Looking back, I didn’t realize how much the events of 10 years ago would change my life. I was living in Charlottesville, VA on 9/11/01. Working for Electronic Arts, I had finally gotten a 9am – 5pm shift after months of being on the 6pm – 3am swing. I’d followed the Gore/Bush election from the safety of my desk chair in the months leading up to that day and although I’d grown up having all national politics being a part of my local experience, I never really thought something like this could ever happen. The call center was new and we were sharing our building with Wachovia bank instead of being on the roof of a downtown Charlottesville office building in a trailer that we lovingly referred to as “the flight deck”. That morning, I remember Aaron telling me that he’d seen a report on CNN.com that a small plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Minutes later, we’d lose the ability to get almost anywhere on the internet.
I remember emailing back and forth with my sister and hearing that my brother-in-law was able to see missile batteries being wheeled out onto office buildings in downtown DC. I remember walking out into the cafeteria to watch the one TV that we had to see coverage of what was happening. Liz was working the night shift at the Omni so I had to call and wake her up to tell her that she needed to turn on the TV. In the weird fog of that day, the Charlottesville PD came to stake out our building in case there was an attack on us because the bank was perceived as a target in town. It was nothing short of surreal.
Liz spent the evening trying to book people into the hotel because they were stranded. The fire department spent the next few days out on the street collecting money in boots at every street light in town. I honestly still can’t see a fire truck without flashing back to an image of a Charlottesville FD truck with it’s ladder all the way up and an American flag hanging off the end. I talked to my Dad that night on the phone and I’d never heard him sound as scared or unsure as he did that night. I know he was trying to tell me that things were going to be alright but I could tell then that even he didn’t believe it.
Ironically, because I felt like I was missing things by being at work, I’d buy a TiVo in September of ’01 because I didn’t want to fee like I was out of the loop. By December 2002, EA would close the call center in VA and move a handful of us to Texas and years later eventually to California. I’d spend the next year and a half trying to training our replacements in India while Liz worked for the American Cancer Society.
Fast-forward past “Fahrenheit 9/11″ and the 2004 elections, our move to California and the end of Liz and I’s relationship, my exodus from EA and my time at WorkMetro and you end up with me here. I’ve been at my current employer for about 5 years now and even that seems to tie back to 9/11.
The pictures and sounds of that day are stuck with me. 9/11 taught me to love “Opie and Anthony” even though they’re assholes. It taught me to weigh even the wildest of conspiracy theories (and no, for the record, I’m not with the 9/11 conspiracy folks). It galvanized me for 8 solid years of incredible political involvement that I wouldn’t give up for the world. It moved me from one coast to the other and shaped the longest relationship I’ve had in my life (yes, I believe that without what happened, we’d have broken up sooner even though she’s gorgeous and lovely…actually specifically because she’s gorgeous and lovely). On the day, I didn’t realize how much one event could shape my life.
The saddest parts to me are the small turns of the dial that made things so much worse. The most visible example is the fact that Peter Jennings decided on 9/11 to start smoking again. Years later, he’d pass away from lung cancer. That’s the power of a massive event on a single life.
10 years out, I understand the impact.
I miss you, Peter Jennings.