Five years ago I had overslept and I was lying in bed, listening to Gary do his usual morning rant. Well, not listening. What I truly was listening to was NPR. I had heard the tone change, and the morning broadcaster seemed to be breaking form. Some woman on the phone was describing smoke billowing out of a building.
"Gary, are you listening to this?"
At the time it was only one plane, I believe, but we vaulted out of bed looking for images. I took the TV by the treadmill, and Gary manned the big TV in the living room. "I've got CNN," I said, and Gary moments later called back and said "FOX says it's two planes."
"FOX lies," I called out. (This was collaborated repeatedly that morning every time Edie Somebody said, "We don't want to report rumors BUT.")
"No, there's a picture. It was two planes."
"It's that crazy Osama guy who has the vendetta against that building," I called back. I knew about him because when Eric Rudolph was on the run I thought I should know what he looked like, and I was surprised to see this Osama guy was Number One Most Wanted for the earlier WTC bombing, not Eric.
We called updates to each other until CNN scooped FOX with the "Smoke at the Pentagon" crawl. That was terrifying, so I joined Gary in the other room and he converted my fear to anger with his rant, which was now focused on the way the attack was described as "sophisticated." Add to that our anger that they had now attacked the government, instead of a skyscraper that seemed to personally piss them off. We pulled chairs directly in front of big TV, switched it to CNN, and worshiped at the altar of Breaking News.
I didn't feel like it was in a movie at all. It seemed very real. It doesn't seem real now; that's why I keep watching these replays. One unreal moment was when the first tower went down. I think I was calling work at the time, promising to come in when they stopped blowing stuff up. I turned back to the TV and they said a tower had come down. "No, it hasn't," I thought. "There's just a bunch of smoke there. They just can't see the tower behind all that smoke. This is CNN? Now CNN is reporting rumors."
When the second tower came down, I fell a little in love with Aaron Brown for saying there "are no words." I soothed my nausea over seeing what I thought was 5,000 people die with a home-cooked brunch of, well, cholesterol. Bacon, eggs fried in bacon grease, and fried hash browns. With cheese. Because life is short.
Mine was one of the patriotic houses that flew the flag that night. Only, the flag wasn't there out of patriotism. I planted the flag in the front yard that night to say, "Shit. That scared me."