I wrote rather a lot last night on this blog and have other things clamoring for my attention, so less tonight.
But I didn’t want to let the day slide by. Because September 11, 2001 really did change everything for us in America and because, like everyone else, my memories of that day are so much more vivid than almost any other day in my life.
And, yes, I did know someone on one of the planes. Andrew Green grew up a block from me in Chelmsford, MA. He was a few years older and I was closer friends with his younger brother, Stephen, who was in my grade. But Andrew was in the same Boy Scout troop as me. He was one of my camp counselors at various points. I remember him as a good leader, someone to look up to and learn from. He was on American Airlines Flight 11.
But I was living in Chicago in 2001. I first heard the breaking news on NPR, which we had on every morning in our condo as we woke and got ready for the day. All the report said was that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Details developing.
I turned on our television, which was old and dying. Through a snowy picture, I watched live footage as news anchors and analysts tried to figure out what had happened. And then that second plane hit with the world watching and we knew.
By the time I had to leave to go to work, the Pentagon had been hit and Flight 93 had crashed in Pennsylvania. It was over, as it turned out, but no one knew it. Like most (all?) of us in Chicago, I was wondering if we would be next.
I was catching a ride with a co-worker that morning and, when I arrived at his place, discovered that he and his wife had no idea what was happening. They had not had the radio or television on and this was before everyone texted everyone instantly about everything. So I had the surreal experience of trying to summarize what was going on.
Redmoon Theater, who I was working for at the time, was busy creating a massive private performance that month and so that was where we were holding our staff meetings. It was an outdoor site with a clear view of the skyscrapers in the loop. And so we were all watching, waiting, worried about a blow that did not come.
The strangest part of that day in Chicago and the week or two that followed, was the suddenly empty sky. All that O’Hare and Midway traffic gone. The city grew a little quieter, except for the scream of the occasional Air Force jet on patrol. It was deeply unsettling because it was a constant reminder of how wrong things were and it made me feel a bit more cut off from the world.
Redmoon held an impromptu, unannounced vigil that night in Logan Square, both Redmoon and my home at the time. It was simple and beautiful and moving and exactly what the people who were there seemed to need. I was feeling a bit in shock at that point and so I didn’t offer any words.
It was nine years ago. That feels like a long time ago and yesterday all at once.
Today, as I drove by a memorial service that had just ended, I wondered if we’ll be doing this every day for the rest of my life. Will the calendars we buy start to list 9/11 on September 11th the way Pearl Harbor Day appears on December 7th on many calendars? (Although not my 2010 Environmental Art calendar, I’ve just discovered.)
Probably for as long as we feel the deep seated need to tell our stories and remember the people who lost their lives that day.