The morning after (9/11 Diary)

The morning after (9/11 Diary)

Summary: This continues our 9/11 Diary. It was originally published the day after the events of September 11, 2001.


This article continues our remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001.

I wrote the following on Wednesday, September 12, 2001 and posted it on the ZATZ news pages. I've gone back into the archives, found my posts from those days, and I'm re-publishing them here, raw, and un-retouched. Reading my old posts has helped me get in touch with what this anniversary means. I hope that they serve a healing purpose for you, as well.

What an emotionally trying day it has been for us all! It's 3:23am on Wednesday and I'm just getting home after spending the evening with good friends, trying to make sense of this tragedy.

As I walked up to my front door from my car, I met my neighbor, who'd just gotten home as well. Completely out of the blue (this is a guy I might pass on the way to my car once every three or four months) this neighbor of mine decided to tell me that I should work out more and that he'd whip me into shape. When I told him I exercise regularly with a trainer, his response of "Well, then he's obviously not doing a good job," nearly sent me over the edge.

I was livid -- and bummed. I didn't want to be angry at my neighbor today. I wanted to be able to say kind things and reinforce our little sense of community. Instead, I did a "Yeah, Freddy, whatever you say," shook my head sadly, unlocked my door, and fed my elderly cat her thyroid medicine three hours late.

These little vignettes are being repeated across the nation. Everyone's freaked. Some react in kindness and some are striking back out of their own pain. And some just say the wrong things. Because I was so stressed, I had the urge to slug the guy. Fortunately I've got a good deal of self-control and I was way too drained to get into a silly battle with a neighbor.

September 11: Ten years afterI can't really say anything here to soften the shock and horror we're all feeling. There are people still trapped under the rubble, calling out with the few precious remaining minutes of cellphone battery juice. It's so unsafe to approach what's left of the World Trade Center that hundreds of firefighters are still missing and presumed dead. So the only lifeline these trapped people have is a possibly final call for help on their phones.

As you know from our coverage, our own Heather and 2,800 other cyclists completed the Canada/America AIDS Vaccine Ride this weekend. Heather got in on the train yesterday (she saw the World Trade Center for the last time out her train window just before she got home) and we'd wanted to celebrate her return today. Instead of celebrating the beautiful triumph of those riders, Heather spent a good part of today trying to find out if any of her fellow riders were on that plane from Boston. She thinks some were.

The evil some men do does not diminish the greatness of others. What the cyclists did on their 400 mile trek was great. The dedication of the rescue workers and our government has been what we expect from fellow Americans in crisis: exceptional. There was a man on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania who managed to call his mom from the plane telling her about armed hijackers. A media personality, Barbara Olsen, called to her husband and reported details of the hijacking, just minutes before her plane was used as a weapon of mass destruction. The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, held a press conference in the Pentagon to tell the world the building was operational. An American Airlines jet had just crashed into his building on the other side of the courtyard from his own office and yet he was able to pull himself and our military together to respond to this threat.

Some readers, including one named Roger, have told me I haven't given President Bush the credit he's due in this crisis. They're probably right, and for that I apologize. This is the sort of event that truly seasons a man, and the president has a very, very difficult job just now. Our best wishes go out to him, his family, and all the brave, scared, hard-working, dedicated public servants even now looking out for our well-being.

It's frightening. Roger tells me that Barbara Olsen was a friend of his oldest brother. Daniel Lewin, the 31-year old co-founder and chief technology officer at Akamai, was on another of the doomed flights, traveling from Newark to San Francisco, a route I've often traveled myself.

It's going to take days to even begin to determine the death toll and by the time the work is done, there will likely be thousands of other Barbara Olsens and Daniel Lewins whose names will become part of this sad, sad story.

Right now, mostly, we need to absorb. Then we'll need to grieve. Our government will need to punish. And eventually, we will rebuild. Now, today, as citizens, we really need to get along. Wherever possible, give your neighbor kindness. He or she is as frazzled and freaked as you or I. That's why I forgive my wacky neighbor his lack of judgement. It was probably simply his way of connecting with a neighbor. Let's all try to connect with our neighbors, be supportive, cut each other slack, and pull together.

There is no politics right now. Just pain, sorrow, and the wonderfully American traits of determination and resolve. We will overcome.

P.S. For our international readers, I know this is a very U.S.-centric piece. But you need to understand just how personal this is. The World Trade Center is just up the highway from us. Most of us know people who worked at either the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. And to all of you all across the world, thank you so much for your good will. It's very important for us, right now, to know that other peoples feel the same pain we do and send us their love.

Read the rest of the 9/11 Diary series:

See also:

During our 9/11 retrospective coverage, I invite you to post your thoughts and remembrances, but I also request you remain respectful and polite. This isn't just a story of politics. This is a story of real people, their families, and their loss. Courtesy is demanded at a time like this. Thanks!

Topics: Government US, Government


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Personal Memories from The Day After.

    It has been ten years and I remember those long past days vividly. Of course, 9/11 was my seminal "Where where you" type experience and it was much more so than the "Where where you when Kennedy was shot" or the "Where where you when Armstrong walked on the moon" historic events. Although I admit to a better than average memory retention, the details from those two dates in history begin to fade while those from 9/11 remains in sharp focus.

    The Day After. I went back to work at the Chrysler facility in Kenosha after that facility had closed way too early the day before and resumed working with my recently acquired new friends. It was a somber work day which went by without incident and we were all thankful for each other's company. After work I drove back home and before entering to watch more news coverage, I looked up at the clear blue Wisconsin sky and paused.

    There were no planes in the sky! Of course, I had known from the day before that all US commercial airline flights had been cancelled. Still, it was an eerie experience to see an empty overhead sky when normally I would be able to view multiple jet contrails from inbound or outbound from O'Hara International or the Milwalkee International Airport -- let alone those planes calling Kenosha's large local airport facility their home. I even seem to recall the absence of any birds in the sky. Strange. Even Nature seemed to sense something was wrong that day. And i remember how "quiet' that September sky was.

    On the Day After, I read about how the Nation's Air Traffic Controllers had performed their heroic actions in attempting to clear the sky of all commercial airline traffic. One news item regarding that event still evokes an emotional response upon recall. (How amazing after all these years) I recall reading how one commercial passenger jet had been re-routed to a safe landing in Canada. While the jet's passengers where left wondering why they were in Montreal, the Captain issued a rather cryptic message over the plane's intercom system. He informed his crew and passengers that they were in Canada because, at that moment, NO COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT WERE FLYING OVER THE UNITED STATES! What a simple and profound statement. No more words needed to be said.

    On the Day After, I learned more details about the four Boeing Planes and the souls onboard. As we all found out, those brave souls were aboard four Boeing planes; two 767s and two 757s. Interesting how Boeing always names their commercial jets starting with the number "7".

    And so I remember that Day After ten years later. Sometime after those days had passed, after our National Anthem had been song before a particular Black Hawk hockey game and after I had left Kenosha for the last time, I decided to remember that day and honor those heroic individuals by using a particular online name. Kenosha7777. That name embodies the place where I was on 9/11 and contains four 7s representing the four Boeing jets used to carry their crews and passengers into history and into our memories. And, as Paul Harvey used to say, "Now you know the rest of the story."

    Thanks, David, for your words and memories. It is fitting and just that we cherish and remember our friends and fallen citizens rather than simply recall the horror of that time period. Pictures tend to recall the horror. Our words do not. Sometimes a picture is NOT worth a thousand words.
  • RE: The morning after (9/11 Diary)

    After heading over the Brooklyn bridge the afternoon of 9/11/01, I struggled to clear my brain enough to think. I received a call from my friend Kim trying to check on me. Kim called a friend who called a friend and an hour later I was sitting in a home in Brooklyn.Then, it was a drive to Target for necessities and then to Queens, to the home of someone's mom. I stayed in a small room of a 9 year old boy. Kindness of strangers ...