I was working in Manhattan that day. Well, I would have been, if I hadn’t been late. I worked near 53rd & 3rd, immortalized in the Ramones song about a male hustler, from their debut album. So far away from the horror. I grew up with the Towers in my skyline; we lived on a hill where they poked through the trees, across the river. My heart still clenches thinking about that day.
I memorialized it in my work in progress:
I joined up on my eighteenth birthday, after the planes hit and Manhattan smoldered like a blindfolded man’s cigarette at an execution.
That’s what the city looked like for a month or two after the attack. Riding the DeCamp bus in on the Lincoln tunnel loop, I saw it, breathed it, every day. We all did. They replayed the strikes on TV so often I can see them between blinks, even now. I think many of us suffered trauma that day. Some more than others of course, but enough that the country as a whole is very different than it was the day before. What I like to remember is how we came together afterward, before the fear settled in. Everyone gave blood, everyone chipped in. I lost my job shortly after, right before the holidays, because my employer was headquartered in Israel and their stock plummeted. Now they’re doing great, they got into surveillance. I’m glad I moved on. My grandmother broke her arm that year, the first stumble down the spiral before she passed on a few years later. I’d just returned from living in the Midwest, and everything felt like an omen. It was a rough couple of years for us all. My friend Johnny, who joined the Marines as a reservist the day he turned eighteen—inspiring Scotty, the character in my WiP, above—was eager to go to Afghanistan and fight the Taliban, but Iraq? Not so much. We’re still recovering from that misadventure. Many fought bravely there, but for what? It looks like we’re returning a third time. Then again, if you follow history, we’ve been mucking with the Middle East for a lot longer than that. What’s the answer? I’m not sure. But I think our move toward US oil and renewable energy is good first step to staying out of the nation-building (and destroying) business.
We’ve neglected the homefront for a decade, our roads and bridges are collapsing, our people overworked and underpaid (wages stagnant, profits soaring). We’ve barely rebuilt what the terrorists destroyed. I hope in the next decade we’ll focus more on that.
I like this old photo, I’m chubby and innocent and hopeful, having just graduated from Rutgers. My friend Tim is in the background, my friend Jim took the photo. It’s 1995, the Internet boom (and bust) was just up the road. And so was 9/11.