Where I Was
Two years ago this morning I was in my car, on my way to work in the small town of Oxford, Ohio, when I heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
As hard as it is to believe now, in the middle of that report, I changed the channel.
See, the thing was, I figured it was no big deal. They didn’t have any details, just that a plane had hit one of the towers, so I made some assumptions. One assumption was that it was a small private plane, since how often did you hear about commercial jetliners (which are loaded with expensive navigational equipment) hitting buildings in broad daylight? I figured that it was an accident akin to the time in 1945 when a B-25 bomber hit the Empire State Building, killing 14 people and causing a million dollars in damage, which was a tragedy but not a disaster in any sense of the word. So I figured some idiot in a Cessna plowed into one of the lower stories of the Towers, big deal.
Then, of course, I got to work and found out what had really happened, along with everybody else.
It seems so long ago now, even though it’s only been two years. But I challenge you to read Dave Winer’s page from the day of the attacks — follow the links, too, most of them still work — and not have the feelings come back to you. Remember the rumors that flew as we tried to figure out what the hell was going on? I had only been away from Washington for a couple of years, and there I was listening to the TV blare that the Pentagon was demolished, a car bomb had gone off at the State Department, a helicopter had crashed at the White House, the Mall was on fire. Each rumor would be quashed just in time for a new one to spring up. I was trying desperately to reach my friends in D.C., feeling relief each time one of them answered my e-mail or returned my phone call. (I didn’t lose any friends that day, thankfully.)
If you had asked me two years ago if I was surprised that we’d been attacked by Islamist terrorists, I’d have said no — I’d been concerned about the threat from groups like al Qaeda since they bombed our embassies in Africa, and I’d always figured it was just a matter of time until they struck the continental U.S. (though I had no idea they’d strike on that scale). If you asked me two years ago if I thought we’d make it two years without being attacked again, though, I’d have said no — I’ve been surprised we’ve made it this far without another incident. It’s been a combination of hard work by our law enforcement and intelligence personnel and simple good luck that’s kept us safe these last two years. Let’s hope our supply of both holds out for a while longer.