Where were you when?

When I was growing up it was “where were you when Kennedy was shot?” Now it’s Sept.11th. I had just flown into San Francisco CA the day before and was looking forward to a fun and relaxing week long tour down the coast to LA. We checked into a quaint inn overlooking the bay and enjoyed the day. On the morning of Sept. 11th we called the front desk to ask why we had not been summoned to breakfast on the veranda. They told us to turn on our television. I didn’t like the sound of that. I watched the live coverage of one of the towers collapsing. I turned to Maggi and said, “Pack the bags, we’re getting out of this city, and oh yeah, our country is going to war.”

  The staff of the inn couldn’t locate the dude with the key to the hotel safe containing my wife’s jewelry delaying our escape for an hour. Finally we drove the rent car out of the city though the bridges were shut down. We knew we couldn’t just fly back to Dallas and we didn’t want to drive the rent car there either so we decided to just stick to our original plan, drive down the coast highway and hope that the planes would be flying again out of LA a week later.

  We listened in horror and disbelief to the constant radio coverage of the events sensing that something fundamental had changed in our country. About thirty miles south of San Fran I stopped at a beach and walked toward the ocean. I couldn’t figure out what was different at first and then I realized that no planes were flying above. I was amazed to see a bunch of surfers catching waves. Was this the California reaction to our first catastrophic attack on America? Go surfing? Are you serious?

  We stopped for lunch in San Jose and the resturant was full of locals eating, drinking and generally whooping it up, seemingly without a care in the world. Again, maybe it was the California way. We returned to our car and I was amazed to see I had gotten a 90$ parking ticket. Holy shit! We are under attack but this cop kept right on with it.

  That evening we had checked into a famous golf resort and as night fell on the dunes I watched and listened as  a lone bagpiper stood silhouetted against the setting sun piping patriotic dirges. Tears welled in my eyes.

   We went to the wild scene at Venice Beach where several people had set up displays laying out the CIA conspiracy to orchestrate the attacks. Within hours of our scheduled departure from LAX they cleared the planes to take off. We chucked all sharp objects and waited for the flight. Also waiting were four middle eastern young men, some very nervous passengers and a couple of dudes in black suits who I guessed were heavily armed air marshalls. I thought to myself, “If one of those Arab guys so much as gets up to use the john I’m gonna tackle him.” 

  It was an edgy but uneventful flight back to Dallas but something fundamental had changed and I was right, we did go to war.



7 Responses to “Where were you when?”

  1. “Tribute in Light is one of the most powerful and healing works of public art ever produced. The majestic blue twin beams are presented annually by MAS, shining from dusk on September 11, through dawn the next day. Visible within a sixty-mile radius on a clear night,”



  2. I was walking to teach a music class when a worker renovating a university building called out the news of the first plane. When I stopped at the office to check my mailbox I saw the second plane on TV.

    None of my 20 students had heard, so I passed on the news, encouraged them not to be afraid, and suggested that our civil liberties might be in jeopardy as the nation reacted to the threat. Music would be important to keep our spirits up, so the best thing was to carry on with our studies, which we proceeded to do, rattled though we were.

  3. I was in my basement concrete bunker, where I try to be during all such events, earthquakes, pano parties, etc.

  4. I was in a multi-agency staff meeting with DEQ, EPA & FWS. They sat there transfixed watching the tube.

    Afterwards, I cooked pork ribs at my apartment.

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