By: Garry Hamilton
It was a Tuesday. The sun wasn’t really up yet. I was getting ready to head over to the east side to do the paperwork for a new job. It was a three-month contract, but that’s how things were in late 2001, in the early trailing edge of what people were calling the “dot-com bubble.”
“Hey, babe? You might wanna see this; they’re saying a plane just hit the World Trade Center. There’s video.”
I wasn’t really dressed yet, but I couldn’t get a straight answer to “what happened?” and I figured the video would give me a better idea.
Fumbling with the tie. I’d almost gotten back in the habit while I was coding over at the Supreme Court. At least that was west-side downtown, unlike this new job in Tempe with its 45-minute commute.
Summer was “officially” over, but those of us driving across the west Phoenix valley floor knew better. We still left our windows open a bit, covered the steering wheel, and parked in whatever shade was available.
Yup, sure enough, there was a big ass hole near the top of one of the towers, smoke billowing out, some flames … no, this was not a “small craft” collision. Something big made that hole.
“Damn, babe, that had to be an airliner! Jesus! What a mess!”
“What…? There’s another…? What the hell?”
“That sunnofabitch flew that straight in! That was no accident! Holy shit!”
Things are a little blurry after that. By the time I hit the road, the first tower was down.
Later, while I was filling out paperwork, the second tower fell. The mood was a bizarre mixture of disbelief, anger, and confusion, all while maintaining professional composure. Nobody really had any appetite for work, we were just going through the motions, eyes spending more time on the TV — little black-n-white thing up in the corner — than on the paperwork itself.
I headed home. I would spend most of the evening in front of the TV. And the next night. And the next.
Tomorrow would be my first day on this new job, writing language extensions for an interpreter running on Unix, something I’d never done before. It would be interesting work. Challenging.
But right now I couldn’t seem to get my thoughts marshaled for that.
All I could think of was that someone had attacked us, using a “b-movie plot” lifted from a Tom Clancy novel. And we weren’t ready.
And I wasn’t ready.
The ensuing weeks were surreal. I went to work, I came home, I went to work. My wife suddenly became a researching blogger in addition to her client work. Eventually, this would become a new way of life for her. I would continue to work for people whose businesses made a point of not having a position about it.
The events of that Tuesday would change who our friends were, and the kinds of conversations we’d have.
It’s been 17 years. We’ve marched off to war. We’ve engaged in ever increasing security theater.
It’s been expensive, political, unifying, divisive, and exhausting.
I’m still not convinced we’re ready.