ok, so remember how i said the other day that i wouldn't tell my 9/11 story? well, i feel the need to do it in light of last night's news, because it has a lot to do with my opinion of last night.
i waited tables in newport news, virginia then, as well as going to school. i got home monday night, showered and laid down in time for letterman. but i fell asleep with the TV on, and weirdly, i awoke to the dulcet tones of bryant gumbel on the CBS early show. he was interviewing a guy named stewart, who was a waiter at a cafe by the world trade center. stewart had a comically excessive lisp, and he was dramatically recounting the story of the idiot who crashed into the tower with his plane. i got out of bed, got some cereal and sat down in the living room with my roommate. we switched to ABC, which had brought out peter jennings. we ate breakfast and marveled at how stupid you'd have to be to crash into the biggest damn thing in the country. hell, couldn't you see it coming?
then, as they focused on the tower, a second plane entered the shot. peter jennings said, oh, my good god. the second plane hit. my roommate dropped her spoon into the bowl. clank. there was a moment of dead silence all around us. things got very real very fast. she dashed to the phone to call her husband, on duty on his ship. they were, as she spoke to him, sending the fleet out to sea. they were fine, but he'd be on the ship for the foreseeable future. as we talked, the crazy stories started flying about attacks everywhere. i called the man, who was still just my best friend at the time, who was living up here in DC and on his way to class when it happened. as we talked, the plane hit the pentagon.
the roommate and i did what any twenty-year-old would do in that situation: we panicked. we threw changes of clothes into the trunk of my car, called our parents to check in (i called my daddy out of his eighth-grade class to tell him, and ended up being the one to inform his middle school that the shit was going down) and sped across the commonwealth of virginia to my erstwhile tiny mountain college town. we knew no one was bombing that place. we were safe there. we got there before my boyfriend got back from class, so we went up to his room to drop our stuff. his buddy came into the room, stricken. did you hear about [our friend]? oh, god. we had a friend, two years ahead of us, who worked at cantor fitzgerald. no one had heard from him. that's all the guy said; he turned and left the room.
we went to dinner that night with a collection of people, including someone's dad. that man was already, less than 12 hours after the initial impact, screaming about turning the middle east into a glass parking lot. i could not listen to it; we left. on the car radio, someone at the college radio station found a recording of marvin gaye's rendition of the national anthem. we got my roommate settled with another friend with a spare bed, then the boyfriend and i went to bed.
that's when i cried.
so when president obama took that lectern (and i'll share my observations about the media treatment another time; that was fun for me too) and told me that the mastermind who made all that horror happen, murdering so many people and triggering all manner of repercussions for the living left behind, the reaction was immediate: yes. absolutely yes. i had the bloodthirsty instinctual moment of that's right, you fucking bastard; you'll never hurt us again. i had the moment of grief blended with relief for my dead friend and his family. there was so much else.
this is not the definitive answer to the war on those who hate modernity, egalitarianism and freedom, because let's be honest, that's what this is. but my god, what a milestone, and it feels damn good. the triggermen of this mission, those insanely brave servicemen who stared the bastard down as he cowered behind his teenage wife and pulled the trigger to end his life, are owed our undying thanks, as are all those who have served and will serve to defend us. the people who planned this maneuver to go down as they did are amazing.
we've earned a victory lap as a country. we did the world a service by taking that bastard down. mark the occasion however you feel appropriate: joy, peaceful reflection, meditation, whatever. what an unbelievable milestone. but tomorrow? back to work.