It was a glorious day.
Above, the bluest sky. And cool – the first hint of autumn without a trace of the muggy air that had been hanging around since Labor Day.
It was primary election day in Minneapolis. I had just made the pre-commute trek to the polling place and cast my vote for whoever was The Big Dog in column D.
Politically, Minneapolis is a gated community. Democrats have been in power since Cain slew Abel.
Still, Civic Duty required that I cast a ballot even though the outcome was never in doubt.
Obligation met, I was queued up in line to join the morning commute on I-94, the major rush hour conduit between Minneapolis and St. Paul. I was listening to morning talk radio on KSTP 1500. The host was Republican Crazy Lady Barbara Carlson. Those whacky right wingers. Always good for a laugh, though.
It was a little before eight. The station’s news guy broke into the festivities with a report that there had been what appeared to be an explosion high up in one of the Twin Towers skyscrapers in NYC.
That was all that was known. Back to regularly scheduled programming.
The radio folks speculated. Gas explosion? Bomb? Ol’ Babs said it could have been a rocket or a missile. The others pooh-poohed her suggestion. She was, after all, nuts.
Traffic is flowing fast. On a good day I can make it to my St. Paul office in about 15 minutes.
It is a good day.
I walk in the door and a couple of my colleagues are in the presentation room (we did OD-type work) with the TV on. Reception is crummy, but good enough.
Someone says “I heard it was a plane. Pilot had a heart attack.”
Oh man. That is awful.
The TV replay shows the plane smashing into the tower. A huge fireball follows.
Wait, that wasn’t a replay? It was a second plane hitting the other tower? WTF?
Confusion. Shock. Disoriented thought.
I remember saying something to effect of “Holy shit! This is an attack! We’re at war!”
The other folks around the TV are stunned.
Someone says “I hope not.”
The talking heads on TV are confused too. Then the enormity of what was happening begins to occur to them.
We watch and listen. Everyone is Elmered to the TV.
Geez. What a start to the day. The coffee I rented earlier in the morning needs to be recycled.
Down the hall I go.
Nature’s call is answered.
I get back to the meeting room and someone says “There was another plane in Washington. Sounds like it hit the Pentagon.”
I remember thinking this was probably what it was like for The Old Man when he heard the Japs bombed Pearl. Only I’m seeing it in Real Time.
More TV. Everyone at the office is now gathered around the screen trying to absorb the events.
Are those people jumping? Jeezuzz K. Rist! Gawd Almighty!
The first tower goes down.
Someone starts to sob.
A talking head says something about 25,000 people work in the Twin Towers.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This is un-fuckin’ real.
A co-worker who is married to a newsy at Channel 5, a local TV station, says her husband just called and said that a fourth plane was just shot down.
The Air Force just shot down another plane over Ohio or Pennsylvania?
This is a massive, coordinated attack.
Who? Not the Rooskies? The Palestinians maybe? Saddam? The Ayatollah?
No way are they that fuckin’ dumb…
The second tower collapses.
A talking head tells us what we already know: a fourth plane has “crashed“ in Pennsylvania.
Another colleague’s brother is an airline pilot, scheduled to fly out of Seattle later in the day.
She is trying to reach him on the phone. No luck so far.
What is going on?
Are the nukes flying yet?
Somebody is going to pay.
All that matters is the TV right now.
Every new report greeted in silence.
Nobody wants to talk.
Nobody wants to work.
A consensus is reached.
Close the office. Go home. Be with family and loved ones.
What do you tell The Kids?
The reverse commute is seamless if distracted.
I pull into the driveway, park and head up the walkway toward the house. I hear loud noise, look skyward and see a fighter jet streaking overhead.
Running hot, I bet.
It’s noon, September 11, 2001.
The worst morning is over.
Author’s note: this post was originally published on September 11, 2016.