So, hearing about the four hijacked planes and the suicide attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was complete shock to me.
My initial reaction was one of disbelief and cynicism. "Yeah, right. I'm sure it's not that bad. I wonder when they are going to make it into a bad movie of the week." But then, I started reading the news reports and seeing the pictures.... and I felt... nothing. For a while at least. I don't know if I was afraid of crying or afraid of losing control. I just don't know.
People were going on and on about how it was a tragedy. Some were hysterical. Some were just unable to function. I kept hearing about businesses shutting down in SF, just in the case the last missing hijacked plane was headed to the West Coast to attack the TransAmerica building. I watched them and I didn't understand. I was disassociated from it all. I don't know why.
Part of me whispered, "This is a damn dangerous world. We should have expected something like this. We've just been lucky so far."
Maybe I hadn't processed it. I don't know. I started to wonder why I wasn't in tears like everyone else. What was wrong with me? Was I so damn heartless and cold? Later, I read more about the World Trade Center, I realized I was crying as I read the articles. But, I didn't know why I was crying. No concept would form in my head. I guess all I was getting was the sense that this all was a BAD THING.
It was lunchtime. I was sitting there, thinking about it, wondering what the pilots were thinking as they dove into the buildings on their suicide missions. I wondered what the hapless victims felt - having spent their last minutes captive on a plane controlled by terrorists. How the hell the terrorists got the resources, plan and gumption to do this. Why the hell we didn't catch it before it was too late. Also, I wondered again why I wasn't falling apart. I was confused and feeling really guilty.
Then, I got the phone call that put all of my thoughts and priorities in order.
I have many friends in the military, the government and the intelligence community. Some of them in fairly high places. I try to keep tabs on them when something major happens. This friend called me up, drunk and sobbing, like I had never heard them before. I found out they were supposed to be in a meeting at the Pentagon today but, it being a typical Monday yesterday, they were utterly unable to get a flight or to make the meeting today.
The plane that crashed into the Pentagon plowed right through the section that their meeting was held. Many, if not all, of their friends are dead as a result.
What do you tell your friend, who is a million miles away, when they sob "The bastards killed them. All my friends. I was supposed to be there, too. I'm the only one left alive."? I could have lost my friend. It could have been that easy. If a flight had been available. Gods, this was close... too close.
If I wasn't feeling guilty before, I sure as hell am now. I talked to them for 30 minutes, calming them, listening to them, crying with them. Suddenly, I understood the enormity of this attack on our country. All of the people hurt, killed or who have lost someone as a result of this. Now, I'm beginning to wonder if this isn't the beginning of World War III.... the one that is going end the world as we know it.
No matter what happens, this is going to affect the course America takes in the future. Nothing will ever be the same again.