Wednesday, September 12, 2001

tom brokaw declares war

I just turned off my TV for the first time in about 14 hours. This was my day.

My alarm went off at 9am. I hit the snooze button, then I hit it again...then my phone rang. I grumpily dragged myself out of bed and across my apartment.

"You should turn on the TV, hon. A couple of hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. They think one of them has structural damage. I thought you should know."

"Okay, whatever."

I gathered up my pillows, moved to the couch, and set the alarm on my phone for 11am, convinced that I would fall back asleep in front of the TV. As soon as I turned it on, however, I knew that I was wrong.

I sat there, utterly intrigued and a little frightened, watching the story play out. I'll never forget hearing, "I don't want to alarm anybody, but it just felt like there was an explosion here at the Pentagon." At this point I started to panic. This was probably also the first time I burst into tears.

Next I heard about the plane that went down near Pittsburgh. Now I was really frantic. Philadelphia could be next, and I live about five blocks from City Hall. In fact I live directly in the shadow of the Drake Tower, one of the taller buildings in Center City. "Every year I learn another reason why it's not good to live right in the middle of a major city," I thought (the protests surrounding the RNC last summer were quite frightening).

I tried to call my mother's cell phone but was unsuccessful. All I wanted was for her to tell me what to do. Should I go to class today? Should I stay put? Should I try to get out of the city? Philadelphia Int'l Airport was announced to be closed a full 10-15 minutes before the FAA closed all of the Airports in the US; I think that this was the moment that made me fear for my life.

At around 10am I decided to take a shower and get dressed, so as to be ready in case of...I don't know what. When I came back into the living room, I saw that the first tower had collapsed. I absolutely could not believe it. One tower? It was inconceivable. I cried harder than I had ever thought possible. Then I flew into a panicked frenzy, running around my apartment, throwing clothing (and wedding-planning materials) into my suitcase, packing up my laptop, throwing school work and first-aid supplies into my messenger bag.

Then I sat down to wait. The second building collapsed, and I didn't know how to react. I wanted to flee, but I had nowhere to go, and the public transportation was basically shut down; besides which, I would have to go towards the highest buildings in the city to get to the trains.

When I learned that all Philly schools were closing at noon, I knew that I would not be going to my 1pm ballet class, whether UArts was closed or not (I still don't know whether it was). Besides fearing for my life, it just seemed so trivial.

It was at around this point that I started keeping a diary, and this is what I wrote throughout the day and evening:

12:54 pm
Everything seems so trivial. How could I possibly even think about going to class at a time like this...a ballet class, no less.
This is it. Is there really any way to get over this? To recover? Things can't ever possibly be the same again. How can anyone ever feel the same when they look at the NY skyline & the twin towers are gone?
They used our own planes against us. God.
Obviously the plane that crashed outside of Pittsburgh didn't hit where it was supposed to. God I shudder to think where it was supposed to hit.
Why on earth would they tell everyone with a TV where they're bringing the President?

1:07
Finally, local NY news (on VH1). MTV is still showing their regular broadcast. How dare they; they are owned by the same people.

1:15
If I were in NY, I would totally go to give blood.
I hear helicopters.
At least they stopped the construction [on the Kimmel Center in Philly] around noon.
LIE is shut down west of 106/107. My parents live just west of 106/107.

3:04
Why are people criticizing the military? What could they have possibly done to prevent this? They used our own planes w/our own citizens aboard. We would never have forgiven our military if they had shot down our own people. That was the evil genius of it - even if we had known what they intended - which we couldn't possibly have known - there's nothing that could've been done.

5:23
Another building fell down. My God.

5:51
I napped from about 2:15-2:45, and when I woke up, everything seemed even more surreal.
Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-NY) is doing a hell of a better job of being calming than our esteemed President.

6:29
Lord, help their families. Help them to understand why this happened. I know that there is some reason why you allowed this to happen, but help us to understand it; if not in our heads, then at least in our hearts.

7:12
I want to be in a Church somewhere but I'm afraid to leave my apartment. I just want to wake up tomorrow and find that none of this had really happened. What scares me the most is the future. What is going to happen? How many more people are going to die as a result of this?

7:21
There are still helicopters; I can hear them. I wonder if everything will be back to normal tomorrow. I wonder if anything will be back to normal, ever.

7:26
Why does it have to take something like this to bring together everyone in the country? To erase political schisms and agendas. Why can't it be like this always?
God bless America, indeed.

7:33
I just start crying and I can't control it.

7:42
Holy shit. $5 per gallon for gas in Kansas.

7:47
The Palestinians who are celebrating...they are calling out, "God is great." People who hide behind religion to commit horrific acts are cowards. These things are clearly against God's laws and wishes, no matter who your God should happen to be.

7:55
I should be doing homework. I have sooo much to get done. But I can't bring myself to leave the TV, and I can't bring myself to do something as trivial as play analysis or math problems.

7:59
New York City. How did this happen to NYC? Manhattan...we've always felt so invulnerable.

8:02
How can the Twin Towers just be gone? I never got to do the tourist thing...
I hope I see a bloodmobile tomorrow. It's a shame I'm not Type O.
They really need to do a better job with [Philadelphia] Mayor Street's teleprompter. They're making him look stupid.

8:06
Still, the helicopter

8:12
My children will not know what it's like to drive past Manhattan and see the skyline that I grew up with. They won't know what it's like to feel safe.

8:07
I've been watching the news for about 11.5 hours now. It's all so inconceivable. This didn't really happen, did it?


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