ETA: It is also, and I was thinking about this a few days ago, the first Tuesday, 9/11, since the Tuesday, 9/11.
Six years ago today, I woke up.
It was like any other day. I walked to Grand Central, like any other day-- but early. I was a good hour early because I had a meeting at ten and I wanted to be prepared for it.
I walked into Grand Central, and I saw a man from my old job at Playgirl, asked how he was. It was an awkward exchange considering that he was one of the people who got offended whenever I mentioned that gay people existed, but friendly.
I had been feeling a little under the weather, so I went into Duane Reade to buy cleaning supplies to wipe down my desk at work so I could make sure I didn't get sick.
And that was when the world changed.
The radio station was interrupted to say that there had been an explosion in one of the Twin Towers. They weren't sure what it was, and at this point, they were speculating that it was a small craft plane.
I shrugged and kept on shopping.
By the time I got to the register with my purchases, they were getting conflicting reports that both towers had had explosions, that there had been a bomb, that a large airplane or a helicopter had flown into one tower and a piece of it had landed in the other and caused a chain explosion.
Still, they were saying there was a lot of smoke but it was isolated damage and blablahblah. Still no hint of the devastation to come.
I rang up my purchases and left. There was a girl crying outside the drugstore, trying to get in touch with her boyfriend who worked in the towers. She had two friends with her, one who was consoling her and reminding her that when the towers were bombed, everything had turned out all right. The other one was bitching her out for making a scene in public. That was the level of understanding that we had of the magnitude of the disaster-- it was okay, still, at nine-something in the morning, to be bitching someone out for being upset.
I got on the subway. I got off the subway.
On the way to work every morning, I used to pass the big movie screen in Times Square. This morning when I passed it, they were showing the towers. From the angle they were shooting, it didn't look so bad.
At nine-thirty-something, when I got to the office, the woman I was supposed to meet with called to say that traffic was insane because of the fire at the World Trade Center, and she was going to be running late, but she'd get there when she got there.
Nine-thirty was when other people usually started to come to work. In these days, we had two developers, one other designer, and my bosses. My bosses were in California. No one else had gotten in yet.
At ten-something, the woman I was supposed to meet with called to say that she was still stuck in the same place, and she was just going to turn around and go home, but she'd come in later.
I emailed my bosses and told them that the meeting couldn't take place, because there had been a bombing or something at the World Trade Center, and traffic was atrocious.
Minutes later, the first tower came down. I found out about it by refreshing Google News nonstop as I tried desperately to call my father, just to get in touch with someone.
Minutes after that, the internet slowed to a halt. The phone circuits were overtaxed. I was sitting alone in my office with no way of reaching anyone or finding out what was going on.
And then my father's phone call reached me.
"You're still at work?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered. "But no one else is here. I don't think they can get in from Brooklyn."
"Probably not," he agreed. "So you know what's going on."
"Yes," I answered.
We talked a little more, and somewhere in the conversation, I said something about how lonely the still standing tower was.
And there was silence.
After a moment, my father said to me, "The other tower came down, too."
"They both fell."
"Oh God." I remember saying "Oh God" repeatedly. It was all I could say.
"This is going to be a very sad day," my father said. "A lot of people have died. A lot of people are going to die."
Those words are going to stay with me for the rest of my life, more than anything any celebrity or politician or survivor ever will. My father, on the phone, saying "This is going to be a very sad day."
When my father hung up, I just sat in the office, the office where I was still alone, and cried and cried.
Finally, the internet started working, and my bosses, who were on California time and thus had just woken up, had sent me an email saying that my email was the first news they'd gotten, and to go home.
So (after arguing with various family members about whether it was safe for me to go down to help and finally, grudgingly, being convinced not to as I have no EMT training) I did.
There are a lot of other memories of that day and the days that followed, of going to give blood, of being evacuated from my home, of the people wearing surgical masks, of the MISSING posters that plastered the city, of finding out which of my friends had died, which had lost relatives, of the anthrax scares and the bomb scares and the days when we were evacuated from three different places in one day, of the smell of burnt flesh that hung in the air, of the ash and smoke and the red cloud over everything. Of the weeks where it felt like that would be our lives forever. But those things-- those things happened to all of us. Every New Yorker. This one piece is what happened to me that day, when I was alone in an office in Hell's Kitchen. It's the one piece that only I can remember, so only I can pass it on.
I think, in the six years that followed, that New York has become a better place. But the world as a whole has become much worse.
Since I posted, a number of people on my flist have posted their own posts, so I'm going to link them here. Some of them are locked, but this is so that I will be able to look back and see.
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