Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Obligatory September 11 Post

I'm posting it a little early, since tomorrow I will be busy watching football.

Yet I remember 9/11/01 as if it were yesterday.  Amazing, that.

I was in my first year of law school, only a few weeks into the semester, and still new to Chicago.  I was living in Old Town, in a one bedroom highrise on LaSalle, just north of Division.  On that day, I had Contracts at 9 a.m.  It was an attendance based class, so you had to show up.  While I was getting read for class every morning, I watched the Today show.  (I no longer watch Today.  It is out of control with the crazy.)  That day was no different.  My only television was in my living room, so as I was going in and out of the bathroom and my bedroom, I would stop and watch the television for a few seconds, and it was loud enough that I could kind of hear it. 

When the first plane struck the tower, from what I can remember, there was confusion.  When I saw what they were showing on the television, at first I thought they were showing some retrospect of when Bin Laden put the bomb there during the Clinton administration.  I didn't know why they would do that, but that was my first thought.  And then they were saying that a plane had crashed into the Twin Towers.  It was all really surreal, and I stopped and thought, is this happening?  Even the newscasters were confused.  What do I do? 

I left my apartment, got on the 156 bus, and went to class.  This was before the second plane hit, and before anyone knew how serious this was or what was going on.  All I sort of knew was that I didn't want to miss my class.  And again, it was surreal at that point.  I saw it on the news, but it seemed odd to say out loud.  "A plane crashed into the World Trade Center."  For all we knew it was an accident.  I found out how odd it sounded to say outloud when I saw one of my classmates (now my good friend N) on the bus, and told her what I saw on television.  (She hadn't watched TV or listened to the news that morning, so she was in the dark.)  She said "What are you talking about?"  And no one else on the bus knew what I was talking about either, so I almost felt like I dreamed it.

But when we got to school and N and I walked into Contracts class, and in large letters on the blackboard was "Class is Cancelled for the Day.  Go Home." and all of the televisions in the class were tuned on to CNN.  A number of students were sitting in their seats, pounding away at their laptops, somewhat listening to the news.  By then the second plane had hit, and maybe even the Pentagon plane as well, I don't remember.  I walked into the classroom and didn't really know what to do.  Everyone was looking at each other, confused, shocked, stunned.  I sat down in my seat and watched the news for a few minutes.  And it hit me.

I'm only a few blocks away from the Sears Tower.  I have to get out of here.  What if the Sears Tower is next?  You have to remember, at that point in time, all we knew was that planes were hitting everywhere, and if anywhere might be a target, it would be the Sears Tower.  It was chaos and confusion. 

So, I left, as did the many thousands of people in the Loop.  I went to the bus stop for about twenty minutes, which was packed with people, and bus after bus went by, full.  So, I thought I would try the train, to get somewhere near where I lived.  That, too, was packed.  Absurdly packed, even worse than after a Cubs game.  Then I decided to walk.  It's not that far, but it's far enough.  Luckily I had on comfortable shoes and hadn't chosen to carry my laptop to class.  I'd walked home from school before, but not with a crowd like this.  The sidewalks were packed with people like me who had given up on public transportation or taxis, and were simply walking home to River North, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and beyond.  Everyone was pouring out of the Loop, in fear that we might be next.

I made it home, turned on CNN, and didn't turn it off for two days.  We didn't have class the next day, and I couldn't leave my television.  Horrifying, all of it.  I lost one of my coworkers from my consulting days, who was working in the WTC that morning, and was one of the most brilliant people I've ever met.  I'd just visited him and his girlfriend in New York not long before that.  He was one of the most ambitious, intelligent people I've ever met.  He would've gone far.  We lost a shining star in him, and probably a lot of others I don't personally know.  I tried to call him that morning, but couldn't get through.  And I knew.  I just knew.

Never forget.

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