Monday, September 11, 2006

The Haunting

I remember this day, five years ago. On the east coast, it was a bright, clear, beautiful day. Everyone remembers that. I was at work, sitting in front of the screen, hacking code or some such when the telephone rang. It was my wife. She asked if I knew what had happened.

"What do you mean?" I said.

"Just check out the news." I said, ok, and clicked on the New York Times website. Good god. I walked into the hallway. It was deserted. I walked down the hall to the auditorium, where facilities had turned on CNN and was projecting the broadcast on the theatre screen.

The auditorium was packed with everyone from the department. The lights were off but that didn't matter. The bright screen and the scenes of the New York skyline and the smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center buildings were more than sufficient to light up the room and the incredulous faces, mouths agape, that stared at the images in front of them. I plunked myself down on an open spot on one of the stairways, transfixed by what was happening, or had already happened. Or, indeed, what was about to happen. And though we did not expect such a thing at that moment, the buildings had not yet collapsed. And then they did.

Further mayhem abounded. The Pentagon had been attacked. Another plane, the fourth, whose whereabouts were not exactly known, had been hijacked. At the time, no one knew what had happened to that plane or what might happen to and with it. The madness of the visuals was palpable. It was shock and awe before the term had been coined. I heard much later that friends of mine, living in DC, had packed up and headed to West Virginia, so convinced they were that war -- invasion and all -- had broken out.

Sometime after noon, the school closed up. At this point no one knew what else might happen. In downtown Baltimore, the police had evacuated the city's own "World Trade Center." I can remember at the time thinking, that's crazy. Who knows Baltimore has a World Trade Center? I hadn't even know that that was what the inner harbour pentagon was called. But how could I call any evacuation crazy after what I had just seen?

I didn't know what to do. A dark feeling haunted me, though. I was fairly, though only vaguely certain then that nothing good could come from any of this. I remember walking home, stumbling, it seems like now. It was still clear and beautiful, the sky was a deep azure blue. It looked unreal and wholly inappropriate. Surely the sky should be black. Grey at least.

I went inside, grabbed my bike and went for long ride in the country. On that beautiful day. Under that absurd sky.


Blogger Kel said...

Lovely post, Bhc. Captured the day beautifully.

8:35 AM  
Blogger theBhc said...

Thanks, Kel.

11:57 AM  

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