Ten years ago today, I woke up for work to my clock radio set to NPR. Michele Norris or one of the newscasters was talking about something major in New York City.
It was a typical day in Chicago. I woke up around 7:15 or 7:30.
On the radio, Michelle was saying, “Smoke is rising from one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center,” she explained. “At this point, it appears to be an accident. A plane has crashed into one of the buildings. We don’t have any more information.”
I walked over to the TV. I turned it on. I never watched TV in the morning. But I figured something like this must be covered by regular TV. I didn’t have cable.
As soon as I turned the TV on, I saw images of what the radio voices were describing. Smoke was rising from near the top of a New York City building. I was ignorant of the New York skyline, so it was Greek to me.
In the voices of the radio personalities, there was definitive panic behind the “calm.”
I grabbed the phone. I called Tina. She picked up.
“Hello?” she said.
“Did you hear the news?”
“I’m looking at it now.” She had been on a morning TV kick for a couple months, and they were covering the story … just like everybody else.
We were on the phone when the cameras were pointed at the building. Eery black smoke wafted from it. Suddenly an airplane entered screen left and hit the other tower.
Profanities flew from my mouth. “Holy shit, did you see that?”
Tina said yes.
We watched in awe as the newscasters tried to say that this must have been a coincidental accident on the same day into the other building. At that point, no one knew anything about anything.
After a few moments, I said, “I’ll call you back. I gotta call my parents.”
I called my parents’ home line. My mom picked up. I was panicking. I asked if she’d seen the news. She said yes. Her words were something to the effect of, “They did it again.”
Key word: “They”.
“Who’s the ‘they’, Mom?” I asked.
She explained it was the same people who bombed the World Trade Center in the 90s. Back then, I didn’t give a shit about such things. I guess I didn’t care. I was a dumb Christian at a dumb school at the time.
Mom explained that the Muslims were probably to blame.
I knew shit about Islam.
At the time, I was a robot. Despite the world changing catastrophic event, I looped my tie, pulled it tight, and went to work. I caught a bus. Pushed myself on a train. It was run of the mill.
At one point, a guy got a phone call. He answered. He said, “In New York? Really?” He hung up and said to a nearby passenger, “Something happened in New York.” The other person said, “What?”
He said, “A plane flew into a building.”
“You didn’t hear?” I piped up. “Two planes flew into buildings in New York City.” I didn’t explain that “They” did it.
I was surprised so many people didn’t know about the attacks. It seemed that the majority of people didn’t know anything. I felt like a celebrity of sorts explaining to the group what happened.
After I got to work, everyone was in the know. People were panicking. The building I worked in was surrounded with cops as it was one of the biggest buildings in the city (but not the tallest).
Soon after the towers collapsed, there was an announcement that we could leave work. I was so scared and out of my mind, I left without Tina.
After a few hours, Tina and I met at her place.
Then, just like everyone else, we watched the news for the next week as America picked up the pieces.
My view of the world would never be the same. I’m not sure many Americans felt any differently.
9/11 gave me the strength to walk away from religion and faith.
For others, it made their faith stronger.