8:00 am Liberty Place, Philadelphia. Reading emails, oddly quiet. Woman in cubicle says private plane flew into Trade Center. No one seems concerned. Me included. 2 minutes later private plane is airliner. Everything changes. Everyone is on computers watching news. Mostly Today Show.
We are told to leave building by the Fire stairs. Hit the street. Walk 16th St heading south. Not sure where to go. Home, 706 Washington Sq South is still unpacked from move. Head east on Sampson St. Huge bang. Truck lift drops onto street. Shaken but relieved I quicken pace. Instinct is to get inside a building. See the Union League Club. Doorman lets me in. Everyone in tv room. North Tower’s on fire. Matt Lauer talks. A friend, navy veteran wearing commendation lapel pin approaches me. We talk about Terrorists. Dad calls. Mom calls. Lots of Chicago calls from friends not aware my move to NYC was canceled and changed to Phila. My office was in WTC 2 south tower 99th floor.
2nd airliner hits south tower. Room shouts, groans, gasps. All different reactions. Only men. All suited. I Stay there all day. Leave 5 or 6 after turning down bar offers. Go Home to drink alone. Rye. Straight. No ice. Poured into glass. Stare out at Washington Square. Wonder why I left my wife. Asking myself why. I could be in Chicago in my home. Safe. With my friend. Who will help me understand this because i can’t alone.
No music as i drink. Walking into kitchen to refill glass my shoulder strikes the Door jam. I’m drunk. One more. I stay up and drink. Rye runs out. Black box Chardonnay comes to rescue. All the unopened moving boxes remind me of growing up an army brat. 22 moves. 12 schools. Mayflower a good friend.
The ships circle my living room. I’m on the manifest. Alone. Like all the moves to new schools. Knowing I’ll be leaving soon. I’ll be alone again.
Aug 20th, 2001. I celebrate a birthday in London. Flew first class. Me and a group of Saudis, the only passengers in 1st Class. Five women traditionally dressed. Four men in suits, no ties. All but one of imposing height and physique. The one is mustached, short and fat. Everyone defers to him.
After 9/11, photos of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Same guy on the plane. I’m sure. We landed at Heathrow and the Saudis ran for a flight to Hamburg.
Could it have been? Wouldn’t I have been contacted by my government? “What did they say?” the FBI would ask. “Look like?” asks CIA. “Wear?” “Go?” Nobody asked anything. I still don’t know….positively. I never will. Does it matter? It haunts me to this day. It’ll never stop.