September 11, 2001
I know where I was that day. I was in New York City. I was at my desk in my office on my job. I was on my desktop computer, an iMac G3--a blueberry, just fooling around on it, on eBay looking for something interesting to buy. The guy I shared the office with came in--cheery, normal, perfunctory morning greetings--he'd worked with me in another office, knew me very well, and I considered him a real friend and not just an office pal. He went right on his computer--going to the online NY Times or going into his email--I don't remember the exact time but it had to be after 9 sometime and he said from the other side of the bookshelf that divided us, "A plane just hit the World Trade Center." My reaction was to keep tooling through eBay waiting for him to do further investigation into the matter, which I knew he would since that was one of his natural inclinations--you know, to find out as much as he can about a fascinating subject as immediately as he can. It wasn't long before he said, "You're not gonna believe this but another plane just hit the World Trade Center." Wha! I got up. He was looking at his computer screen in disbelief.
Then the office came alive with agitated activity--people running into our office wanting to know what we'd heard, then our phones started lighting up and others in the office were calling to find out what we know or his wife and my girlfriend and then another friend. And then from far back down the hall of this huge office maze I heard screaming. More screaming. "One of the towers just collapsed," my friend said. Holy shit! I'm saying and thinking. "What'a ya mean collapsed?" "I don't know, it just says Tower One has 'collapsed'--evidently when the plane hit it it cut the building in half or something...." "That building! I thought that thing was an architectural marvel of safety from fire or storm. Besides, that plane that hit the Empire State Building that time didn't cut the building in half, it simply got stuck in the side of the building and then caught fire...a lot of people died in that...."
By now, this was obviously a pretty serious matter and nothing to joke about. All kinds of rumors were coming in and floating around the joint. Word drifted around the office that several of our coworkers had friends and relatives working down there and one young woman's fiance worked there and she's the most concerned because she came to work with him from Jersey and dropped him off at the Path station down there and oh shit she was crying and dialing his cell phone and not getting an answer and then getting frantic and finally she broke down and she lay down on a couch in the big boss's office and kept on screaming and dialing her cell phone.
Then my friend comes from around the bookshelf and says, "The other tower just collapsed, too--I think I want to get the hell out of here--all the television stations are off the air because their transmitters were on top the Trade Center...except CBS still has a transmitter at the Empire State Building working so they're still on the air." By then the office had turned madhouse. One rumor spread by one of the artists was that the girl whose fiance worked in the Trade Center is suddenly near total collapse--maybe even near death. Everyone's eyes were wide-open and some were going around asking questions and some were running around giving out whatever information they had on the matter and some had husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, children calling from the subways, home, school, all over. One husband called and said the subways were halted on all the downtown lines. Telephones were out of order way downtown so nobody could reach anybody down in that area. A couple of my coworkers who lived downtown hadn't shown up yet nor had they called in. Me? I get excited at times like this. I'm like a kid fascinated by fire engines and a chance at following them to perhaps a huge fire, though that never happened to me in real life. I had been spared catastrophic events in my life. My life had been very easy in most of its ways; I had a great job; I was single and lived in a cheap-rent apartment; had a fat bank account and lived the New York City lifestyle to its fullest. But from the minute I arrived in New York City in 1969 I heard talk of bomb threats, of sniper fire, of policemen being assassinated--it was a time when the FBI and the NYPD were in constant pursuit and harrassment of all "militant" Civil Rights groups, like the Black Panthers--especially the Black Panthers, but also all the white activists were harrassed as well, the Yippies, the Hippies, the Flower People, SNCC members, CORE members, and there was a Black Liberation Army active in New York City then and I do remember sniper fire down on the Lower East Side one year and the Black Liberation Army leaders were admitting they were "Offing pigs" or at least attempting, too. And also the Weather Underground was major active and actually while I lived on the East Side of New York City blew out several large bank front windows, big huge windows, but they did their bombings early in the morning hours--leaving suitcase and knapsack bombs on timers at these sites then announcing they were setting off these bombs and yes several of them went off. I also remember a bombing at La Guardia Airport one time, they said it was Croatians who did it, but they put a suitcase bomb that had the power of 20 sticks of dynamite in a baggage locker, it blew up and left 12 dead and 75 wounded. Hell, terrorism is nothing new to New Yorkers. Check this out; it's the NYPD terrorism timeline for New York City over the past 100 years:
See where I'm driving with this?
Finally the office bigwigs let us all go that day. The woman whose fiance worked in the WTC finally got a call from him; he was in a bar getting drunk as hell; after he'd left her at the Path station, he'd gone a little out of his way to get some special coffee and it took him just long enough to get the coffee that by the time he headed back toward the Trade Center Tower One was hit already and he stopped in his tracks, coffee in hand, stunned as he watched the whole thing happen right before his eyes; in fact, in his eyes, his ears, his nose, his mouth. Going out of his way to get coffee had saved his life. Oh boy, I know he got some wonderful loving that night too from his gorgeous fiancee.
After I got home around noon, I just sat in my loft bed and looked downtown to where I had once been able to see the WTC quite directly out the window by my loft bed out which I looked then and saw the smoke slowly boiling up and drifting either right or left depending on the wind and I just lay there fixed on that smoke. The World Trade Center towers and 2 other buildings were gone. I turned on CBS television, which since I'm right under the Empire State Building, I was able to get pretty clearly, and I just left it on. For once in my life I saw television reporters who actually looked like they really were serious, several of the location reporters actually in danger, one a very pretty black woman reporter told about how she was caught trying to get out of there and how papers were falling all over her and then a body slammed down on top of a car hood--finally teevee reporters were having to really report; they were having to investigate because not one soul really really knew what the hell had happened or what was going on. Confusion ruled, especially down among the wreckage after all the buildings collapsed. All we New Yorkers knew was that something surely more than two planes hitting the WTC knocked all those buildings down--and straight down, all of them, straight down like they were purposely imploded--AMAZING. That's what was amazing to me. Wow, just like that those tacky buildings were gone off the horizon of this great city...and you know one of the funniest thoughts that hit me in all of this, my favorite building since childhood, the building I had lived under for 20 years, the Empire State Building was once again the tallest building in NYC.
The rest of that day was one bomb scare after another. The big one that bothered me was when they thought they'd found a bomb in the Empire State Building later that night real late and the cops came in my building and banged on our doors and told us to evacuate the building immediately, no shillyshallying, no taking time out to comb your hair or take a piss, OUT, NOW--and all 500 of us were trooped out into Broadway and then told to walk back down Broadway to 26th Street. "What the hell is going on, officer?" "Keep moving." "Sorry I asked such an inane question." I kept moving. Word was they weren't going to let us back in the building until the next morning--they were searching the whole Empire State Building. We were supposedly far enough away that if the building blew, we'd be safe from the debris and shit.
This bomb turned out to be a cleaning bucket with some rags in it. False alarm. We were free to return to our abodes. I met up with the barman at my favorite Irish pub who they'd forced to evacuate the bar so he was up at 26th with us and he said, hell, don't go home, come on in the pub and let's calm ourselves down with a couple of shots of the old sod. A splendid idea agreed I and that's what I then did; I went this bartender to this Irish pub, and poured and we downed a couple'a quick shots of Jameson's Gold, and then settled down to discuss the day's ferocious events in a loud and ferocious rather Irish manner. I thought, damn, here I am talking to an Irishman who'd already told me he grew up in Catholic Belfast and that his brother did time in Northern Ireland as a terrorist bomber and he himself had been followed and arrested several times and threatened himself--and then in runs a man wearing what looked to me like those old Eddie Bauer hunting get-ups with the bush jackets, pith helmets, and Bermuda shorts--that's what he was wearing, I swear, and it turned out he was a Canadian journalist and he had just been released from police custody and told he had until morning to get his ass back to Canada or they'd bust his ass again. "What the hell did you do?" "I sneaked past all the police and guards and shit and I got into Tower One, in through a side entrance, I was following a bunch of firemen. I was taking pictures like crazy...." He was talking so fast and furiously he was gasping for breath rapidly between each word. We helped him cool out with a tumbler of Jameson's and brought him back to his senses. "Anyway, I ran into a bunch of police and they stopped me, roughed me up a bit, smashed my camera, and then handcuffed me and took me back up on ground level and were fixing to put me in a police van when the building started falling." What a story. I pulled up my stool closer to the bar, ordered another Jameson's with a Harp backup, and listened to this Canadian conjecturing away at what he thought had happened. He said he heard it was the same people who tried to blow the towers up back in '93, you know, the Blind Shek and his bumbling idiot bombers, though they did manage to bumble their ways with their overloaded van down into the parking basement of the WTC, blow the thing up and bumble their way to safety. My friends and I used to ponder what structural damage was down to those towers then, but as usual the powers that be said not to worry--"Why those buildings could withstand most anything short of an atomic bomb."
So that's where I was on September 11, 2001.
Today here in New York City, all the prima donna bullshitters are ganging up down at their hallowed Ground Zero as I type this, all spruced up in their snappy uniforms and business suits, all looking so mortally serious, all getting ready to toot their own sorry horns about how heroic they were when the buildings came tumbling down. Our little short billionaire mayor has already gotten his make up on and his hair coiffed and he's ready to try and grab the mic as many times as he can with his squealing about how the people of New York are such brave people, blah, blah, HOT AIR, blah, blah, BULLSHIT, looking serious and grabbing the mic again and again and the "reporters" will be snapping photos and spitting out their programmed pap, "Mr. Mayor, how proud are you today?" Oh Jesus.
I swore I was not going to watch television today, but I've already broken that promise. At least Bush had the foresight to lay his stupid wreathes on Ground Zero in the realitive calm of yesterday afternoon in a private affair. Still what a little jerk to come here and honor that site when his stupid dull ass was hung-up reading My Pet Goat to a bunch of Florida gradeschoolers and then running off to Omaha, Nebraska, the day it happened, rather than taking charge and being the commander and chief and immediately started finding out what the hell was going on, but no, he went to Omaha instead. "Hey, Mister 'President,' the White House is in the opposite direction." I noticed Pickles joined him in laying these tacky wreathes on the site. What do those silly wreathes mean anyway? Some pagan ritual device?
I think the most vulgar interview I saw on network television this morning was on ABC. I couldn't believe me eyes when I saw one of those saucy serious news babes interviewing big-time suck-ass Bernard Kerik--can you believe they would give that sleazebag time to trumpet his own bullshit horn as to what a hero he had been that day--yeah, you bastard, you were probably plumbing one of your mistresses while the towers were falling. Or maybe you were banging your own wife, God forbid. What an insult to those who died in that tragedy AND also what an insult to the 14,000 or more people who escaped that edificial inferno with their lives--a lot of them by the skins of their asses, a lot of them coming down those black and smokey stairwells from the as high as the 88th floor, above that was fire, smoke, and horrible screaming and pleading and praying, begging in screams for salvation--some having to climb out the broken windows far enough where they could just leap off into that smoking space from a hundred floors above Lower Manhattan with faith that they would somehow gain wings and easily fly to safety--they say a falling human body falling from that far up would eventually pass out before hitting the ground. There were people, most of the last ones out, who did actually miraculously escape sure death--to the point a couple of guys and a woman who'd never believed in God (Jehovah, of course--these were white folks) were praying like wild M-f-ers as they were being blinded and choked by the stenchy dust, it caking in their eyes, caking in their nostrils, caking in their mouths, to the point one was saved by remembering he had a bottle of water in his backpack--he was able to wash the dust out of his eyes and nose enough to keep breathing and waiting for the horror to be over where he'd be dead already or by God miraculously saved...Jesus, such horror stories--but what magnificent glory must have been felt by those who just made it out. Whew what victory. To me these are the true heroes of 9/11. The people who saved their lives by just a sheer will to live. The government was totally incompetent in 9/11 from the get go. I'm sorry, but the firemen and cops were so ill-equipped for this, so ill-prepared, so helpless and alone to figure out what to do, how to save this colossal structure that was blazing like a M-f-er up from the 88th floor on up, the flames licking up almost reaching the roofs of those 111-storey buildings--poor people piling onto those roofs thinking helicopters would surely rescue them but there were no helicopters and besides the police admitted later there was probably no way for a helicopter to get close enough to those people to rescue them--you know, wind, smoke, air currents, objects surrounding the roofs, like big huge cable fences, outbuildings, and on one that television tower. Those who went to the roofs to be saved either jumped to their deaths or just huddled up in fetal positions closed their eyes and gripped the fists and tightened their legs and waited for the end to come--through fire perhaps or more likely to be crushed to grit and powder by the collapsing building debris that swallowed them into its stormy downward path.
I notice this morning the teevee is showing a large contingent of NYPD who are getting special seats at today's bru-haha. New Yorkers all know our firemen and our cops don't get along very well at all. The firemen who survived 9/11 have already blamed the cops for miscommunications and shit like that and the cops have fired back at the firemen saying they F-up the whole thing and could have had better rescue plans. Yes, over 200 firemen died in those buildings that day. Not near as many cops, but they lost some, 30 or 40 maybe, yes. You never hear much mention of the EMS workers who were killed that day. Nor how many volunteer workers from like NYU and several of the hospitals were killed that day. The tragedy is that these city workers were so poorly equipped especially in terms of communications.
Also, adding insult to insult, one channel is running a commercial in which Rudi Guiliani talks about 9/11. Is a reporter going to ask Rudi today what he did with the millions of dollars he collected in a special mayor's 9/11 victims fund, remember that? The 9/11 victims families say they never saw much of anything from that fund. Could you perhaps have given some of that to Bernie Kerik so he could have his private apartment close to Ground Zero--he was a big security man--and who was in charge of security at the World Trade Center right up until the day it happened--why a little prick named Marvin Bush. You don't hear much ever about Marvin Bush, but you should. Take a good look at his role in the security of the World Trade Center. It's AMAZING there so many questions still lingering around about what happened that day.
You can be assured that today all these hypocritical cheesy politicians will totally embarrass we real New Yorkers, we New Yorkers who escaped with our lives from that chaotic tragedy that has been so incompetently handled in both a reporting and investigative way.
The main purpose of this bullshit ceremony today besides putting Rancid Rudi and Bernie Kerik back in the spotlite, and giving our little billionaire mayor another chance to spew his total bullshit on us, and to give Potato Head Pataki a chance to trot out his "I Love New York" trick bag and spill out some of its jive bullshit all over us--but the main reason these numbskulls are there is to drool over the real estate possibilities Ground Zero really represents to these greedy, greedy, power-hungry bastards, all of whom, if life were fair, should be serving time right now for the lousy jobs of mismanagement they've done throughout their terms of office or the length of their appointments, along with that whole nest of vipers that is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transit Authority-- the ones who are going to make billions of dollars off this rebuilding project all these starry-eyed droolers are envisioning. First of all, to replace the tacky WTC with an even tackier world's tallest nightmare building--by a crackpot trendy Euro-trash architect--a big pie put in the sky for Al Queda to take a crack at.
I am losing my marbles over this thing. I did not mean to write anything about 9/11 today, but look what I've done.
for The Daily Growler