September 11, 2001: Things Unsaid

My fellow Daily Dose contributor, Alex, has posted her thoughts on 9/11.  I’m waiting until later to read it, mainly because of her intro:

Every year, I write something about 9/11 and my personal reaction to it on my own journal…

This is a stark contrast from my own September 11 ritual, which is to observe the moment of silence, then spend the rest of the day fighting off memories of that day.  I’m going to bend that tradition a little bit today.

Of that morning, I wrote recently:

I recall standing outside, grabbing a smoke before my 2nd day on a new job, and looking across the river at the towers where my Dad used to work, and thinking, “This has got to be the most perfect day I’ve ever seen.” It was sunny and beautiful, with a cool, gentle breeze.

My Dad was an accountant, and what I left out of that paragraph was the fact that September 10, 2001, was the 8th anniversary of his death.  As I looked over at the towers on that beautiful morning, I realized that the anniversary had passed peacefully for the first time.  I even recalled, as I smoked that cigarette, the 1993 attack.  My Dad was home that day, and I remembered how the pager (remember those?) that I carried in case my 2nd son decided to be born went all on the fritz.

The mind plays strange tricks on even the most rational people, and for me, I felt a weird guilt at having observed the beauty of the day that morning.  I’m not the kind of guy who routinely waxes poetic about the weather, and I almost felt like I had jinxed the whole thing.  You know, like when the Jets are up by 12 late in the game, and you say, “This one’s in the bag!”

The memory that endures for me is the sight of the North Tower standing alone.  The horror of the empty space beside it sank in with sickening quickness, followed by the realization that the North Tower could soon follow.

I’ve started and erased my next sentence too many times, now, because words really do fail me here.  Maybe they’ll come to me next year.

What has always surprised me about the attacks of September 11 is the notion that we can be “kept safe.”  Many questions remain unanswered about the events leading up to this particular attack, but as I left Newark that day, I was struck by the collective “failure of imagination” that let us all be shocked by this event.

What those hijackers did was not remarkable, required few resources, and little planning.  Sure, we can lock all the cockpits now, and this type of attack will probably never happen again, but the sobering reality is that the only thing that’s absolutely necessary to kill thousands of people is the will to do so.

On a smaller scale, I had a similar thought after the Extra Strength Tylenol scare.  In 1982, 7 people died from taking cyanide-laced capsules of Extra Strength Tylenol, and as a result, those tamper-evident seals were born and the capsule became the caplet.

Those moves make perfect sense, but do I have to spell out for you the myriad ways with which our food supply could be tampered?  From whence do we derive our sense of safety?

From the same place we derived it before the scare, the question that sprang to mind immediately after it: Who on Earth would do such a thing?

It is the thing we call civilization that makes us feel safe, or as safe as we can.  At times, it can feel like an illusion.  I know it did during those hours eight years ago.  Illusion or not, however, it works pretty well.  It worked as night fell eight years ago, and people banded together to help each other out.  It works every day by keeping at bay those things which we call “unimaginable,” but are, in fact, difficult not to imagine.

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2 Comments

  1. […] Christopher has a Dose of 9/11: The mind plays strange tricks on even the most rational people, and for me, I felt a weird guilt […]

  2. […] Tommy Christopher posts about his own memories of September 11th. Another post that’s well worth […]


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