Monday, September 11, 2006

It's a cliche, but it's true anyway -- never forget

A non-fantasy message today, as it should be.

Never forget what happened five years ago today. Go here to refresh your memory. Yes, it's depressing, but that's exactly the point. It's supposed to be depressing, and our collective amnesia about it is not a sign of health, it's a sign of denial. So many of us said at the time that we would never forget -- and so few of us have not. And yes, complaining about necessary security procedures does constitute forgetting.

Everyone has a story about what they were doing that day, and mine is somewhat unusual, although certainly not as much as some. I was coming down the stretch of a book project with my former "fantasy draft help brand" associate Nathan Noy, with a final deadline of September 15 for our book. I ate dinner at my parents' house (a short drive from where I live) on Sunday, September 9 and was complaining about how jammed up I was. Nathan, while possessed of some brilliant business skills, had put me on a suicidally short timeline to finish editing his work. My dad told me he thought I'd have to take a day off from work (the company in question being a media organization for whom I do business reporting). I replied that I knew I wouldn't be able to take off on Monday but that I would put in for Tuesday.

I did a fair amount of editing and rewriting on Monday night, and stayed up fairly late watching the Monday Night Football game and working. My alarm went off somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 AM on Tuesday morning -- it was a radio alarm set to a local sports talk station. Knowing that I had the day off, and still feeling tired, I hit the snooze bar. When the radio went off 9 minutes later, the sports talk that had originally awoken me was nowhere to be found. For some reason, Peter Jennings was on my radio and talking about some kind of trouble at the World Trade Center.

Baffled, I stumbled into my living room, flipped on one of the cable news channels, and stared in horrified awe at a split screen showing attacks in New York and Washington. I had slept through the initial plane crashes in New York and the reporters and anchors were already beginning to make some rough sense out of what happened. I remember also dim rumors on TV that day about a car bomb near the State Department building and other nuggets being sorted out in real time by a news industry that had never confronted anything quite like this.

I was in a daze the entire day, calling equally bewildered friends and family. I spent part of the day at my parents' house and tried to take some time to edit the book material. My mother was serving as my backup editor, proofreading my writing and helping me with Nathan's where necessary. She made notes on the copy when I was done with it, and to this day, I marvel at everything that she caught and I missed. I am normally a very meticulous editor, but that day, with that cloud hanging over all of us, I missed so many errors. And she, while equally shook up, managed to focus and catch those errors for me when I needed her to do that. I don't know how she did it.

It's the defining event of our lifetimes, the true before-after line that we all have etched in our heads. I hope and pray that we can summon the strength of the World War II generation and face down this enemy that wishes to destroy us. We will be tested again in our country, perhaps far worse (although I certainly hope not) and I hope that we will be up to the challenge.


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