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Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 + 5 years

Five years ago this morning, a little before 9 AM, I was crashed asleep on the couch in my apartment in Asheville when the phone rang. It was Mom, asking me if I was watching TV. After working the night before and then up 'til late helping with some major news stuff on the website I used to staff on, I'd only gotten to bed around 2 in the morning. So I mumbled something about "no, just woke up". She said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. The first thing that came to mind was that it was probably an accident: I was envisioning some small private plane crashing into it, like that military one that hit the Empire State Building years ago. "Accident"... that's what I first thought about.

"And then another plane hit the other tower a few minutes later."


Now, that's no accident.

I could share what happened the rest of the day, but in going over old posts I realized that I'd already written out a really good synopsis of what happened to me that day two years ago, so instead of reiterating it here I'll let you go there and read if you feel led to do so.

But there is one thing from that day that I'll post here: the America Online Instant Messenger chat between "Weird" Ed and I that took place a short while later. I'm still writing from my apartment in this and he's at work. This starts just a few minutes before the towers fell...

Chris: was taking a nap this morning: it was a big night for TFN, we had our TPM DVD coverage. i was taking a nap when Mom called and said to watch this

Chris: now reporting a car bomb exploded outside the State Dept. building

Ed: yeah, I had heard something right before I came back to my office...

Chris: the WTC towers are leaning to one side now

Chris: one might collapse entirely

Ed: I had heard that they have already collapsed...or at least the top sections had

Ed: but I am watching the CSpan feed and wondering why there are so many stupid people in this country

Chris: they're "sheeple"

Chris: they think and say just as they're told to say

Chris: what the...

Chris: ummm did i miss something just now?

Ed: what are you talking about?

Chris: wasn't there a tower there just a few seconds ago?

Ed: *nod* the live feed on CSpan just showed it collapse....like the implosions I have seen on TV..

Chris: i mean... all i'm seeing now is

Ed: the top just fell onto the rest of the building and it went down...

Chris: Ed... oh holy [expletive], smoke's going ALL over the city

Ed: *nod*

Chris: man this is too much. i've never said "f" like that before

Chris: holy [expletive]

Chris: it's...

Chris: Ed are you seeing this?

Chris: we just saw the World Trade Center... just go

Ed: *nod*
There's much, much more from that day. Throughout the day I had AOL IM conversations with Ed, Chad, my Mom, my sister, and my friend Deborah (who I'd only known through the Internet but got to meet her and her family a few months later at Star Wars Celebration II). The only time I left my apartment was to drop in on my two landladies for a bit (by far two of the sweetest ladies I've ever known :-) and then to work in the computers department at the Best Buy in Asheville for a few hours, where the total number of customers we had that day could be numbered on one hand. Then it was back to the apartment where I talked with Chad - who was working at the CNN Building in Atlanta - until past 1 in the morning on the 12th.

I saved every single one of those AIM conversations, just like I've always done. But the ones from that day are particularly... haunting. Someday I'm going to share those with my children, so that they can get an idea of something about what it was that we went through that terrible day. If nothing else even as personal correspondence they're a primary historical source... and I've no doubt there are multitudes of other stories out there from that day.

Anyway, since today's the fifth anniversary I thought that since everyone else is recapping what they were doing that day, that I might as well share my own story. As for any personal commentary, I will only say this: that 9/11 was the greatest criminal act that has ever happened on United States soil that so far has still gone unpunished. Those responsible for it have still not been brought to justice... and probably never will so long as our attention is being directed elsewhere. In the meantime since then, it can only be said that whatever Osama Bin Laden was trying to do in orchestrating the attacks, he was successful... because he made the United States capitulate to him by becoming a nation in fear instead of a nation resolved.

We were angry as hell five years ago today. We should still be angry: at those who did this to us as well as those who exploited it for their own selfish interests. I said it on this blog yesterday and I'll say it again: America is not supposed to be a land that spies on its own people or harasses young and old at airports or does anything else that our founders tried their best to steer us away from.

This isn't the country that existed on September 10th, 2001. And there's no reason why it can't be again, either.