A division director for the City and County of Denver, then on Tuesday morning, September 11th 2001. Arriving early for work, usually about 6:30 a.m., my radio turned on to KHOW–digesting my daily dose of pabulum from Peter Boyles–answering emails, trudging through the drudgery of another Tuesday. Tuesday: a kind of dismal day of the week presaging better things to come simply with the churn of the hours toward hump day, Wednesday.
Don’t remember anything unusual about the morning. Not many distractions as I sat in my corner office on the sixth floor of the Min Yasui Building at 303 W. Colfax, the same building that, at that time, housed the Denver District Attorney’s Office, a number of city agencies. Across the hall from our offices, the County Court Probation office saw the comings and goings of those who’d found themselves ensconced within the “system;” those who’d found themselves at the mercy of judges and probation officers who, as the proverbial thorn in the side, imposed the rule of law upon their harried souls.
Having not turned off my radio after Boyle’s show ended, shortly before 11 a.m., the report came that a plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Major event acknowledged, I continued working while directing a more intense concentration on the radio…waiting for more details on the NYC crash. I didn’t have long to wait.
A few minutes after 11 a.m., the report came that another plane had crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. At that moment my work day ended. I turned up the radio, listened for a moment. Shoving my chair back from my desk, I headed out into my division’s work area. Stopped at several work stations, inquired of my crew if they had heard the news. Mostly everyone in the division was, by that time, listening to their own radios or huddled at another cubicle where the volume of a radio had been turned up.
Walked into our conference room with the intention of turning on the t.v. The t.v. was already on, with a couple of my crew watching the unfolding drama. Most of my crew gradually made their way to the conference room where, by shortly after 11:30 a.m., reports began to be broadcast that a third plane had hit the Pentagon. By that time, County Court Probation employees had begun to ease into our conference room to see the reality of what that Tuesday morning had become.
I was called back to my office from the conference room to take a call from the Manager of General Services. The message: It was likely that the Mayor would require 303 W. Colfax to be vacated. Fear that what was clearly an attack upon America might possibly reach into the heartland, into Denver, and manifest itself as the destruction of our building was, at that time, not outside the realm of possibility.
Then, shortly after noon, a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. The call then came that the Mayor was closing down our building; that all employees were required to vacate the premises.
I walked through our office area and told those who were not in the conference room to pack up and leave. I then walked to the conference room. I remember so clearly the immense silence in the room, except for the narrative coming from the television. Both my crew and the County Court employees were transfixed by the dark and dangerous story unfolding, in living color, before them. I remember their eyes: large, staring, their faces reflecting awe, disbelief that what they were seeing had actually happened. I announced to them that the Mayor had directed the building to be vacated. No one moved. No one turned to me. It was as if my voice had been silenced by the immensity of the spectacle they were experiencing. I said it again, stepping to the t.v. and turning it off. Slowly, silently, each of them rose from their chairs, or, already standing, turned from the t.v. and walked out of the room.
The following days would, of course, be consumed by reliving the events of that Tuesday morning.
For me, the sadness of that day, the resolve engendered by that day, the strength of our American psyche would be poignantly played-out at Madison Square Garden, on October 20th, 2001. The Concert for New York would provide:
David Bowie opened the concert seated cross-legged on the stage with nothing but what appeared to be a child’s music/rhythm toy and performed “America.”
P.S. September 11, 2008. Little did we know that what would come out of 9/11 would be seven years of hell, propigated by a government whose intent was to ignore those who had done us harm, but, rather to “shock and awe,” and “surge” into a country which, up to that time, had offered little refuge to terrorists. The result: Bin Laden still lives. We still court the Saudis with a disgusting gentility. Thousands of our young men and women dead, maimed. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, in Iraq killed, displaced. And, to what end? For McCain and Palin to continue the nightmare? For an opportunity for another “war President” to continue the Rovian mantra that we need to kill them there so we don’t have to kill them here? Ah, disgust abounds. God Bless America! And, I mean that. God Bless America from another four years of unabashed ignorance; from the God, Guns and Guts mentality of the neo-cons; from the “war hero” who is not so much a war hero as he is just simply a survivor, who made it through the hell of captivity in Viet Nam. An aside: Aren’t the true “war heroes” of that conflict, the Viet Nam imbroglio, the young men and women who gave their lives in that sensless conflict? Are not the true “war heroes” of that conflict, the veterans who when they returned from battle were spat upon, debased, eventually forgotten? Ah, what has happened to my country?