Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 -- Where were you?

I was asleep taking an early snooze on that fateful day when I was awakened by the ringing of a phone. Groggily I answered in a gruff tone which stated that I was annoyed at being woke up. A long time friend of mine was on the other end.

"Turn on the TV!" was all she said. I was wondering what could be so important. Nothing was planned by NASA so we could not have lost another shuttle. No wars were ongoing so I figured it had to be a take over of another bank as I was involved in the financial industry at the time.

"A plane hit the world trade center" she said to me and as I turned on the TV and tuned in CNN, her words began to sink in. I was still groggy as I laid down on my couch but the sleep was slowly fading from my body.

"Oh My God" was all I could say. I knew people in there. Many people. Oh my, oh my. It could not be possible. As we sat there wondering what was going on, another plane slammed into the second tower of the World Trade Center. I jumped from the couch as the sounds echoed through the TV and the Announcer started to calmly say that a second plane had struck the World Trade Center.

"Jesus! Did you see that?!" I asked knowing full well she had seen. I had to gather my wits at this point. I knew my former company, Goldman Sachs had moved out 18 months earlier but all the people from Knight Ridder were in there. Having worked with many of their people in the Market Data installations that we performed on many trading floors around Tokyo, I was suddenly flush with worry that they people I knew were in imminent danger.

We both sat there with the phones to one ear, taking in everything visually and from the announcers on the TV. It was so overwhelming that tears began to flow. America was under attack. The news flashed the news that one more plane had hit the Pentagon. Gees, I thought to myself. How many planes are going to crash?

By this point I was looking for answers which I knew would not come any time soon. It was to be another two weeks before I totally understood the relevance of that moment but like millions of other people around the world, I became very engrossed in the reporting, looking for any new tidbit of news that could explain exactly what happened.

Of course, the whole time, I was also secretly hoping that it had all been a dream and that I would wake up from this nightmare sometime soon. But the news reports continued, another plane crash in a field in Pennsylvania. That was four planes. Out of the 6000 or so in the US actually in the air at that time, why these four planes.

News, more news, and more. I couldn't get enough. I was addicted and I had to have answers. I laid on that couch for the full two weeks not sure why this happened but then suddenly I started watching the first baseball games that were being played after the attacks. It was then that I too woke up and said I had to go on. Friends died but now we were going after the bad guys and we were going on with our lives again.

It was these moments of realization which pushed forward the agenda which I had been afraid of when Bush took over the presidency. Hunan Island and 9/11 had just been a minor precursor to what the world was about to witness. Shock and Awe. But I thought that had already occurred but then the building exploding in downtown Bagdad on live TV told me we were in this war now. Grainy green colored videos of battles with the tracers floating gracefully towards their targets with devastating effect. Military hardware and building erupting into a ball of flame shooting black smoke and fire skyward. It was these images which stuck with me.

I decided to go do what I could for my country and even though I was too old to be in the military there were still plenty of civilian positions available, especially as we ramped up for war. I was to do my part as were many in my family and those of my friends who I grew up with. Now all these years later, I wonder if it had been worth it.

We are still in the wars, no end in site. People have forgotten why we started these wars and they have become apathetic again. But all we have to do is look to Islamabad and we suddenly realize that the baddies are still out there and we need to go forth and kick some butt in that old fashioned American style. And lest we forget, 9/11 is the reason for it all.