Yesterday, I read a handful of recollections from 9-11-01. The heroes.  The fortunate ones who, for whatever twist of perverse fate, narrowly avoided tragedy by being out of work that day.  Those who lost someone or someones. So I thought I would capture my story on the 21st-century equivalent of paper.

Fair warning: my story is boring. I was safely in the Midwest, as were all of my family members (except for those who were in the Deep South).  The friends of mine that were in New York or D.C. were out of harm’s way and quickly able to communicate via email. And yet, I remember my personal minutiae of that day as though it were nine hours ago.

Two months prior, I had moved five hours west from Cincinnati to St. Louis.  I was still having doubts about said move. It wasn’t for family or for a boy or even for a job; I was in fact keeping my same job and telecommuting from five hours away. I had just wanted to return to my roots and my dear old friends.

My dear old friends, while dear, were also at a different life point.  I, single, had an apartment in the city.  They, married, had homes in the suburbs.  They had husbands and bigger jobs and priorities that often didn’t include me, which was understandable. But my understanding of this didn’t exactly keep me from being lonely.  I had recently met a group of single, city-based girlfriends, but we weren’t exactly close just yet.  I was also very casually dating a guy I’d met at a bar at around 2:30 a.m. (when everyone does their best date-screening).  He was polite and generous and sweet and I didn’t care about him one bit.

So there’s the backdrop.  I was up early in my second bedroom-slash-office, hard at work writing about investment strategies. As was the custom at my old company, an email preceded by two asterisks (**) simply meant “the subject is all there is to the email; no need to open the mail.”  Around 8:50, an email comes from our CEO: “**AA plane has flown into the World Trade Center”  Oh-kay.  Horrific pilot error, everyone thought.  American Airlines stock will plummet.  My God.  The poor passengers.  Unsettled, I continue to work.

Fifteen minutes later: “**A second plane has flown into the World Trade Center.”  What the f*ck. No idea what’s going on in my office hours away but I had to get to a television.  Jogged out to my living room; phone begins to ring.  It’s my best friend, one of those for whom I’d moved to St. Louis, inquiring about whether our close Brooklyn-based friend worked in or near the WTC.  We didn’t think so.

Ignoring my computer, I sit with phone to my head and television on.  The towers collapse. I decide I need to get the f*ck out of my apartment. Not for fear, but for human, non-digital interaction.

I drove my car on a beautiful early-fall day to a local pub, Tom’s Bar and Grill. Bellied up to the bar.  Ate a taco salad.  One beer and several ice teas. Chatted for 3-4 hours with those who had come to do the same.  Mostly middle-aged men.  One bankruptcy lawyer and his friend.  These were my new best friends, and I knew I’d never see them again.  The guy I was halfway dating (who, my middle-aged friends advised me, needed dumping based solely on my obvious apathy) called me from his business trip to the West Coast and said he’d be on a flight home the next day.  Had he even been paying attention to the news, I thought? He ended up stranded for three more days before renting a car and driving cross-country.

My home the afternoon of 9/11

My home the afternoon of 9/11

I didn’t work for the rest of the week as the stock markets were closed. I cleaned and shopped and cooked. I called everyone that meant anything to me, no matter if they lived in Cincinnati or Tennessee or California.  I wore red white and blue topped by my ex-boyfriend’s Yankees cap that had an embellished American flag. People looked at me sympathetically as though I were a legitimate New York resident on vacation in the heartland. I felt like a poseur.

I felt shaken and sad and terrified but strangely alive and inspired by the patriotism that swelled universally. Everyone exchanged those sad smiles like you do at funerals. The restaurants and parks were full of people appreciating the company of loved ones. Revenge wasn’t even on the table; solidarity and survival were paramount.

Writing this, I’m almost sadder on September 12, 2010 than I was on September 12, 2001. The palpable sense of hope that rose up from such tragedy has been completely eradicated in such a relatively short time.  Divided we fall, people.

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