by Gustav's Electric Cafe,posted Sep 11 2008 5:41PM
The Pentagon (early Oct. '01)
One could surmise that it's human nature to recall where you were during certain national or global periods of duress. People remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, when the Space Shutle Challenger exploded, when they first heard about Kurt Cobain. Fires, floods, earthquakes... they're all like dramatic placeholders in our lives. Perhaps they're there to serve the mere purpose of reminding us of our own mortality. The idea that our lives are precious and easily disrupted things, and lives that we should be grateful for each and every day. You would be hard pressed to find a person who does not remember where they were on that fateful Tuesday morning 7 years ago.
Myself, I was on the air as the events of September 11th unfolded. Our morning show had been out partying with a band the night before, and we had all rolled in to work on very little sleep and nursing quite the collective hangover. Even before we hit the air at 6:00 am, the reports had already started coming in. To be honest, I don't think that we were too certain of what to do at the time. All we knew was a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. Perhaps it was our own collective denial that made us first dismiss it as perhaps a Cesna and a lost pilot. When we learned it was a commercial airliner, and then heard about the second plane, that's when our world changed.
For the next several hours, in stunned disbelief, we did our best to stay focused and give a play by play of the information that we were getting, as well as taking phone calls and quickly arranging for interviews. Music and commercials were quickly pushed to the side as other events took precedence. The most poignant concern for both Daria and myself was the fact that we had brothers who lived in New York City. My brother was a bike messenger at the time, and as far as I knew, had been known to make deliveries to the financial district. When I got the chance, I tried calling him on his cell phone. Amazingly, it actually rang, but he didn't pick up. All I could think of to say in the message was "Hey, I hope you're ok. Call me when you can. I love you." Upon hanging up, I thought of the millions of others who were perhaps doing exactly the same thing that morning... leaving messages for their loved ones, some of which would never be returned. My roommate from college worked in Washington D.C. for the government, so I tried placing a call to him as well. Washington D.C. for me had been one big busy signal, as had New York for the rest of that day.
Fast forward to a few weeks later, and our morning show was on a plane to New York City where we'd spend a week broadcasting and taking in the entire experience first hand. Visiting Ground Zero was an experience that words for me can barely describe. There was a tremendous amount of destruction, but the amazing thing to me was how localized it all seemed to be. There was still a lot of dust around on the ground. I found myself rubbing my eyes and getting a dry throat after a few minutes. I'm not sure if it was the dust in the area, or my own feelings. What struck me the most about the city at that time was the fact that for a brief moment in all of our lives, we had put all of our differences aside and embraced a sort of "collective spirit" as I like to think of it. I recall walking slowly among the endless sea of photos of lost ones posted on walls of surrounding buildings and wondering how many of them had been found. I glanced at an older orthodox Jewish gentleman engaged in a quiet conversation with a skate punk in his '20s. At one point, they embraced for a long hug before going their separate ways. For an instant, I had thought about reaching for my camera to capture this unlikely moment, but then quickly decided that it was a memory that was better not committed to a photograph. I don't think that any photo could have conveyed that feeling, but those two people from completely different outlooks on life, finding the time to talk with each other and embrace... that to me was the spirit of 9/11.
With that said, it is my hopes that we as an American people can look back upon the events that bring us together, those events where we always remember where we were, and push on with a renewed sense of hope and ideal. It's an amazing time of change that we're on the cusp of, but one that we should move forward in to without forgetting events of the past, and especially those who are no longer with us.