Monday, September 11, 2006

Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.

Five years ago, at a company far, far away, there was this guy I used to work with. He was a Doctor. Not like a medical doctor, but like a Ph.D. doctor. In reality he was a scientist whose career consisted of managing other scientists and taking credit for their work.

He was also a grade-A bonehead with bad breath, a roving eye and a condescending attitude. I remember hearing him complain once about the woman who did our purchasing, and I could tell immediately that his problem had nothing to do with the quality of her work, but his feeling that she wasn’t sufficiently deferential to him.

He was also an arch-conservative Republican, which just goes to show you that even people with an excess of education can turn out to be really fucking stupid.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I awoke at 6 a.m. to Morning Edition on the clock radio, as usual. My then-husband wasn’t in bed, which meant he was already on the computer in the office. As soon as I heard them announce that a plane had struck the World Trade Center, I sat straight up in bed and turned on the television. I don’t remember what station it was on, because all they showed was the image of the burning tower, and the newscasters were in voiceover only, but they were speculating on the possibility that it might have been an accident. “Are you nuts?” I thought. “This is the World Trade Center we’re talking about. They’ve tried to bring it down before.”

I’d been watching the coverage for less than a minute when the 2nd plane flew into frame and into the 2nd building. Right in front of my eyes. I let out a wail loud enough to bring my husband running into the room. “What’s the matter?!” he yelled. I pointed to the screen. The newscasters had gone dumb as the import of what they had just seen was sinking in.

I was one of the millions of Americans who found out about the attack before our president did.

An hour later, I am still in front of the television with my husband.

The towers collapse.

I weep like a baby and say stupid things like “Why would they do this?”

My husband watches wordlessly, looking grim.

Our dogs pace the room anxiously, not understanding what’s wrong but understanding that something is very, very wrong.

My boss calls. She tells me to stay home. Los Angeles might be a target, she says, and it’s better not to get on the freeway.

I am relieved. I am a mess. I call work and reach one person in my department who is already at work, wondering where everyone else is. I tell him the news. He doesn’t understand. I tell him to go in the conference room and turn on the television. I hang up.

I spend that day and night watching the coverage on the television. Whenever any witnesses refer to bodies falling or jumping from the WTC, the networks cut them off or cut quickly to something else. What ridiculous ideas we have of decorum, I think.

Three days later, my company is having a meeting to discuss “security concerns.” A security bigwig from our parent corp. has come down to dictate some policy to us, and I am there representing my department. He mentions setting up a protocol for outside emergencies, such as earthquakes and power outages, and, well, planes flying into buildings. It is at this point that Dr. Science Asshole speaks up and says “Yes, we really do need a protocol, because on Tuesday some people did not come into work, or were told not to come into work, for whatever reason. A protocol should be established so that kind of situation doesn’t happen again.”

His voice was fairly dripping with disapproval. He clearly meant to communicate that as far as he was concerned, those who stayed home on 9/11 were hysterical drama queens, or looking for an excuse to slack off, or both.

Before the security guy can respond, I look at Dr. Science Asshole and say “Right, because thousands of people are dead, the country’s at DefCon 1*, they can’t guarantee that they’ve accounted for all the planes yet, and we’re living in the 2nd largest city in the United States, but by all means let’s all get on the freeways and make sure we get to work on time.”

There is a stunned silence. I am aware that I have definitely been way too sarcastic to someone who way outranks me. No doubt I have just made his “not sufficiently deferential” list as well.

But I wasn’t about to be made to feel bad about my grief and my emotional involvement in the events by this socially retarded, William F. Buckley-worshiping fuckface.

The security guy carries on with the meeting. He actually has some really good suggestions. I am taking notes so that I can brief my boss on what we need to do to implement an emergency plan that will “meet or exceed” corporate guidelines.

And then Dr. Science Asshole speaks up again! This time he goes off on how we could use some REAL security at the building, because we are in a marginal neighborhood, and there are a pair of sneakers tied together and thrown over the telephone line next to our building, and did the security guy know that that was a signal to others of a site where one could buy drugs?

I shit you not.

The security guy said no, he’d never heard that before, but it was an interesting possibility.

I say, out loud, without looking at either of them, “It’s a myth. The whole sneakers on the wire thing. It’s an urban legend.” I keep my head down and continue making my notes. Inside I am seething. I am furious that this one guy is trying to hijack a much-needed discussion to air his own personal prejudices.

Because it wasn’t so much that our neighborhood was “marginal,” but that even though we were in a lily-white area of LA county, there were black people frequenting a fast-food restaurant near us, parking their cars on our street and walking on our sidewalks. And apparently, that was enough to make the whole area “marginal,” and the sneakers on the wire were more than enough in his mind to justify invoking the “drug dealer” boogeyman, even though no one in the company had seen one “drug dealer” around our building, ever.

So where am I going with this?

It’s just that I am so so tired of people trying to use that day to further their own agendas.

We know why they hate us, and it’s got nothing to do with our freedom. And while I’m on that subject, let me just say that of all the lies Bush has ever uttered in his life, that one is the worst.

And if we had never used Saudi Arabia as our bitch in the first gulf war, Osama bin Laden, such as he is, would probably never have come into existence.

So thanks readers, for making it to the end of a post like this on a day when all anyone can talk about is that goddamn awful fucking day. I hope you never let fear rule your heart.

*Actually, I was speculating about our DefCon level, and I was wrong. The country was at DefCon 3, an event that has occurred only twice before in our country’s history: once during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and once when the Soviet Union declared its intention to enter the 1972 Arab-Israeli war. But still.


RandyLuvsPaiste said...

This is the only 9/11 commentary today that didn't make me puke.

Grant Miller said...

That is some seriously fucked up shit.

Larry Jones said...

Congratulations if you still work there. Is the science guy still there?

CiscoKid said...

I find it difficult to do a post on something that is so over-covered by the media and taken as an opportunity by our "fearless" leader to show that he is the only "concerned American" (read photo op) about what happened 5 years ago.
We definitely should remember the day as one where a lot of innocent people died. I just feel bad that so much of the coverage seems to be just about ratings.

Alana said...

I remember both days very well. 9/11 and the security meeting. I don't know how we were able to continue working next to a phone line with sneakers hanging from it, but we did.

Skylers Dad said...

I just finished watching NBC news where they trotted out Ex-Mayor Rudy and Tom Brokaw to pat them both on the back for a job well done.

Yesterday I saw another show where they talked to little kids about what it means for them to have been born on that day!

The coverage is just sick...

megan said...

That might be your longest post ever! I too am sick of people twisting 9/11 to fit their own agendas. I declared my clasroom a politics-free zone today and just talked about loss.

david said...

Beautiful post.

I doggedly sat at my desk and tried to work that day. Someone else in the office went out and got a TV and set it up in the office kitchen.

One colleague popped his head in my office to tell me the first tower fell. He was back not too long after to tell me the second one fell. I never liked him after that.

Chris said...

Someone pulled out the "Hate us for our freedom"-line yesterday. It took all I had to just let it go and chalk it up to ignorance. Any other time I would have gotten into it, but I just didn't have it in me. Great post.

zippity said...

Great Post

vikkitikkitavi said...

Randy: High praise indeed.

Grant: Of all the times you've said that to me, Grant, this time has been the most meaningful. Really.

Mr. Jones: No, and no. Thank god.

CiscoK: I found it difficult too. But what is a blog for, if not for exploring your own self importance?

Alana: Every drug dealer-free day was a gift from the almighty above, girl.

Skyler'sDad: I spent the evening watching United 93 - which is about as unsentimental a 9/11 experience as you can have, I think. Apart from, you know, like an evening in Vegas with hookers and beer.

Megan: Yes, I reserved my longest post ever for a day when I knew my readers would not be overloaded with personal stories about 9/11. I'm cagey that way.

David: Thanks D, and I know exactly what you mean about the guy.

Chris: Thanks, baby. Your weariness is completely understandable. You'll kick their ass sometime later, I just know it.

Zippity: Do dah.