Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Whatever Tomorrow Brings

To commemorate the first anniversary of September 11, 2001, Cloudjammer's principals each relate, in their own way, where they were and what they felt that morning.

I got to work that morning an hour before any of my coworkers. On my drive into the city, I listened to the new Incubus CD, specifically their single Drive. In retrospect, I've found the stanza ironic:
Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
with open arms and open eyes.
I had my usual morning routine: respond to email, surf the web, check the news. At 8:30, the lead story on was something unmemorable – a missing intern, a comment by the Fed chairman, a critique of Powell's invisibility in the cabinet. I checked back two or three times before my coworkers started dragging in for our 9:00am staff meeting. I remember how, at about a quarter until 9, CNN's site wouldn't load.

Our office manager had just returned from London and one of the designers was preparing for an overseas flight later in the month. We joked about the incidence of plane crashes — we believed they always happened in threes. It had been a long while since a plane crash.

A freelance designer came in and stood in the hallway about ten yards away from our meeting area. He had a radio pressed against his ear but said nothing. One of the account managers came in late and told us that two planes had been in an accident at the World Trade Center. Must have been a Cessna or some other small plane.

All I remember about the meeting itself was that it was interrupted twice. The boss' cell phone rang the first time at about 9:15. It was his mother in Pittsburgh calling about the second plane crash at New York. She didn't have any details. She called again at 9:45. A plane had hit the Pentagon. We didn't need any details.

We scrambled to find a working TV. I ran back to the stereo system and got the radio on. The freelancer told me to put it on Star94.

Over the office stereo we heard frantic talk and a chilling statement: "The top of the tower just collapsed." It didn't make any sense.

We got a small TV working in the main conference room. I ran in and saw one tower standing amidst a fog of dust.

Just a minute ago I was laughing in the staff meeting. Just a minute ago I was shooting the breeze on another lazy workday morning. Where the hell did this come from? What the hell was going on?

We all just stood there and watched. By the time the other tower collapsed some people were crying, some numb. All the while our cell-phones rang. My girlfriend, Ann, had heard nothing of the attack on her car — NPR didn't carry the story. One of her coworkers was getting calls from friends in the military about missing planes. By the time the last plane crashed in Shanksville we were certain every city was under attack.

I called my father just before he was forced to evacuate the Inforum. I called a friend we were supposed to meet for lunch. I called Ann every ten minutes just to do something.

We rigged the projector and TV together, casting the news coverage five feet tall at the end of the conference room. Horrific. By lunch I couldn't take it any more. My family was home. I wanted to be there, too.

On the way home I listened to the same CD. I listened to radio coverage. All the way to Sandy Springs I drove under the same traffic alert sign. It's the most memorable image I have of Atlanta, that day. In yellow electric letters, every sign read the same: "National Emergency - ATL airport closed." Flags were hung over the Glenridge overpass.

I watched the news all evening with my small family. My grandfather, stricken by a stroke and limited in speech, just shook his head. Ann and I, both history majors, tried to absorb everything. This was our Pearl Harbor. The defining moment of our time.

That night, back at our apartment, we both talked about enlistment. We'd just closed on a house and were trying to start Cloudjammer, but that seemed so much less important , now. Everything did. We just wanted revenge — to kill every single person whose hand had guided this terror. fb

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