid had a dentist appointment had gone down with the towers.
We spent a couple of days talking about whether to take their names off the
quotes in the brochures. I had previously lived in New York for eight years and had a bunch of
friends still there, and couldn’t get through on the phone to check on them.
Finally, email confirmed that everyone was okay.

        But mainly,
the paying work stopped and I faced endless, beautiful sunny days with nothing
to do but pick up my son at the bus stop at 3:30 p.m. Which drove me a little
crazy. I wrote to George Zahora at Splendid magazine, an internet site that I checked once a week or so. I’ve been a writer forever, and I love
music,
I said. Could I write for
you? 
And a couple of weeks later, a
big box of CD-Rs and no-name releases came in the mail. It was, obviously, the
stuff nobody else wanted, but it made me happy in a way that seemed out of
proportion. Eventually, Wall Street came back and I was working again, but the
paying work never took over my life to the same degree (and I never made as
much money again).

        I’d become a
music writer somehow.

 

Logan K. Young,
Vienna VA
(9/11: in Georgetown, SC)
A high school senior already accepted at the only
college I applied to (GO COCKS!), I had a bad case of “senior-itis” the morning
of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. And though both my mom and pop taught at
Georgetown High, I ditched first period that day to get high with my drug buddy Chase
under the bridge downtown. Ironically, I had installed a six-disc,
state-of-the-art CD player in my shitty ‘86 Buick LeSabre; apropos, Chase and I
were blazing to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
(I know, I know… kids!)

        Not wanting to be late for second
period — Chase had a chemistry test, I seem to remember — we made it back to
GHS with neither faction of the PTA the wiser. The TV was on in Coach Mahan’s
Government & Economics class, the class itself rapt. And stoned though I
was, I quickly realized no one gave a fuck that I had skip ‘n’ toked. The Twin Towers
were on fire!

        To this day, I’ve yet to have a more
sobering experience. I reckon that holds true for every student in my
graduating class, every last person of my epoch. Honestly, I didn’t give up
weed until long after college (GO WATER BONGS!). But I did finally quit once I
settled in Northern Virginia — about five
miles west of the Pentagon off I-66. I had to. Every time I passed by that
place, I couldn’t help but feel ashamed, like a traitor even. Almost a
half-century later, my old man can still recall exactly what he was doing the
day JFK was shot. Where was I then, Mr. Jackson, when
the world stopped turning that September day? I shudder to think what I’m to
tell my own children when they ask. Just say, “No?”

 

Johnny Mnemonic,
BLURT blogger, London
(9/11: from Brooklyn, but in UK)

My story may be a bit more convoluted than some due to my
geographical location at the time of 9/11: while I lived in Brooklyn and worked
for a major American music magazine based in Manhattan,
that week I happened to be in London
for a few days on a writing assignment. In a sense, then, geography also colors
my memories of that shocking day. Unlike most Americans who were probably just
getting their morning coffee when the news broke, I was already well into my
afternoon, with plans for an early trip to the pub with some of my new English
friends. In fact, I was walking down the street past the doorway of a
restaurant when I noticed a bunch of people inside crowding at the bar and
staring slackjawed at the television on the wall.

        Being that far
away from home made for a surreal and helpless experience, particularly when I
kept trying to call the magazine office and continually received the equivalent
of a “busy” signal. After some time I was able to reach a friend, who explained
that much of the phone service in the NYC area had been disrupted. Over the
next few days I managed to hear from most of my other friends and close
co-workers, none of whom had been injured. That was a huge relief. After that I
had to contend with the disruption of air travel, and my return to the U.S. from England would be considerably
delayed. I felt another huge surge of relief when I finally stepped off the
plane onto American soil.

       And yet… in the
months and years that followed, relief gradually changed to indignation and
outright fury. I watched the Bush administration embark upon its so-called “war
on terror” – a euphemism for revenge and imperialism. I watched the erosion of
our personal rights in the name of another euphemism: “national security.” I
watched the rise of blatant jingoism and the efforts to shout down those who
dared to speak out against what was happening, artists like Steve Earle and
Dixie Chicks. It’s been ten years; you know the rest.

        So when my
employer abruptly closed up shop a couple of years ago (a casualty of the
internet, we were told, although I think the money just ran out) and I had an
opportunity to return to England
for a temporary gig, I jumped. That gig led to another, and for the time being
I’m still in London,
in no hurry to get back home this time. I love America
and will always be an American, but thanks to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their
ilk (not to mention their British pawn, former Prime Minister Tony Blair), it’s
not the same America
I grew up believing in. That makes the lingering pain of 9/11 all the deeper.

 

Jud Cost, Santa Clara CA

I got a frantic phone call from my daughter in 2001, telling
me she’d heard on the radio that an airplane had flown, maybe accidentally,
into the World Trade Center.
By the time the second plane hit, my wife and I were glued to the TV screen.

        During lulls
in the news-gathering, my mind wandered back to how much this felt like three
similar tragedies, two local and one national. I remembered standing in the
kitchen with my mom on a Friday morning in 1963 while we heard constantly
updated reports that ended with the bulletin that President John F. Kennedy had
died from gunshot wounds suffered during a parade in Dallas. Due to emotional exhaustion, we
didn’t go to church that Sunday morning. I turned on the TV to get a first look
at the suspected assassin as he was transported from one Dallas jail to another
and was horrified to watch someone gun down Lee Harvey Oswald under police
escort.

        In November of
1978, I was parked outside a 7-11 convenience store with the radio on, waiting
for a press conference by San
Francisco mayor George Moscone after meeting that
morning with supervisor Dan White to announce whether White, who’d recently
resigned his post, would get his job back. Instead of Moscone, a badly shaken
board of supervisors president Dianne Feinstein announced that Moscone and
supervisor Harvey Milk had been shot and killed and that the only suspect was
supervisor Dan White.

        Mere weeks
later, as we were about to enter a Chinese restaurant in San Jose, the radio
blurted out the first  grim reports from
Jonestown, Guyana, that California congressman Leo Ryan had been murdered by
followers of Rev. Jim Jones and that many of Jones’ extended family were also
lying dead in his jungle compound. We recalled seeing Ryan, two years earlier,
riding in the back of a convertible, waving to the crowd as the grand marshal
of the Bicentennial Fourth of July parade in Redwood City, Calif.

        Now here we
were again, on September 11, witnessing something so appallingly sad it would
never be erased from the memory banks. For some odd reason, I reflected that
all four events had been first reported by all-news radio outlets, and that the
next one would probably be experienced in a totally different manner. A world
full of iPhones (and whatever comes next) has already assured that will
certainly be the case.

 

Wayne Robins, Queens NY

By a simple twist of fate, Sept. 11, 2011, is also the
tenth anniversary of the release of Bob Dylan’s ‘Love and Theft.’  I’d been a
contract writer for MSNBC.com from its inception through the end of the 1990s;
I wrote about family life in the column “Raising Daddy,” and wrote
posthumous appreciations of celebrities such as Jimmy Stewart and Robert
Mitchum, Lady Di, Sharie Lewis, and the Notorious B.I.G. I was also writing
food columns for the Newark Star-Ledger and the New
York Daily News.

        I was, in
fact, on a hiatus from music criticism since around 1995, which is why I missed
the triumph of Tool and the golden era of Creed, Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. But
whomever MSNBC assigned to review the album hadn’t been able to get a copy in
time. I had not only listened to it, I had a theory why the title itself, ‘Love and Theft’, appears in quotes. Two
years earlier, I had read Eric Lott’s history of minstrel shows and blackface, Love and Theft, as part of an
independent study project I was doing under the tutelage of professor Todd
Gitlin during my final semester of a fellowship/M.A. program in Cultural
Reporting and Criticism at NYU’s graduate school of journalism. I was
convinced, and still am, that Dylan was doffing his hat to Lott’s book.

        The review
went up live on the MSNBC.com site in the late minutes of Sept. 10. I fired off
an email link to Greil Marcus, and looked forward to sending out more
advertisements for myself when I got to the East Village
office the next morning at Editor &
Publisher
magazine, the now-defunct weekly trade magazine of the newspaper
industry, where I was an associate editor.

        I live in a
suburban area of Queens, N.Y., and took an express bus to work. I was
probably on the 8:58 when traffic began to slow at the usual places as we
merged on to the Long Island Expressway, heading for the Midtown Tunnel. Then
traffic just stopped. Cell phones were not quite totally ubiquitous, but one of
the dozen passengers on the bus, who had one, shouted, “Oh, no!” and said a plane had
crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade
Center.

        A series of
changing instructions crackled over the bus loudspeaker from the dispatcher.
The first message was to avoid the Wall Street area. That was quickly followed
by one instructing the driver to leave the highway and give passengers the
option of getting off at a Manhattan-bound subway stop. When it was confirmed
that a second plane had hit the second tower, the bus turned around and drove
us back home. I phoned my office: people there, little more than a mile from
Ground Zero, were safe. I worked from home, monitoring and comparing coverage
of the tragedy on TV and on nascent newspaper websites. TV still had a big edge
over the Internet.

        In
retrospect, I’m grateful it was so, for today, being exposed to the final
Twitter messages of the dying would be too brutal to bear.

 

Stephen Judge, BLURT
Publisher/CEO, Carrboro NC

I was working at Schoolkids Records in Raleigh on 9/11. I will never
forget that morning because it was a Tuesday, so that’s a new release day and
we were expecting a desent crowd because the new Bob Dylan record was out (I
still think of 9/11 when I see the cover of ‘Love and Theft’). Normally I would open on Tuesdays and go in early
to get the new releases out on the shelves, but ironically that morning I had
switched with my assistant manager because she wanted to go see a show that
night, so I slept in.

        When my alarm
went off, it was Imus in the Morning and I just sat there trying to ignore it, half listening to the radio, thinking
“OK, how many times can I hit snooze before I get up and get my coffee”… then I
heard the seriousness in Charles’ voice, Imus’ right hand man, when he says,
“Well, I – man we have some serious breaking news, apparently a plane has
crashed into the World Trade Center!” and I remember going “What?” and thinking “OK, get up, lazy, go get some coffee and turn
on the TV to see what’s going on…” So as my coffee is brewing I turn on the TV
to the Today show and see the fire in
the first tower and thought “Wow, that’s pretty bad,” but thought it was a
small plane and not a big deal.  I think at times they were guessing about
what happened and Katie Couric or Matt Lauer were saying, “Was this a
commercial plane?” and me thinking “No way – how could that happen?”
       As I sit there sipping my first
cup of coffee, I will never forget hearing some woman reporter for Today, who I think was down on the
street giving them a street level report saying what she saw or what witnesses
saw. I remember seeing something moving out of the top corner of the screen,
and half paying attention, I just thought it was a helicopter for the TV news. And
then all of a sudden I hear the woman say, “Oh, another one just hit!” and
hearing everyone gasp. I hear Matt Lauer say, “Yeah we saw a plane circling the
building,” and I was thinking “Yeah I saw that too!” When the woman said she thought
was a DC9 or some large plane, I thought “Oh my god” and then “This was on
purpose!” – and scrambled to find my phone and started to call people. I
remember hearing the woman say, “I wonder if there are air traffic control
problems?” and me saying out loud “Are you fucking nuts? That was an attack!”
shocked that no one on the Today show
was even saying that yet. It was obvious to me. We all saw it.

       I know many
people had this same experience but it still gives me chills to watch that
video
.

        Eventually I
went into the store. I remember people walking into the store that day almost
like they had seen a ghost, 75% of them coming in to buy Dylan’s records. When
they walked up to the counter they all almost had a look of apology on their
eyes like, “Sorry, I really should not be buying this or out today but here,
ring me up…” No one really talked –  the
normal chipper self saying, “Hey man how’s it going?” was gone. We just kinda
nodded at each other. But I would say I probably had only about 15-20 people
walk in the store all day, and by 6pm I called my boss and said, “Man, I
haven’t had someone walk in the store in over 4 hours. Let’s close.” and he
agreed. I worked for Schoolkids for ten years and never – even when there was snow or bad weather – had sat there for
4 hours and not had one person walk in the store. It was eerie.  So I
closed up just in time for the president’s speech and went home.
        Just a month or two prior my wife
(now ex-wife) and I had flown up to see my sister in Albany,
and the flight took it right by Manhattan.
It was a beautiful clear day and I was lucky enough to have a window seat on
the left hand side so I had an amazing view of the island and the Towers and
just thought “Wow, that’s so beautiful.” I also remember when Ryan Adams’ record Gold came out – that was two weeks after 9/11 – and it had the album cover of
him standing in front of an upside down American flag. First song “New York, New
York” was obviously a big deal around NC because Ryan
was a local hero. I had known him for years shopping at my store, and my wife
and I had met at a Whiskeytown show in Raleigh
in 1998. And then I saw the video of Ryan standing in front of the Towers just
a few days before and just thought “You have to be kidding me?”
Obviously that song almost reminds me of it too.

        It still gives
me chills and tears in my eyes when I hear him say, “Well, I still love you, New York…” It says it
all.

 

 

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