I remember shaving.
I remember I was naked, hunched over my sink (the left one), still damp from the shower, face half covered in Barbasol. Craning, probably, to mow the recalcitrant part of my neck.
I remember getting half done and absently turning off the bathroom fan so I could hear Bob Edwards on the clock radio. I remember thinking his voice sounded funny. I remember realizing he was saying words that didn’t make sense, or at least words that I didn’t want to make sense. Some planes had crashed. Into a building, maybe? I kept shaving. Then, in the midst of discussing Bush’s first remarks on the attacks, he started stumbling over his words. Bob Edwards never stops; he’s a radio pro.
[That was] President Bush speaking this morning in Florida; he is on his way back to Washington now cutting short his visit to Florida where he was to promote his education programs this morning reading to elementary schoolchildren. The President may be the only one in the air at this hour; the Federal Aviation Administration has grounded air traffic in the United States because of reports that these planes that crashed into the World Trade Center (pause) today (pause) reports that these, uh, these planes were hijacked so the FAA has grounded these, ah, air traffic.
One of the Towers of the World Trade Center appears to have completely collapsed.
(26:45 into the NPR feed)
I stopped shaving and went downstairs to the TV, the absurd boom TV I won in an employee referral raffle scam before my firm started circling the drain sometime in summer 2001 (fuck you, Texaco). The story was set by then, and the only plot point yet to fire was the collapse of the second tower. I watched for a while before heading back upstairs to finish getting ready for work.
Which is weird. I guess the scale of the thing hadn’t really sunk in. It never occurred to me to stay home. At some level, I guess I wanted to be with my friends in the office — drain-circler or no, I still worked with a great group of people (this would last only another month, before bankruptcy and purchase and layoffs and office closure came in October).
About half the office was in; those with families and children and commutes were staying at home, but plenty of us were huddled around the TV in the break room, or perpetually reloading Cnn.com. The phones got lots of use; we had an office in downtown Manhattan, and wanted to make sure our friends were safe, too. We got lots of email. Rumors flew. Most were bullshit.
Midmorning, I got a call from Rob, one of my oldest friends. He’d been en route from Austin to visit our mutual friend Jack in Hawaii when the grounding order came, and was therefore stuck in Houston. “I’m in a cab; what’s the address of your house?” I had him come to my office instead, where I gave him the keys to my Porsche and instructions to come back in an hour. For some reason, I couldn’t leave yet.
Nothing happened in that hour. Rob came back. I left work — nobody was working — and we went for food. It was a beautiful day, cloudless and cool and dry. Chinese Cafe was open, bless them. After lunch, somewhat desperate for something to do, we went over to Rice, Rob’s alma mater, hoping for cheap alcohol. It felt like that kind of day. Neither campus pub was open yet, but there was no shortage of shell-shocked students. We went back to my house and caught Branagh’s “Henry V” on cable just in time for the St. Crispin’s Day speech. Nobody had any more interest in cable news, especially since it was already clear there’d be no new information. The girl I’d been kind of dating drove in, unwilling to spend the day alone in her apartment. My roommate came home; his girlfriend Lindsey came over. The five of us went to eat at a bar and grill around dinnertime, and we saw Carl. He looked somewhat worse for wear; an analyst for Merrill-Lynch, he knew the building, and I’m sure knew people who worked there. We drank. We went back home. We watched another movie (“Withnail and I”). Lauren went home. We all went to bed.
Rob stayed most of the week, sleeping on the couch, until his girlfriend could drive over and pick him up. Nobody I knew did any real work for a while after, but I’ll be damned if I can remember anything much else from that week.
Weirdly (or not, depending on how you look at these things), soon after 9/11 I started long-distance dating Mrs Heathen, who was living in DC at the time. We’d been emailing all summer, reconnecting (we’d been friends in college, but lost touch) and when I got busy at work and took too long to reply, she chastised me. I wrote her an actual physical letter as sort of a joke apology and mailed it during the first week of September. When she finally got back to her house after dealing with the Washington of September 11, my letter was the only item in her mailbox.
So here we are. Tell me what you remember, if you want.