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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Just Like Yesterday.....

The year 2001 was very memorable for me. On September 3rd...I lost my best friend of the previous 8 years...when my black lab, Jasper was forced to be put to sleep when he could no longer walk. I was devastated, and took a week off from work so I could sit at home...lay and bed and mourn.

Then on the afternoon of September the 9th...I walked in on the girl I was dating at the bed with another guy. I stood there in disbelief. Then, noticing their clothes at the foot of her bed, collected them and went out to my Jeep, where I had a gas can. I doused both of their clothes in gas....put them at her doorstep, and lit them on fire, and left. I never saw her, or talked to her again. Skank.

Fast forward to Tuesday, the 11th. I played on a men's baseball team called the Pilots. So named because we had 4 guys on the team who were airline pilots. Three of them had previously been F-14 pilots in the Navy. Good bunch of guys. Well, one nice thing about having pilot that you can occasionally finagle yourself a 'Buddy Pass' on the airline...which isn't all its cracked up to be, honestly. A lot of standing around on standby lists. But it is a free ticket to fly. You just need to get lucky and find a plane that has seats.

It just so happened that my Seattle Mariners were in the midst of the best regular season record in baseball history. It was the year they won 116 games. I was certain they were going to win the World Series that year. So I needed to get home for the playoffs. I lined up a ticket with one of my pilot friends. But I needed to go meet him at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport to get the pass from him.

On the morning of September 11th, I headed for the airport to meet him at a gate, and pick up my pass. About halfway there, I'm listening to "The Regular Guys" on a local radio show...and they start out by joking about a 'small, commuter-like plane that has crashed into the Trade Center.' It was being regarded as a bit of a joke...that some idiot flew off course or something. Regardless...someone tells you a freaking plane flew into the Trade take notice.

So I get to the airport. There was a noticeable change in the usual demeanor of people at the airport. As you go through life...there are certain places that you know will always be the same when you walk into them. Right? Know what I mean? Well that day was so ominous. The look on people's faces...the noticeable silence of the terminal. Something was definitely not right.

I get to the gate, to meet my friend, and he asks me if I heard the news? Something about a plane crashing into the Trade Center? He tells me...." was one of ours. Looks like a hijacking and suicide mission."  NO  WAY!!!???  He had a very grim look on his face. Then...I turned to my right, and saw a mass of people assembled in front of a window, looking into the restaurant in the concourse that had its TV on the news.

 There must have been about 35 or so standing there watching the North it continued to billow smoke from the top of it. No one was talking...just standing there staring in stunned silence. I think we all knew we were staring at history...having one of those experiences that 10, 20...30 years ago, we would talk about 'where we were when the Tower was hit.'

And we were watching, and I will never forget...a speck showed up in the background. Flying low....and getting closer. "What the hell is THAT" I was thinking to myself. And you couldn't hear audio on the you were on your own for figuring out what was going on. Then as it got closer, and the camera started to tighten on became clear that it was an airliner...and I think that is when that sick 'Oh My God, no!' feeling hit the pit of my stomach. Then the plane disappeared from it was obscured by the South Tower.  And then.....BOOM! Massive explosion! Followed by debris scattered everywhere.

Hands covered mouths. Eyes were wide. Gasps were heard. A few people grabbed hold of one another. It was a moment I will never forget, as long as I live. I stood there for two hours. I watched the towers fall. First the South Tower...then the North Tower. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to fight someone. 

Finally, I went home. Called work, and was told that we would be closed that night. Good. I sat in front of my TV that whole day...and most of the next week...watching coverage of the aftermath. Learning about why and how this happened.

A lot of things happened that month, and that fall. My Mariners lost in the playoffs, to the Yankees, who inspired New Yorkers with a World Series run...that ended with an incredible Game 7 victory by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Heroes were found in the aftermath of 9/11. Victims were mourned...on a daily basis for months. Culprits were hunted down...culminating in the killing of Osama bin Laden, finally, after a 10-year manhunt. Our nation changed that day. Forever. For the first time in my lifetime, everyone came together on that day. Blacks, Whites, Jews, Asians, didn't matter what race, religion or sex you were that day. We were all Americans. We had a common enemy...and I'd never seen people work together or get along the way they did that fall. 

Its sad, but amazing how tragedy seems to bring people together in our country. I am proud to be an American. I am not overly thrilled with how the government has seemingly used the events of 9/11 to repeatedly violate our Constitutional Amendment Rights as citizens. I'm not proud of the unfair racial profiling that has manifested in our society as a result of the terrorist acts of 2001.

Later that December, I met Cheryl Johnston on a trip to Biloxi with my friend Jeff Giraldi, who I bartended with, and went to go play some blackjack with at the Beau Rivage. I met Cheryl when she was our cocktail waitress. From the moment I saw her big brown eyes, and heard her southern accent, I knew I had to have this girl. Through a lot of persistence, I would eventually 'get the girl' and my life has been different ever since. I got a 'new' Jasper. He is still with us, now almost 7 years old and getting to that age where you start to focus on every day you have him in your life. I love that dog. And I love my other dog. And I love my wife, and family. Somethings in life are just a lot more important than poker....which is why I didn't say anything about poker today.

To the firemen and police officers who risked their lives to save innocent victims ten years those who continue to suffer as a result of their life-saving efforts, either mentally or physically...I say THANK YOU on this day that we remember what happened to our country 10 years ago. To our troops, who continue to battle a silent, stealthy enemy in countries on the other side of the planet, I salute you for your bravery. I am proud to be an American...whether I agree or disagree with the decisions made by our leaders. At their core...there are no better people on the planet than right here in the USA.

I hope you all have a good Sunday. Time to go to work. 



SpamBx392 said...

That was one of the most descriptive, genuine, well written, & heartfelt stories I have ever read. Thank you for sharing your unique perspective. You have a big heart pal & you deserve everything that is worth having in this life. With your ability, anything is possible. The sky is the limit. I am rooting for you as always. Good things are on the horizon. Have faith in yourself & make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Good blog Monkey and a nice a New Yorker I must correct you though....the Yankees LOST to the Diamondbacks in 2001.

I remember most of that year pretty well.