I forget exactly how it came up. Noodle and I were discussing the coronavirus and the school closings and basically everything shutting down and… That’s it… We were talking about store closings and I said that I had never really experienced anything like it. The closest I think I’ve come to anything on this scale would be 9/11.
I don’t know why I haven’t talked about this on here before. It’s definitely something that I hold close to my heart. And definitely one of the most embarrassing things that I’m willing to publicly admit. I acted poorly, which I was aware of prior to this conversation, but I guess it didn’t really sink in just how poorly I acted until I was in the midst of recounting that day’s events to my son.
The more I talked the more embarrassed I felt. But, the more I spoke, the more I realized that it was something that he needed to hear. I’ll stop beating around the Bush (perfect unintentional wordplay, it stays), here’s the story.
So… I was in highschool, in class, when the first plane hit. Before that point, I had been to NYC once on a field trip, it took a couple hours to get there. I had already lived through (and watched live) Columbine, Desert Storm, the execution of multiple serial killers, and just a whole slew of stuff that quite honestly probably should have desensitized me even more than it had. Point being, I had seen some stuff. Couple that with the fact that I was one of three and a half kids in my neighborhood with a minority background. We lived in an amazing upper middle class school district in the Philly suburbs. We had it made. So not only was I desensitized, I was “safe”, which in my mind became an entitled naivety that greatly diminished the value of anything not local and/or not having a direct effect on myself or my loved ones.
They turned the TV’s on in school. We all watched the replay. We all watched the news. And then we all watched the second plane hit. And both towers collapse. In my mind, this was just the the next scheduled disaster, we seemed to be overdue. NYC (in my mind) was too far away for me to really worry about, and it seemed like there was enough time for everyone to get out, so not a HUGE deal.
I told you, I sucked. We got released from school early and I was in my neighbor Twigman’s ear, trying to figure out what were going to do with the extra time off. He wasn’t as chipper. I tried to cheer him up with a “that’s all the way in New York”, but it didn’t help. Now, I can’t remember if I went home first or if I went straight to Twigman’s house, but I do remember that once I stepped inside my whole world flipped.
The news was on. They were replaying everything, and showing the people jumping/falling from the towers. Twig’s grandmother told us that his Mom was there, and no one had heard from her. That wasn’t miles and miles away. Twig lived MAYBE 20 feet away from me. That was home.
Piecing it all together later, Momma Twig was in the second building (for a conference I believe) when the first one got hit. Her and her colleagues left whatever they had upstairs in their rooms and whatever they brought with them to the conference, and they managed to get out of Dodge. Before the buildings collapsed, they had made it to the subway. But, this was 2001, cell phones were just starting to become a thing, and you were lucky to get cell phone service anywhere in a big city let alone underground. At some point, some how, she was able to get a message out.
Twigs and I spent that afternoon/night on his couch, glued to the TV. Watching the follow-on attacks and initial reactions and death/injury estimates as the news (for the first time in my life) connected me to what felt like every other American watching. A couple miles down the road, my other best friend Drew (who I hadn’t met at the time) was feeling very much disconnected from every other American watching.
Drew is a first generation American. His Jordanian father and Lebanese mother came here before he and his brother were born. He grew up in the neighboring school district. Drew and I lived damn near the exact same distance (about a mile) away from his high school, in opposite directions, and didn’t meet until we were in the Marines, both on our way to Iraq.
On 9/11, when the TV’s turned on in Drew’s school, everyone looked at him. His classmates, his friends, his teachers. They looked at him. Of course his immediate family wasn’t involved, but even amongst Christian middle eastern families it’s not abnormal for family members to more or less disown on another and stop talking. What about them? What about the family members that he had never even heard of? What about their friends and their families? What did everyone else in his class see that he didn’t? Honestly, Drew and I have never talked about 9/11. We’ve talked about how he felt afterwards, and I’ve been in the room when he’s talked to others about it, but we haven’t discussed it in its entirety the way that Twig and I have. Hell, Twig and I experienced it together and didn’t talk about it until just the other day.
This is getting lengthy, let me try to wrap it up. To this day Drew struggles with and strives to feel as American as he did on 9/10. Twigman and I feel like we truly became Americans on 9/11. And not to worry, Momma Twig walked in the door sometime after midnight on 9/12.
My point is (aside from the initial point of “there were a lot of store closings”) that in my experience, disasters happen. They are mishandled by some and make heros of others. But in the end, as with on 9/12, they connect us. As horrible as things are right now and will possibly become in the near future we need to remember to stay together and look after one another. Because on the other side all we will have is each other.
Until next time, be good to each other.
P.S. Ya know how I initially used this blog to relocate my Facebook pictures? Here’s one. That’s me, holding Noodle, a couple minutes after he was born. So much has happened since then and yet the world right now looks eerily similar to how is does in this picture.