Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Celebrating" 9/11

A dozen years ago already.  Almost last century.

And I remember the sirens.

New York is, has always been, a hot bed of decibels.  Among other gruesome sounds and noises, sirens forever going off ... but on this date twelve years ago, as I sat on the Upper West Side near Lincoln Center, literally miles away from "Ground Zero", they weren't just hitting-and-running through my consciousness.  They were becoming embedded.

As the 9am hour began that day, on September 11th, 2001, the sirens kept coming and going off -- police cars, fire trucks and ambulances -- and coming from all sides:  from uptown, downtown, east and west ...

A cacophony, full arsenal, of howling sirens that crisp, blue morning, as I finished my bagel and sat wasting time, told me something substantial, and amiss, was occurring.

I was freelancing then (as I still freelance), but not working steadily.  One of my regular clients was an audio visual company installed with an office on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center, in the North Tower.  When that tower collapsed -- taking with it the office (where I'd arrived for a job just two days earlier) ... as well as the renowned Windows on The World restaurant and several friends and colleagues -- I was back home, having my every suspicion confirmed.  The sirens were right:  something massive was happening.

"Views on Freedom", ©Jeff Glovsky
A dozen years later.  Older.  Unwiser.

I think of the years in between with regret; of the lack of substantial forward movement career-wise, creatively, living-wise ... conjugally.  Businesses and a marriage failing, friends (and colleagues) come and gone ...

I think, twelve years later, of every nook and corner of the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower, which my client, the in-house AV company, serviced ... and what I might've been doing just before 9am if I'd worked that day (and not two days earlier):  Sitting, sipping coffee, reading a newspaper, maybe doing a crossword ... waiting for the day's first meeting to begin, so I could unmute a podium microphone (then go back to my crossword!); then truly gruesome, hot decibel noise:  explosions, heat, fires, bewilderment, panic ... Where would I have run to die?

Knowing myself, I probably would not have piled into a crowded, dark and smoke-filled stairwell to begin a slow-motion descent from the 106th floor; or I certainly would have been loathe to do so, and likely remained put, trying to wait things out ('Let's see what happens').

As certainly, I would not have run and plunged for oxygen.  No matter how fresh air seemed to be evaporating, throwing myself out a window from the 106th floor wouldn't have crossed my mind as an option:  if the stairwell was unpalatable, trying to take flight, to this day, remains inconceivable.

Now possibly (also knowing myself) ... I might have been downstairs already, out on the street - buying coffee or a newspaper, or using a payphone, when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed in, at roughly 500 miles per hour ... but really, who knows?

John F. Puckett did not have time to think things through.  Neither did Christine Olender, and 1,358 others above the 92nd floor.  I wouldn't have either.  Who does?  Who would?

All I know for certain is that I'm still here ... my flailing life, (e)strange(d), beautiful wife ... friends, family, my dreams and prayers.  And in the 'Big Picture' scheme of things, that's what I celebrate each September 11th - and the other 364 days also.