Out of a Clear Blue Sky
am a New Yorker by choice, having lived in the NYC area since 1977. I expect to die here. And I still have vivid memories of September 11, 2001.
It was a beautiful morning. I’d dropped off my wife, Sydny, at the Pelham, NY train station at about 8:00, got home and sent my sons off to school (they were 14 and 12), after which I’d gone up to my home office to continue working on a book about chivalry.
At a little before 9:00, Syd called from her office in Rockefeller Center. She said: “Turn on the TV.”
On NBC, I see smoke rising from the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC).
Watching video of that broadcast twenty years later, as I did while writing this column, barely diminishes the shock. It’s why movies you know the ending of still put you on the edge of your seat. No one at 9 AM knew the crash of the first plane wasn’t an accident.
The hosts of TODAY on 9/11 are unaware that the smoke and flames are coming from the explosion of American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston. Matt Lauer rightly speculates that, if early rumors are true and this was an aircraft accident, it surely can’t have been a light plane that blasted so huge a hole in the great building, causing so much fire and smoke.
Still, Katie Couric says they’re hearing it was a small commuter plane. At this point in the video, the TODAY “crawl” reads: “9:02.”
As the fireman said:
Don’t book a room over the fifth floor
in any hotel in New York.
They have ladders that will reach further
but no one will climb them.
As the New York Times said:
The elevator always seeks out
the floor of the fire
and automatically opens
and won’t shut.
These are the warnings
that you must forget
if you’re climbing out of yourself.
If you’re going to smash into the sky.*
It’s 2021, and I’m trying to stay calm, objective, rational – but I want to scream. I’m looking at film from two decades past, and I want to scream. Scream what? A warning? To whom?