9/11

I watched the first plane fly over my head and smack right into the World Trade Center that morning three years ago. My two colleagues and I were on the street about 10 blocks north and we stood there in shock. Then one of my friends said in a hushed tone, “Bin Laden did this”.

I had no idea who Bin Laden was or what he was talking about. But I knew it was an attack. Because it was a huge commercial airplane, flying right over Thompson Street that morning and commercial planes don’t do that.

As we stood there, I had this gut feeling that the tower was going to come down. Not because I spent for years at MIT learning mechanical engineering. But because of what I was witnessing. The fire, the smoke, and the explosions. I just knew it was coming down.

I thought of the times that I went up to Windows On The World. I always hated going up there and now I knew why.

The second plane was not a shock. Nor was the Pentagon. Or the fourth plane. We spent that morning reacting to the horror that was unfolding but from the moment that the first plane hit, nothing shocked me.

We got all of our people out of our company nearby, we sent them home. The ones who couldn’t go anywhere walked up 6th Avenue with me to pick up my kids at school, where I met the Gotham Gal, and then up 7th Avenue to our house where we had about 20 people waiting all day to get out of town.

That’s my 9/11 story. It’s not nearly as horrible as thousands of other stories I’ve heard over the years. It’s not the reason that I started blogging as it was for Jeff.

For me 9/11 was an affirmation of the fact that we aren’t safe. But I’ve never felt safe. I don’t feel less safe now and I don’t feel more safe now. I feel the same today that I felt on Sept 10, 2001.

And I am not angry about 9/11 either. Sure I hate Bin Laden and Al Qaeda as much as anyone. But we live in a world full of hate, largely driven by religious idealism gone crazy. It’s always been that way. And probably always will be.

I was picking up my daughter Emily this morning from a sleepover near the west side highway. As we left her friend’s house and got to the highway, there were a bunch of people with signs remembering loved ones they’d lost. This spot was where the rescue effort was largely based on 9/11 and in the weeks after. That brought me back to that time. And I felt the tragedy that these people had experienced. I feel terribly for them. But I don’t feel much other than that about 9/11.

For me, it’s something that happened. It’s in the past for me. And it didn’t change anything for me. I feel a lot like Javier Marías described Spain in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings (thanks to Tom Watson for linking to that piece).

I know that many people will never be the same after 9/11. Apparently, the political system and the government won’t be either. I guess it will be a defining moment for our generation. But it just hasn’t impacted me that way.