September 10, 2001: the last good day

I will always remember September 10, 2001.

It was a nice day here. My wife and I took the Metro down to the national Mall, had a picnic, tossed the frisbee around.

That night I stayed up late looking for a job. I had been at it for months, but had not even gotten a response letter from any of the companies I had sent resumes to, which was now approaching 100. I had had a technical writing job in Atlanta that I had to leave in order to move, and leaving that job was looking more and more like a mistake, as I got more and more frustrated. After sending out more resumes to companies listed on washingtonjobs.com, a completely useless jobs site run by the Washington Post, and apparently populated by fake jobs postings, I crept to bed at 3 a.m. I awoke at 9:30 the next morning, unaware at the turmoil the country was going through. As I sat on our couch, scanning the Post for more jobs, we got a phone call asking if we were OK; because a plane had crashed into the Pentagon, about five miles away from our new home.

Shocked, we turned on the news, and couldn't turn it off for the next six hours. We watched in horror as the Twin Towers collapsed; as the Pentagon burned down the road; as reports came in of a doomed flight in rural Pennsylvania; as CNN reported that the national Mall was on fire (I don't know if they were held responsible for airing this).

After a few hours we had to just stop watching and do something else. We took a break for a few hours by unpacking some of our stuff still in boxes, and building bookshelves we had bought. Eventually I went back to watching the news as the networks theorized who was responsible for the terrorist attacks. I couldn't sleep that night when I went to bed; having flown on what must be nearly 100 flights myself, the images of what the passengers on those planes had to go through kept playing in my mind. What would be next? Were we safe moving to and living in a city that's clearly a prime target for terrorism? Why did they have to hate us so much?

I was startled that night by shouting in the parking lot, it turned out to be just a druken man getting carted away to the drunk tank. But it frightened me that night nonetheless.

What frightened me more was having to fly later that month. My friends and I had been planning our semi-annual trip to Las Vegas for months, and I'd booked a flight already. The night before I had to fly I didn't sleep at all. The images of the terrified hijacked passengers persisted in my mind. The flight was quiet and uneventful, although I think everyone was on edge, flying so soon after 9/11.

Eventually I was able to get over the emotional stress and get on with my life. Washington may never recover; fear has gripped the city ever since. Postal workers were killed by anthrax in the mail; ordinary citizens were gunned down by a sniper. It all makes living here like living in a horror movie.

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