Saturday, September 10, 2011

On that day

I was at work on the 14th floor of Tandy Tower One, drinking coffee, when somebody from the quality control lab said that a plane had just hit the Trade Center. We went on yakking, thinking it must have been a Cessna, when somebody said that the whole tower was on fire. We were watching on a TV in the lab when the second plane hit the other tower.

I spent the next couple of hours (in between intermittent attempts at doing work) trying to call my buddy Jay, who lived at One University Place, in the shadow of the towers. When I finally got hold of him, he said, "My wife and I just watched the second tower collapse from the roof of our building. We're going to donate blood."

That it happened was no surprise, only the where/when. After the first attempt to blow up the towers in '93, when I was a recent military separatee, I told another ex-Air Force guy I worked with, "This isn't over. This is just the beginning." Still, on that day, I remember thinking, "This is the one thing I didn't want to see in my lifetime. Now this country will be at war for the rest of my children's lives."

"Why do they hate us?" wasn't really a question, either. As a service member overseas, I'd observed the exportation of American culture to lands and people to whom it was foreign, and the lack of respect most of my fellow GIs held for those people and their customs and traditions. I was recently reminded of this watching Kurosawa's High and Low, where the industrialist's luxurious house on the hill inspires the hatred of the poor medical student living in squalor in its shadow.

What should be remembered, in my opinion, besides the lives of the innocent people that were lost and the heroic sacrifice of the first responders and those who labored for years afterward, at their own peril, to repair the damage, is the way we as a people seemed, if not more united, at least temporarily inclined, for a few weeks after the traumatic shock, to treat each other with kindness and decency.


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