20 years. It’s really part of history now. You’ve all got your stories. Everyone remembers the day the 20th Century properly ended. Where they were, how they watched. How the changes stayed with us for the next two decades…
As ever, when my own words fail me. Bruce knows what to say.
My Brother was on holiday in the USA that week. He had an itinerary that flew him from Vegas to LaGuardia on September 11th. I was in the control room of the print factory (in its old site) when my mobile text tone went off. It was Doug asking what the hell was going on in America? I had no idea what he was taking about and dialed up Yahoo to check the headlines.
It didn’t look real. Tiny little pop up windows with images of the blue sky, the tower billowing smoke. The soon to be Mrs ForTheDeaf rang me two minutes later telling me to turn on the news. I told her I was already watching.
We were both wondering if it was war breaking out when she reminded me of Big Brothers plans. I had to phone home. See if he’d been in touch. No drama on that front I was assured. They hadn’t even left their hotel when everything was grounded. Mum still sounded apprehensive. She used to sound like this when the IRA would blow up something in London. Dad might be in Rislip when a pup in Soho goes up in flames and she’d see the whole city as a minefield until he was home. Admittedly there was a close call at The Old Bailey one time when Dad was working in the next street. Oh and the night he was one stop away from the Kings Cross fire. So you can understand it.
This felt like that, even though it was thousands of miles away. This would change the world. Everyone’s world. When the second plane hit we were all watching. Doug and Mrs ForTheDeaf were talking to each other when the mobile networks went down. CNN and The BBC were showing the second hit from different angles. The ticker-tape at the bottom of the screen spoke of other planes, the Pentagon, scrambled jets and George Bush.
The print control room over looked the factory floor. There was a frosted world map on the window visible from below. It was supposed to advertise our vinyl cut capability. We often joked it looked like a Bond Villains headquarters from which world domination was being plotted. The TV newsroom maps on the iMac screens around the room (everyone else in the business spent the rest of the day in the control room on one of the iMac’s reading the news) showed graphics of where the planes were across the US. There were reports of some things that never seemed to pan out. Other details went over and over again. The disruption put production behind so I stayed late to try to recover the time lost. I locked up around dusk. I rode my bike across the city talking to Mrs ForTheDeaf on my mobile as I headed back to the place I still shared with Doug. As I passed the Cathedral there was a fire engine running ladders up the ancient stone tower and a blue light cordon blocking the monument park I usually took a short cut through. What a strange day it had been.
The next morning the Soon To Be Mrs ForTheDeaf and I went over to visit her Sister and her family a few towns over. The kids had been at a village hall rummage sale and bought some brick-a-brack that morning. I’d just got off the phone to the Big Un and his holiday crew. They were kicking their heels in hotel lobbies and trying to come to terms with a holiday destination that had become part of a nation grieving. They didn’t know the right thing to say to anyone so they were mostly keeping to themselves and trying to arrange flights home early. Wee Meg our niece brought over the dolls house TV set she’d picked up at the church hall sale to go in her play room. It was a tiny plastic rectangle aping the shape of a TV with a sticker for a screen.
There was an image of the twin towers on the screen. Stood proud and tall over Manhattan island. Meg asked her Dad if the image would change tomorrow. He told her it was an antique now. That’ll stay that way and everything else will change.
So it may not technically be from 2001, but when I think of that fateful day I think also of the next day. And I think of Empty Sky.