15 Years

(Sunday Paper, Volume I, Issue 16)

I have nothing life-changing to write about September 11th.

But, since I think about that date more than any other date during a calendar year, I can't let it pass without writing about it.

And I remember, back in 2011 after the 10th anniversary of the attacks, that I read one woman's essay about her experiences the few days before September 11, 2001. It was about a messy, ordinary life. I liked reading it.

Because as often as I think about September 11, 2001, I spend just as much time thinking about the months and days leading up to that date.

I should say this up front for those of you who don't know: I suffered no immediate personal loss in the attacks on September 11th. (There were people I knew once-removed...friends of friends, a high school acquaintance. But no close family or friends.) I think that's important to note because I am aware that the sadness and loss I feel about that date is minute compared to what others have gone through. Which is hard for me to fathom. Because sometimes the sadness is overwhelming.

My wife (then girlfriend) called to wake me up that Tuesday morning to tell me what was going on. I wasn't usually up early - I worked a 3:30-11:30 shift in a TV newsroom. I don't really remember this, but apparently a few of us went out after the 11 o'clock news on Monday the 10th. This was a common occurrence - I don't remember it just because it was an ordinary night...not because I drank too much or anything like that. So, long story short, I was sleeping in.

After I turned on the news (which I feel like I didn't turn off for days) I had a really hard time reaching my family that Tuesday morning - cell phone service was all but down. I finally did get through late in the morning, if I remember correctly, but by that time I had made the decision to call in sick to work.

That was the day I realized my future wasn't in the TV news business...as I watched the coverage that day it became clear how little I knew about what was going on in the world and that the "news" we were putting out in the world wasn't the news I cared about.

But that's not what I mean to write about. What I think about a lot is what life was like before September 11, 2001...and in particular how much fun we had in the summer of 2001.

I often think about July, 2001 - that's when that picture above is from, when Kathy and I flew to Baltimore and visited Washington, D.C. I think about how laid-back everything was, from the airplane security to the accessibility to everything in our nation's capital.

I think about late August, when I had the chance to take batting practice at Fenway Park. I have a picture commemorating my time on the field - it's inscribed 'August 25, 2001'. Nothing special about that date, other than the fact that just 17 days later so much would change. Before that, on August 12, we were at Shea Stadium when the Mets inducted Gary Carter into the team Hall of Fame. It would be the last time I saw my hero speak in person...a month before my thoughts on the word "hero" would forever change.

I have a vague memory that I couldn't travel to New York again later that month, possibly because of the Red Sox event, when my brother and sister and some cousins did a 'last hurrah'-type of celebration in Manhattan with, I think, someone about to leave for college...which included a boat tour around New York Harbor. It could also have been the first weekend in September - I seem to remember they were in the water with incredible views of the Twin Towers very close to the 11th.

I did end up making a trip to New York around that time - it's the event leading up to 9/11 that I think about the most. I flew down for the Jets' season opener. They lost to the Colts...that was on Sunday, September 9th. I flew down on the Delta Shuttle in the morning, and was back on the Shuttle that evening...back when it was beyond easy to show up a half-hour before my flight back to Boston and be confident I'd be home an hour or so later. I was back at Logan Airport somewhere around 8:30pm on Sunday, September 9th. 

I spend a lot of time thinking about that...and then about those who were at Logan less than 36 hours later. The innocent ones and the ones with evil intentions.

The summer of 2001 was really fun. It wasn't the last fun summer I've had. But it was maybe the last one I would think of as 'carefree'.

I don't know that it's healthy that I spend as much time as I do thinking about all of this...but I do know it helps to write about it every few years.

So thanks for allowing me that.

*I'm going to skip the rest of the usual categories this week. I'll leave you with this: If you want to read what I wrote on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, that link is here. Some of the information is the same as above, but it's a little more about the days following September 11th rather than the days before. And the original essay, from The New York Times Magazine, that suggested maybe people would care to read what I had to say about how I felt - that's here at this link...with an interesting correction that I never saw before showing the way memories can play tricks on you sometimes.