September 11, 2001: I was living in Los Angeles, California, working as a medical device salesman. It was a pretty good gig. I really didn’t have to work that much, just drive around L.A., schmooze with the nurses and doctors of the hospitals I visited, and they would buy my stuff for their operating rooms. It was a good, easy gig. I lived up in this shack of a guest house in the Hollywood Hills. It was kind of a dump, and I had to use the bathroom in the main house, but it was a great location. And I had Internet, which is all I really needed since I wasn’t big on watching TV that much.
That particular morning, I remember being asleep and my cell phone buzzing away. It was still like before 6 AM, and I didn’t have my first appointment until 930 or so, so I ignored it and returned to sleep. When I woke back up, a few hours later, I looked at the phone and saw I had a voice message from my mother. I thought, “Eh, I’ll check it later,” because I had to start getting ready to roll out for the day.
— BK (@BKactual) September 11, 2016
So I get in the car, and now it’s probably about 8AM Pacific time, and I’m still clueless. Haven’t turned on a radio or TV, or even checked email on my computer. On the way to the local coffee shop, I checked the voicemail on my phone, and heard my mom’s voice:
“Hi… can you believe this? My God, all of those people….. Anyway, call me when you get this.”
What the hell that was all about, I had no idea. Still a bit sleep-fogged, I got to the coffee shop parking lot, parked, and walked in. First thing I saw was everyone not talking, staring at the TV. That’s when I knew. I also knew that this meant a war. Who, or what we would be at war with, I had no idea… but war seemed assured. And that’s how I remember 9/11.
That date was our generation’s date that would live in infamy. Now, we understood how the attacks at Pearl Harbor had scarred and galvanized an entire generation decades before. In some ways, the WTC attacks were worse than even that terrible day in 1941. For 9/11 unfolded in real time on television before the eyes of the world. We got to see the people jumping from a hundred stories up in desperation. We watched the towers collapse, killing thousands of civilians and hundreds of our heroic cops and fire fighters. These images were seared into people’s minds, forever.
September 11, 2001 left its mark indelibly on countless lives. It certainly changed my life forever, as well as so many young American men, who, like me, were motivated both by those attacks and the sight of seeing their friends and brothers being sent off to war to join the military and be part of the movement. So many young men, then mere scared new recruits, are now some of America’s most highly-decorated and combat-hardened warriors, distinguishing themselves in America’s long warrior history. So many young men, and women, would never return home alive.
Of course, little did I dream that 16 years later, the wars of America in the Middle East and Southwest Asia would be continuing. But that is an article for another time, and not today. Today, it’s best just to remember and reflect. For that, I have a few recommendations.
This is the History Channel’s full documentary on Youtube. This, to me, is the most powerful documentary on 9/11. There are no voiceovers, recreations, or actors. The documentary simply replays video as it happened, from amateur photographers on the ground, to stunned helicopter reporters at a loss for words. Gripping is an understatement.
Re-live the day live as it happened. Stern is live on the air when the first plane hits. He immediately declares, “We’re under attack.” Interspersed with man-on-the-street call-ins to the show, as well as live broadcasts from radio and television feeds. Stern was one of the few sources providing live updates people could get on the radio, as many other media outlets had evacuated their buildings. Osama bin Laden is mentioned several times. 54 minutes in, the first tower collapses.
Widely considered a classic magazine article, “The Falling Man,” was originally published in Esquire in September of 2003. The author, Tom Juno, writes brilliantly of his search to identify the person in the iconic photograph of the same name, and in doing so, telling the story of that day, the photographer, and other people affected. It is fantastic writing. This is the opening paragraph:
In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity’s divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet. In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did—who jumped—appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale. They are made puny by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like colossi, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as though trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him
In memory of September 11, 2001, there will be no other news this week. Back to it next week.