It’s a bright late-summer day in Boston, only the lightest puffs of cloud for decoration. A perfect day.

Three years ago, I was working in the John Hancock Tower in Boston. The word came out in fragments. First, we heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I immediately thought it was a small private plane, one of those that seem to crash around the small airstrips here every few weeks. That quickly became a large passenger plane, a hideous accident. I though of the B-25 that had crashed into the Empire State Building in fog, but it was a bright late-summer day. Then another hit, and it was no accident. We clustered around the few desks with radios; some went back to their desks, tried to work, tried to bring up the Internet, and returned to the radio. We heard Logan Airport had closed down. From the east side of the building, we could see the approach path to Logan and a bit of the runway. That sky is almost never empty, but now it was. We were told to evacuate our tower.

No one close to me died that day three years ago, but in those years, I have over and over stumbled into the holes they left. Twice, on this anniversary and last year, the client I visit has shut down for a memorial service for someone who died that day, someone whose successor I am meeting. Another missed Flight 11 and lived. Another lost a brother. Tragedy invades the ordinary. I was far from the center of death; the holes merge into an abyss at the center.

There are those who wish to bring the whole world down into that abyss, that image of the darkness that God’s absence has left in their hearts. We will never let it happen.

4 thoughts on “Anniversary”

  1. Brings back alot of memories. I was sitting in the office of our trading firm. CNBC tuned in as usual, and they were reporting on the crash of “a plane into the World Trade Center”. Few details, same thing in Chicago as in Boston, speculation was that it was a Cessna or something like that. I remember watching the camera, trained on the towers, when the 2nd plane came barreling into tower 2. From the distance that the television camera was shooting from, we couldn’t tell, but it too looked like it could have been a private plane. For about 10 seconds, people in the office and on the screen were thinking that it was a sight-seeing plane that got disoriented watching the conflagration. It quickly became apparent that these were not small planes, we could see how much damage was occuring, and I remember my friend Rick saying “that was not accident, that was a big plane and it flew into that building”. It just was beyond anyone’s imagination. But a very strange air settled over our office. Someone tried getting our American Stock Exchange office on the phone, but they weren’t picking up. As is the norm in a trading group, rumors started to fly, the most striking being that there was a plane somewhere around Chicago, heading for the Sears Tower, 4 blocks away.
    We got a call from the office of the building saying to leave, not evacuate, just “make your way out of the building”. I walked into the hallway outside our office, which was getting a little crowded, (we had about 75 people in the office), and as I waited for the elevator, I remember one of the owners of the firm, brave soul that he is, pushing his way through the crowd to the stairwell, saying “you guys are going to be waiting a long time for those elevators”, as he disappeared down the stairs. Nice.
    I got down several minutes later, (the stairs had to take 10-15 minutes from the 34th floor),and just headed for the train. Once I knew my workday was shot, I just wanted to get home as early as possible. Wasn’t even a crowd yet, so I caught the first train home, and while riding, found all cell phone circuits completely jammed. I kept looking back to the Loop to make sure the Sears Tower was still there. We didn’t lose anyone from our NY office, but me and a bunch of my friends knew Cantor people that died. Those next few weeks were emotional, and several times I had to hide tears or anger from my kids, trying not to upset them.
    Ironically, there was a letter to the editor in this morning’s Chicago Tribune, from some fool saying, “It’s been three years now, let’s get over it”.

  2. I was standing in my kitchen, running late, getting ready to head out the door. We had the radio on when the reports started coming in. No TV. Thank God. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Oak Park. Kids were playing in the yard. I just paced up and down in the kitchen as the news reports came in. My wife said to me, you are not surprised and I said I wasn’t. I remember thinking, how in the Hell are they going to repair the damage of a jetliner-sized hole, then the first tower fell. Len Walter on WBBM, the business reporter, was reporting all morning, I remember. My wife tends toward being a pacifist. I said something like, this is like the Vietcong going global, and I asked her will you support it when we retaliate, when we find out who did this? She said, I remember it like if was five minutes ago: “the Vietcong never fucking attacked New York.” Right on.

    Sometime after the second plane hit, Jonathan calls me. He says something like, “well they got us”, and I said something, “yeah, the fucking bastards got us.” Neither of us was surprised. The method was a surprise, but we had both been saying that the USA was living in a dreamworld and that we were overdue for a massive terrorist attack. I expected an Oklahoma City type of bombing, maybe. I also had long thought I’d get to work one day and find out Lower Manhattan had just been leveled with a nuclear bomb. That may yet happen.

    I remember praying to God, “grant that we will find and destroy the people who did this. Grant that we will find and thwart and stop the people who did this. Not vengeance. No vengeance. I don’t want vengeance. You judge their souls. That’s your business. I don’t care about that. No. Justice. Only justice. Give us justice. Make us instruments of your justice.” Along those lines, over and over, and praying for the people being incinerated, the people who’d been snuffed out in an instant on board the planes, the people falling and dying smashed on the pavement, the people going into the buildings to rescue others and being crushed under countless falling tons of steel and cement.

    I didn’t go to work that day.

  3. I was working for a startup. Basement space is cheapest, that’s where we were. I had a long commute, so arrived at work after the first plane had hit the towers. Entry was through the cafeteria area, and there was a TV on in the corner with a half dozen people watching. Looked at it, remembered the day we lost the shuttle.

    Walked to my cube and drank coffee, did my job. Data warehouse production is like that, the data shows up whether you want to deal or not. And somehow, doing mundane normal shit was better than watching the same scene endlessly repeated. I was probably better off for learning most of the details when we had details to know, not just speculation. Or maybe it was just a workaholic retreating into his illness.

    I’m a Moslem. Once we knew what happened, all i could really think was, “What have we done to ourselves?” As an American, the shock of the attack and the deaths was almost easier to deal with. We have a force structure and intelligence arm that gives the US a chance to solve the problem. But how do i try to solve the problem in Islam? What influence do i have with Assad, Saddam, the House of Saud?

    I did a lot of soul searching that Ramadan. Fasting is good for your mental health. It reminds you that there is more to keeping you alive than just eating and earning your pay.

    Matya no baka

  4. I remember reading about the first plane on Drudge and thinking it was an accident. Then I checked back later and saw that it was an attack. Spent a lot of time glued to Internet and TV. Tried unsuccessfully to reach people I knew in NY and DC (all were OK, though I learned later that the brother of an acquaintance of mine was killed). Phones were unreliable, email worked great. Spoke with Lex at some point. It seemed obvious that we were now at war with the Taliban regime and its aiders and abbetters.

    I remember that I was annoyed, then and during the next few days, by how the TV networks kept replaying footage of the planes crashing and the WTC collapsing. I thought it was gratuitously cruel to the victims’ families. Now I wish they’d replay those videos, but the media long ago regained their composure and decided that it’s not in their interest to do so.

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