Wednesday, September 10, 2003

My friend Juan Diaz said something to me a while back that I thought was kind of odd at the time, but now I agree with him. Juan said, "I never felt like it was the 21st Century until the day of September 11th."
Juan told me this in early 2002, I think. And at the time, I kind of nodded solemnly but wasn't really sure what he meant. But I've figured it out, and I know what he means. Unlike all of us who laughed at how much 1999 was like 2000, he had been sitting on his hands waiting for a watershed event to define the 21st Century. I mean, why wouldn't he have been disappointed in everything up until 9-11? We'd been promised massive blackouts, massive fiscal collapse and an enduring nightmare scenario to spark at midnight on December 31st, 1999. And I remember holding my breath as we crossed over to 2000, exhaling in a scream as I, and the 30 odd folks I was with, realized the earth was not going to open up and swallow us.
It was the last really good party I remember. I stayed late, til 4:00am, drank champagne, didn't get sick, walked home and fell over in the middle of 45th street east of Duval. I have no idea how long I laid there clinging to the pavement, greatful for the shining promise of the 21st century.

I woke up in a Las Vegas hotel room on the morning of September 11th, 2001. Jamie and I were on our first vacation in over a year. The economy had already started to falter, and she had officially been terminated from her job on September 7th. We had some money and we went.

Sometime around 8:30am Mountain time, I was in the john, doing my morning duties when my brother called my cell phone. I assumed it was work, asking me to fix some technical issue or other from a distance. I shouted for Jamie to pick it up. "It's Jason," she said thru the door.
"He said something about a plane crash..." she was holding the phone out to me.
"Turn on the TV," he said.
"Turn on the TV," I said.
"What?" she asked.
"Why?" I asked.
"Turn on your TV. A plane ran into the World Trade Center."
"Jesus Christ. Was it-"
"I don't think it was an accident--"
"On purpose. Yeah."
"Turn on the TV," I said.
"Why?" she asked.
"Turn on the fucking TV."
She didn't want to, or she was confused or something... but if my brother called at 8:30 in the morning when he was supposed to be at work... and if he... and she wouldn't turn it on...
We talked for a few minutes, but here's the truth... we were on Mountain time, I guess, and so it had to have been almost 10:30 Eastern time... but I don't know when the towers actually fell. I don't know if I was watching re-runs, or what I was watching. I have no idea if I saw it in real time or not, and it doesn't really matter.
But I knew I was in a Las Vegas hotel room, a thousand miles from home.
I tried to call a car rental company within the hour. I remember that. I knew we weren't flying anywhere. But the cars were all already gone. I called my folks, I called my brother, I called work... anything... Nobody wanted to talk. We were okay, they were okay, call us if you need anything....
We got breakfast, sitting in the diner of the casino at the Luxor, watching folks just going about their business. Nobody knew on the floor. Nobody had the slightest clue but the guys watching the television screens who were betting on the dogs and the horses.
The waitress looked at us with wide eyes. She must have known we knew. I wondered how many tables she'd been to this morning... Hi, coffee and water? Oh, and there are thousands dead in New York, the Pentagon is smoking and a plane load of folks incinerated in a dell in Pennsylvania. Cream with that?
"Nobody knows..." I said.
"Maybe not."
"Jesus Christ, you'd think they'd care more if they knew. You'd think they could quit gambling for two fucking seconds..."
"Everyone does things differently," she said. And she's right.
We stayed holed up in the hotel room for two more days just watching the news. We'd go get a meal, hang out on the casino floor or whatever for a while, and I'd want to go back and see what they were saying. The projected body count dropped that first day from the 10's of thousands to 10 thousand or less.
I watched folks still gambling, still going about their business. We went to a show the night afterward. I felt sick to my stomach the whole time and I wanted to get out and go. I stayed under the covers or sat at the edge of the bed and I wanted to ge the hell out of Nevada. And we did. Eventually.
But that flight home, with the nervous faces and everyone... everyone ready to go down swinging so that this should not ever, ever happen again...
But this is all about me and what happened to me, which wasn't anything.

Tomorrow and tonight and all week, they're going to replay the footage we're all familiar with. And dead people's families are going to fill our television screens.
So tomorrow I'm committing to a day of silence here at The League. I'm not going to ask what we've done since then, and I'm not going to ask if we're any safer. I'm not going to debate the politics or put a flag around the site for a day. I'm not going to try to say anything about everyone or anyone who died, because I didn't know them, and that's well worn territory. So I'm going to be quiet, and I'm going to shut up for once.



New York

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