One Warm And Beautiful Day In September…

Everyone old enough to remember where they were that fateful morning has their story. This one is mine.

One Warm And Beautiful Day In September…

I was jolted awake by the telephone. The breathless voice on the other end didn’t wait for a greeting.

“I’m okay!” It was my partner calling.“Everything’s chaos here. I’m uptown, so I’m okay. ”

“What?” I said. “What’s happening?”

“Turn on the TV.”

“What Channel?”

“It doesn’t matter! Turn. On. The. TV!”

I grabbed the remote, and turned on the set. Images came into focus. It didn’t register that what I was seeing was real.

A plane had hit one of the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Was it an accident?

It looked too much like a promotion for the latest Hollywood blockbuster. If so, it was an awfully long commercial.

From the side of the screen, I see movement. Another plane appeared. In slow motion, I watched as the plane hit the second tower. This was no accident.

The phone went dead.

I tried calling him back a few times but could not get through. A mild panic settled in the pit of my stomach. “Wait a minute”, I thought. “He said he was uptown.”

It was little comfort, but it would have to do. I knew I should probably leave the cellular signals free for those who needed it most.

Time slowed. Disjointed images appeared before me through tunneled vision. Horrific images. Smoke. Flames. People covered in ash and debris running for their lives. People jumping from the upper floor windows of the World Trade Center because their only other option was to be burned alive.

All sense of time and space was ripped from my consciousness.

For the next few hours, I joined the rest of America and watched the drama unfold. The Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania followed. The feeling that “this is all unreal” never left me.

I left for work at around noon. I worked at a bar and wasn’t due until 3:00pm, but I couldn’t stay in the house any longer. Maybe the nine block walk would do me good.

The streets were virtually empty. The usual sounds of the city were glaringly absent. I was aware of even the slightest sound; leaves blowing, foot steps, pigeons tapping on the sidewalk. People walked in silence. It was eerie.

The complex mix of emotions on people’s faces was dominated by a collective nervousness. A helicopter rumbled overhead. People glanced up in fear. Some, succumbing to survivalist instincts, ducked for cover. The possibility that Philadelphia could be targeted weighed heavily on the minds of many.

The bar was busy. The saying is true that there’s comfort in numbers. I kept the bar’s televisions on so that everyone could see the latest news. We offered the bar’s land line to anyone who wanted or needed to get in touch with friends or family. By 7:00 PM I received a call from my partner. He would stay in New York City for a few days to help friends.

For the next few weeks I felt as though I was disconnected – like a boat that’s come loose of it’s moorings and floats aimlessly at sea. I was just going through the motions. It’s impossible to remember any of the minutiae that usually bog us down because for the following few weeks we were as one, united against an unknown enemy. Each of us doing what we could to help anyone who needed it.

The most disgusting rhetoric that came out of 9/11/2001 was the assertion by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson that America somehow brought the terrorist attacks upon itself. On September 13, just two days after the terrorist attacks, they appeared on The 700 Club and claimed that God smote America because of all the “Pagans, Abortionists, Atheists, Feminists, Gays, and Lesbians, the ACLU, and People for the American Way”. What?! I thought my head would explode when I heard this. How could purported “Men Of God”, mock the memory of so many innocent lives with such hatred and vileness? I’ll let God settle that one.

Remembering September 11th still puts me in that numb place where time and space mean nothing.

I can’t begin to comprehend what those people in New York City were going through. It would be an insult to them if I said I did. I also can’t imagine what could have transpired on UA flight 93 that made the passengers overtake the hijackers before crashing into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, or the passengers of flight 77 and their families, and those of the Pentagon. I have no frame of reference from which I can compare. The best I can do is empathize.

May the people, and their families, who were affected by the events of that day somehow find the comfort that they need.

Note: “One Warm and Beautiful Day in September” was originally posted Sept 2011 on ADignorantium.tumblr

Lists. …this is a good one.

The 2013 TIME 100 was released a week ago. I’m always suspicious of lists. Often, they are nothing more than self promotion and mutual masturba back scratching. But I think Time Magazine got it right on at least three of it’s picks.

Rebecca Smeyne / Corbis

Rebecca Smeyne / Corbis

John Legend writes of Frank Ocean as a respected colleague and close friend. “Frank is brilliant,” he writes. “The day I started writing with him, it was clear that he has a very interesting mind and a distinctive way of expressing himself. He was fearless and innately creative. You talk to some people in this business and you get the sense that they’re very focused on radio: what will be a hit or won’t be a hit. You never get that from Frank. The focus is on creating something that’s beautiful, that’s great art.

“Frank broke a lot of rules with his album Channel Orange. He wasn’t focused on “What’s gonna be my single?” And obviously, one of the cardinal rules was that he wasn’t supposed to come out. But he did…”
Illustration by David Despau for TIME

Illustration by David Despau for TIME

Maya Angelou wrote one of the most beautiful pieces on a First Lady I have ever read. Of Michelle Obama, she writes, “Modesty is a learned affectation. It’s just like decals. As soon as the world shakes the modest person against the wall, that modesty will drop off them. But humility comes from inside out. It says someone was here before me; I have already been paid for. All I have to do is prepare myself to pay for someone else who is yet to come. And that’s exactly what Mrs. Obama’s doing with the fight against obesity. She considers all children her responsibility: black or white, pretty or plain, all the children.The philosophers tell us that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Mrs. Obama is as if it doesn’t touch her. She hasn’t tried to become anybody else’s idea of the First Lady. She has remained herself, with her grace, her gentleness and her sense of humor. That she would dare to wear clothes off the rack. Or go out and garden. Or have a grandmother in the White House. She knows how to be a public creature without being separate from her family.” Beautiful words for a beautiful First Lady.

But my favorite by far is what Chelsea Clinton wrote of 15 year old accidental activist, Malala Yousafzai  
Mark Seliger for TIME

Mark Seliger for TIME

“People whose courage has been met by violence populate history. Few, though, are as young as Malala was when, at 15, a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus in northwestern Pakistan and shot her and two other girls, attempting to both kill Malala and, as the Taliban later said, teach a “lesson” to anyone who had the courage to stand up for education, freedom and self-determination, particularly for girls and women. Or as young as 11, when Malala began blogging for the BBC’s Urdu site, writing about her ambition to become a doctor, her fears of the Taliban and her determination to not allow the Taliban — or her fear — to prevent her from getting the education she needed to realize her dreams.Malala is now where she wants to be: back in school. The Taliban almost made Malala a martyr; they succeeded in making her a symbol. The memoir she is writing to raise awareness about the 61 million children around the world who are not in school indicates she accepts that unasked-for responsibility as a synonym for courage and a champion for girls everywhere. However Malala concludes her book, her story so far is only just beginning.”