9/11 Stories

Chris McCabe

I live in Logan, Utah, and to me, this is the most serene town in the whole country. We have less than 60,000 people living here, our crime rate is negligible, and most everyone here is friendly and polite. In a nutshell, it’s a slice of paradise.

At 6:30 in the morning of September 11th, I woke up and went to check my email. My wife had already gone in to work. She called me at 6:50 and asked me if I was watching TV. At that early hour, I normally don’t, so I asked, “Why? What’s going on?” She said that a plane had crashed in to one of the twin WTC towers, and that I should go turn on our TV and watch. So I did. The enormity of the situation didn’t hit me until I watched the second plane slam into the south tower. I flipped between every major network and news channel, trying to see who had the best coverage. Finally, I settled on ABC and watched with stunned, numb shock at what was going on.

I had to work at 8, so I hopped on my bike and started riding to work. Eerily, no one was on the streets. *No* one. At that hour, the streets are normally alive and humming with activity and commuters. This morning, however, I seemed to be the only person on the street.

Background: I work for a cell phone company as a collections agent. Our attendance policy dicates that you can take x days in a revolving calendar year for personal reasons. Arriving at work a bit early, I dropped my backpack off at my cubicle, then walked into our breakroom, which was almost full to capacity; everyone was glued to the two TVs which were tuned to CNN. I placed my lunch in the fridge, and then I turned around to watch the coverage. Just as I turned around, everyone in the breakroom gasped, and I caught the first tower collapsing.

I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t blink. All I could do was stare in stunned disbelief and horror as the tower crumbled and disappeared. At that point, I decided that it was more important to spend the day with my wife, commiserating with her and trying to make sense of what was going on. From the breakroom, I called in to work and explained that I would need to take a personal day. No questions asked; none of the usual, “What’s your reason? Blah blah blah?”

A good friend of mine was sitting next to me. We watched until about 8:30, when he said something along the lines of, “I wonder why the second tower hasn’t fallen yet . . .” I replied with something like, “If it hasn’t fallen yet, it probably won’t.” No sooner had I finished speaking than the second tower caved and bucked, and then it was gone.

My jaw came unhinged, and I with the rest of the breakroom let out a squeal of shock and horror. The towers were gone.

My wife was supposed to get off work at 9 a.m. so I hopped back on my bike and raced home so she would have someone to come home to. She got off early, though, and had already been home for a while when I finally got back. We spent the day watching coverage and calling loved ones. My folks live in Buffalo, and they normally don’t watch TV that early in the day. I called my folks, and told my mom what was going on. She turned on their TV and got an idea of exactly what was going on. I could hear her begin to sob on the other end of the line.

“I love you, mom.”

“I love you too, Christopher.”

My old roommate and his wife didn’t have a TV. I called him and told him what was going on, and he thought I was pulling a sick joke. I told him that he and his wife and son needed to come over and have the chance to witness this unprecedented national atrocity. Far and away, the image most burned into my memory was what happened after they came over. At the time, their two-year old son was learning that fire is hot. After they came over and some of the footage of the planes slamming into the towers was beginning to get its repetitive coverage, their son recognized the fire on TV. “Ohhh . . . hot.”

We all turned and watched him watch the TV, with anxiety and fear for what kind of world this poor boy is going to have to live in. With his little two-year old experience with how fire works, he, leaned forward from his space on the couch, and started to try to blow the fire on the TV out. We all looked at each other through tear-bleary eyes in wonderment. The little boy’s mother said, “Yes, Franklin. Maybe if all the little boys and girls in the world blow hard enough, the fire will go out.” From a metaphoric standpoint, we all recognized that, in order to have any kind of hopeful future for our children, the core principle that needs to be indoctrinated at an early age is love for *all* people. That image of their little boy trying to blow out the big fireballs gave me such a rush of hope and perspective.

For those of you who live in NYC and had to endure this tragedy first hand, my heart goes out to you. I pray that you can find solace and comfort on some level—any level—if you haven’t already. May God watch over us all.

Chris McCabe