I was upstairs, putzing around on the interwebs. I may have even been on LJ. Anyway, I pottered downstairs and asked the wife if she wanted to go out and get breakfast. The summer season was pretty much over, the restaurant was only open weekends and I was in a celebratory mood that called for pancakes. I will never forget the look on her face. She was watching Good Morning America. Her face, the one I love beyond all others, was a picture of shock and grief. "A..a..a plane hit the WTC. They said it was a commuter plane, or something. But another plane just hit it again. Another plane just hit the WTC. It just flew into it. It just blew up" It was 9:04 AM and she was crying now. I, on the other hand was totally confused. I think my reaction was akin to "Whaaa..???" My mind was still contemplating on pancakes. I went over, sat next to her and tried to figure it out. She explained how it had been breaking news. A freak accident. But it looked really bad. Tragic. Then, the other plane. No one knew what was going on. It took me about two minutes and three viewings of the now ubiquitous images to see that we were under attack, that this was terrorism's finest hour. I didn't need Katie Couric to tell me so, it was self evident. "What does this mean??" "It means we are at war." We sat there together and watched, and watched. The rumors. Bin Laden, a name vaguely recalled. Afghanistan. Then, the Pentagon, more rumors, was it a helicopter crash? A bomb? No, another jetliner. More rumors, conjecture, punditry. We watched it all, time seemed strangely suspended. The endless repetition of those poor people's final seconds. Then, the first tower collapsed. She was distraught, I was completely incredulous. "How many people?" "I don't know," I said, but my heart said, "10K, or more." "Is is going to stop??" "I don't know," I said, but my heart said, "No." Then the second tower collapsed. We couldn't watch anymore. It was time to get out of the house.
We decided to go see her sister, who lives just a few blocks away. Unbelievably, she and my brother-in-law had no clue that anything was amiss. They had been forced by my three year-old niece to watch Teletubbies all morning. Disbelief, explanations, shock, opinions. More tears. My niece's confusion and sadness at our grief...touching but also heartbreaking, her world was changed and she would never remember any different one.
We went to breakfast. I got my pancakes and ate them mechanically. Everyone was subdued, the conversation, which included nearly all the staff and diners, was serious. Everyone knew someone in the city. We began to worry about our friends. It dawned on us that we needed to start making phone calls. We totaled up 17 people who were close to us, who we knew well, who either worked or lived in NYC. Three actually worked in the WTC or WFC. One family lived in Chelsea. Several were employees at college at NYU, Fordam, or Columbia. Others commuted into the city, landing at Chelsea piers and walking to work. It was agonizing, leaving messages, waiting for calls back. It took till 10PM that night for the last person to check in, but we were lucky, everyone on our list was OK. Their stories, some amusing, some quite shockingly horrible, I won't go into.
We wound up at home again. I don't think we turned on the TV for quite a while. We went up to the beach, and looked at the clear, blue beautiful day. A perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky, except for a dull smudge of smoke along the northern horizon. Not an airplane in the sky now either, except for the occasional fighter jet flying north toward the smoke.