The Writing Life

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2001 Remembered

I had my usual all night schedule 5 years ago. I was busy doing something on the computer, but at the time, I liked watching old COPS reruns on Fox in the early morning hours from 4:30am-5:30am. What can I say? I enjoy watching stupid people getting arrested. Anyway, I didn't want to interrupt what I was doing so I started recording COPS on my VCR. I didn't think there was a lot of time left on the tape, so I didn't bother timing it. I just pressed record, willing to let the tape run out when it may.

Some time after 6am, a friend of mine called and said, "Are you watching TV?" I said no, and she said, "Turn it on. Any channel." So I turned it on. They said a plane just hit the Pentagon. I was shocked and said, "The Pentagon? Oh my God!" She said, "It's worse than that. Just keep watching," and she hung up.

Sometime during the next 4 sleepless (literally. I did not sleep at all for 4 days. I just kept watching the TV) days, I remembered the recording in the VCR. I had no idea how much after COPS it had recorded, but I knew the local news started at 5:30 am. I found the beginning of the news and watched.

It was unbearable. I watched the little clock news broadcasts usually put in a corner of the screen. I saw the clock turn to 5:46 and knew that was the moment the first plane hit. The weather girl was laughing and talking about her new shoes.

The clock continued to creep forward, and all the while it was business as usual. Lots of laughing and silliness, as that morning show team tended to do, and dozens of stories of little import. They went to the traffic guy as he flew over Los Angeles, talking about sig alerts and traffic flow as the clock slowly ticked forward.

Then, finally, they cut to the anchor and he said there was breaking news out of New York. They cut to the local Fox station in NY for their coverage.

That news team was a little edgy, but it was more about trying to figure out what had happened, than genuine fear. They had callers giving their impressions of what had happened. Some said it had been a bomb. Some said a small plane. One person said it was a huge jetliner. One of the anchors speculated about terrorism and the others hushed her up, saying they had no facts and stop speculating.

Then, with cameras trained on the towers, we all saw the second plane hit. There were gasps and even some stifled screams from the newsroom. Within minutes, everyone was talking about terrorism. No squelching speculation now. They reran the tape and for the first time, they could clearly see that it was a jetliner. Disbelief, anger, fear, horror -- it was in every voice.

The cameras continued to show the flames, the people hanging out of windows, someone jumping and then a quick cutaway to the studio. Then back to the towers with a more distant shot, everyone speculating. I watched the clock tick, knowing that the towers were about to fall and about a minute or two before it happened, the tape ended.

I still have the tape. I can't bear to tape over it or throw it away. I only watched it that once, but I'll probably always hang onto it -- laughing weather girls, traffic jams and tragedy forever captured.

-- Guanna


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