Sep 11, 2009

We all fall down

I know you all are probably going to see a lot of these kind of posts today.  Feel free to skip it if you so desire.  It's just something I've never really talked about before and it started writing itself one day last week.  I was gonna turn off comments, but I never really like doing that.  And I'm not sure what I am saying is what I really wanted to say, but I still felt better after typing it all out than I did beforehand. - Earl

I was a 34 year-old man/child the morning that the planes hit the Towers.  Mostly child.

I was on my way to work a little late that day after golfing 9 holes in the morning with a friend of mine. I had just pulled into the parking lot when reports came in of a small commuter plane hitting one of the Twin Towers. A very close friend worked in the South Tower so I called him immediately to see if he was okay. The phone rang for a few minutes and then went to voice mail. I figured everything was fine.  It had to be.  The alternative was unthinkable. 

Then the voice on the radio said that it wasn't a small commuter plane, but a large passenger jet. And then the awful news that another jet had hit the second tower.  The unthinkable had occurred. 

Everything changed after that.

I've never really talked about it with anyone besides Gia, but I'm still not over the events of that day. I doubt I will ever be over them.  My friend made it out of there alive as did just about everyone else I know who could have perished that day. My uncle had the day off as did my brother in-law who works as a NYC firefighter. His company, however, lost a few souls. As did most stations.  He, of course, jumped in his car and spent the next several days in a Hell that I cannot begin to imagine.

I don't remember a lot of specific events from that day.  No time line of specific events.  No lasting images burned into my memory.  Well, mostly.

I do remember the look on the face of one of the women who worked for me when she said that the towers were falling. She just wanted to go home and be with her family. I didn't blame her.  Had it not been for that moment, I probably would have already forgotten about her entirely.  She was that kind of faceless colleague.  Faceless no longer.

I drove around aimlessly that afternoon. I was gonna try to get to my friend's home in Queens to make sure he was okay, but most of the roads were closed except for emergency vehicles. But I made it close enough to the city to see and smell the smoke before being turned around by the police.  In retrospect, I wish I had just stayed closer to home.

I can't help but think how my life has changed since then. I was a corporate workaholic when that day began.  80 hour work weeks weren't uncommon, nor were Sundays spent in the office.  It's just what I did.  I didn't even think about it.  Within a year I was working from home and vowing never to work in an office again.  Not because what happened on 9/11 might happen again, but because I had turned a page.

Everything hasn't turned out exactly the way I hoped.  I'm certainly not doing as well financially as I was before.  But I have Gia, and that makes up for a lot.  I don't really know if anything would be different had we not been attacked that day.  I really don't.  But if the changes in my life since that day are a coincidence, then it's a pretty strong coincidence.

One odd reminder of the day is a recurring dream I have.  Some of the details change, but the main gist of the dream is always the same.  I'm a successful professional living and working in NYC.  I've been a doctor, a stock broker, a lawyer and even a pitcher for the Yankees.  I'm on my way to work when the Towers get hit.  Instead of continuing on toward work, I head over to Ground Zero to help with the rescue effort.  I spend what seems like days helping the rescue professionals do their thing before I am finally sent home.  I always take the subway and I'm shocked to see that everyone is already going on with their lives.  They don't even notice that I am caked in dust and soot.  But I don't go home.  I go straight to work and head to the bathroom to clean up.  The dream always ends with me resuming whatever job it was that I was doing before that day.  At a desk trading stocks, pitching in Yankee Stadium, meeting with patients at a hospital.  I had moved on.

If only it was that simple.


Kaye Waller said...

Thank you for sharing your story.

Kaye Waller said...

It seems to me that in your dream you are taking on the identities of the "everyman", the people who worked in the towers and labored with the rescue and cleanup.

Just a thought.

Verdant Earl said...

Steph - I think, in general, I am the everyman. Not just in my dreams, but in real life. So I'm not sure that's the deal in that recurring dream.

Poppy said...

Money is so not important. Live for happiness.

Damn you for making me cry at 6:45 in the morning.

Anonymous said...

I rarely say this because I feel that it's often a cop-out but...


I really mean that. :)

Anonymous said...

I know this sounds really screwed, but I feel like one can't REALLY understand and be TRULY affected by what happened that day unless you were in this area. I still get a little freaked out around this time of year....

Candy's daily Dandy said...

Tragedy has a way of snapping us back to reality.

Great post Earlsie.

sybil law said...

My cousin, John, worked in the first tower. He was late to work that day - and thank God for it.
I will never, ever get over that day. Not sure any of us really will - especially you, being so close to it. I can't imagine.

Slyde said...

9/11 still royally fucks me up.

Like Bellaventa said, i dont think anyone else around the world can really see what 911 did to those of us who lived in its shadow.

I know you remember Rich's cousin Scott, who died in the towers. He had just gotten married. I also didnt hear from my cousin Joe till 4pm that day. i was sure he was dead too.

I was going to put up a 9/11 post too today, but i just dont have the strength to write it. well done.

Mrs. Hall said...

Excellent post. I think you living there, turns all of it into reality today.

And my heart goes to you. So glad you have Gia. So glad you chose not to keep working 80hours a week.

That's not a real life.

Glad you are now living yours :)

Paticus said...

Nice post.
Thanks for sharing this.


Verdant Earl said...

Poppy - sorry about that. I usually wait until Noon before I try to make women cry.

Hilly - thanks.

Bella - not sure I agree with that. A song than never ceases to make me cry is Sleater-Kinney's "Far Away" which is about just that.

Candy - just read your post. ::sniff::

John - I can't even imagine how it must feel to have been one of the "lucky ones" who were late for work that day.

Slyde - I remember Scott. He was one of the geek twins, right?

Holly - Gia IS a blessing.

Paticus - Peace backatcha.

hello haha narf said...

love to you, my friend.

(when the twin towers were hit my mom called across town (here in pittsburgh) just to hear my voice. when the plane went down about an hour's drive from here mom called back and asked me to go to her work. our office was sent home early, a little after 10 am. i drove to mom's hospital thinking it was stupid to go to the other end of town. when i walked in and saw her face i understood. and it seems i needed to see her as much as she needed to see me. more than i knew. mom was a cancer nurse and all the patients and other nurses sort of treated me like the family they wished they could be with that awful day.)

Nanna said...

No words. Wish hugs would transmit over the Internet.

Verdant Earl said...

Becky - I think a lot of families did the same thing that day, no matter where they live.

Nanna - they need to work on that technology. :)

Heff said...

I can't imagine having been anywhere CLOSE to that tragedy, but I still remember all the events like it all happened yesterday.

Jennifer and Sandi said...

I too will never forget the day. My brother just got out of a 13 hour surgery to remove a orange size tumor from his brain and we were all waiting for the Dr's approve to go see him that morning. That's when I was sitting on the couch at home drinking a cup of coffee and watched it live on CNN I was scared to even drive to the hospital to see how my brother came out of surgery. Cars were pulling onto the shoulders of the hwy as the word spread. Scary day. My brother survived the procedure with little side effects!

I enjoyed reading your post today!
Thanks - Jennifer

Michelle said...

Thank you Earl for sharing this post with the world. Very well written and really makes me think how lucky we all are to be here 8 years later to talk about it.

Thanks bro!!! Big hugs to you!!!

Poppy said...

Robin (Bella) - I wish we could trade our feelings-experience of that day so you understand how absolutely terrified I was. I do know it didn't happen to me, but I am an empathizer, so even when things don't happen to me I feel them like they did. I'm sure you still win on the fear quota, but I'm guessing we'd come a lot closer than you expect.

I won't ever write it down, but I'd gladly implant my experience into your brain so you could test it out.

Faiqa said...

I don't think one can move on... especially when it was so close. I'm glad you shared this. I think more people like you should share their feelings... so that we truly understand the meaning of the phrase "we will never forget."