On 9/11/01 I awoke early and checked an Internet site that had a running set of commentary from experts on stocks. One of them reported hearing an explosion from the area of the World Trade Center. I spent a few minutes checking Drudge and news sites, with no luck. Even then, I was such an Internet junkie that it took me several minutes to think to simply turn on the TV.
By the time I did, it was about 6:10 a.m. Pacific time, and the second plane had already hit. I watched for a few minutes, then went down to wake my wife, and say what so many people said that day: “You need to look at the television.”
Our daughter was nineteen months old, and whenever there was a plane in the sky, she would point to the sky and yell: “EH-pwane!” After we woke her up, she was watching the TV replays of the plane hitting the tower. She didn’t understand what she was watching — but she did point at the TV and smile and yell, with great delight, “EH-pwane!”
It was jarring to see such an awful spectacle delighting her like that.
But it took a while to sink in. For example, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be going to work that day. I was in the shower, getting ready for work, when the first tower came down. My wife told me about it and I came out in the middle of it, quickly wrapping a towel around myself but still dripping wet, to look at the TV.
As reports of a fire on the mall in Washington, D.C. came over the television, I thought (like many Americans): My God. How many of these planes are out there?
Even after the second tower collapsed, it had not sunk in emotionally. I knew that thousands had probably died — in fact, as a natural pessimist, I assumed it was between 15,000 and 20,000. But I still got in the car and headed for work.
A block away, someone told me they were turning people back. “Why?” I asked. “It’s not like terrorists are going to fly a jet airliner into the Hall of Records.” It’s a squat building on the outskirts of downtown, far from the skyscrapers. I figured I’d be as safe there as anywhere.
I picked up some work that I thought I would do at home, but never did.
That night, it finally really sunk in. I had nightmares for four straight nights.