I've never really written about where I was when the towers fell. I wasn't actually in NYC, so writing about it has always felt so navel gaze-y. But it's been seventeen years, so I also feel like at this point, it's just a good story.
I was in college, and had an early public speaking class. I had given a speech about the movies of Kevin Smith, because of course I did. I also did one on John Waters later in the semester. After class, I walked back to my car, and turned on my giant Motorola cell phone, which incidentally was my first cell phone ever. Back then, you didn't leave them on all the time. I got into the car and turned on Howard Stern. My mom had left me a message to call her back. But I listened to Stern for a minute, and he was frantic. The first tower had been hit at this point, which my mom relayed to me when I called her back. "I think you should just come home, something weird is happening in New York," my mom said in her message.
So I drove the long way home and listened to Howard Stern. I was listening when the second tower went down. He reported everything that he was seeing, but also laced it with what he was feeling. It was hard to not do that.
I finally got home, and my mom was on the couch, watching the news with rapt attention. And if there is one thing my mom never does, it's watch the news. We bounced back and forth between stations all day, eventually settling on BBC America's coverage. I checked in on the mailing list I had run since 1997; it was for a band that I loved back then, and there were many members who lived in the NYC/DC area. Everyone poured in, just to check in, and let their community of fellow ska nerds know that they were ok. This was the first time I had spent all day online, too.
I had also just bought my first computer; it cost me $1,500 and I had to make payments on it. It was my first truly grown up purchase. I needed a desk, and my dad offered to buy me one since he wasn't paying for me to actually be in school. He came to pick me up, and we headed up to Hills by Rolling Acres Mall. The entire place was dead. This was back when people still went to malls, but everything had been shut down for the day, since nobody knew what was going to happen next. We got the desk, and drove around,, looking for signs of life. Nothing.
I went home and put together my desk, in the living room so that I could continue to watch the news. After setting up the computer on the desk, I checked my email
I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to go on a blind date that evening. He emailed to see if I was still going, because he wanted to get out of the house.
At 7, I found myself on a blind date at a chain restaurant near Chapel Hill Mall. The bar we were going to meet at was closed, and this restaurant was the only thing open. He wore khakis and talked about playing clarinet very passionately. I was sucked into the news, which was playing on one of the nine thousand tvs that was probably meant for sports. He was boring and I was bored. I kept thinking about how I had seen gas for $5.95/gallon on my way over there, and how I wished I had a camera to get a photo of it.
Instead of leaving, I stayed there, on this boring ass date. Because despite being bored, it was still a connection with another human being. And that wasn't something that I had very much of, but it was something that I felt that I absolutely needed that day. But it all felt flat; forced. We kissed out by his car and it just felt scared and desperate.
I went home and watched the news until I passed out.
I woke up the next day to flags hanging in front of every house in our neighborhood. Neighbors were actually talking to each other. Everyone was talking to each other everywhere you went. Things felt tense, but gas prices also went down.
We were all just looking for connection.
Everything was different.