Everyone has their 9/11 memories. These are mine. Originally published in 2011. Republished, again, today in honor of those who died, and those who did their best to help others live.
On Sept. 11, 2001, in Auckland, New Zealand, my home since 1993, I was about to back out of my driveway and go to work. What I heard on the radio made my blood run cold.
I stumbled back into the house and told my Singaporean wife. All she could say was, “What? What? Oh no.”
I felt confused and bamfoozled. I didn’t know whether to go to work or call my family in Oklahoma or get on a plane. I mean, what the hell do you do?
I went to work, listening to radio news and feeling like a stunned mullet. As a P.R. pro, I should have been thinking about the impact on my NZ clients, about what to advise them to do. But when I got to work, all I could do was watch the towers collapsing over and over and over and over and over and over again. I’d make a few calls and go back to the TV. When a plane hit the Pentagon, I thought, “When Eli was born, we lived two miles from there. Two freaking miles from there.”
I prayed. I went to Mass. I prayed some more. I could not believe what had happened. I wondered about my best man and reporting buddy from Waco years. He’d been a big dog in the Big Apple for awhile. If he survived, I knew he’d be in the apex. Back when he was a Texas journalist, he was the “Master of Disaster” who “loved the smell of napalm in the morning.” And now, he’d be smelling it. Or he’d be dead. Oh, Dear Lord, no.
I remember thinking, my buddy IS alive and will know what to do. He will act heroically. As for me, all I could think was: “This is too huge. I don’t know what to do. What the hell do you do?”
I was amazed at Rudy Giuliani. What balls.
And now, that’s all I remember about Sept. 11: Watching TV. Praying. Feeling helplessly surreal. Worrying about my buddy. Fearing even worse acts of terrorism. And feeling very guilty for thinking, “At least we’re safe down here at the bottom of the world.”
Seven years ago, I visited New York City with my then 18-year-old son. My buddy showed us around the Big Apple, including Ground Zero. He shared his memories. He still had the taste of 9/11 in his mouth; it just would not go away. As he told me that, he turned away, and a tear tracked down his face.
And now, it’s 13 years since the murderous, cowardly 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden is long dead. Countless heroic NYC police, fire and emergency officials have died or still battle PTSD or lung disease. A shiny skybunker is rising from Ground Zero. I find myself waiting for another terror strike by crazy jihaders. I wonder how people in Israel live under constant threat. But, then again, I guess that’s what you have to do in NYC, every day.
Blessings on the innocents, the heroic first-responders who showed such courage on 9/11, and on all their survivors, who have to live through this horrific tragedy again today and every tomorrow.
Lord have mercy.
In no particular order:
… Go to the dentist. Get my teeth cleaned. Maybe get the dentist to figure out why anytime I eat meat, about half the animal gets stuck between my teeth and gum. For about a day. Which drives me insane.
… Finish the “Fence That Never Ends” in the backyard, redo the front fence, and rehang the front gate that has not been right since the Missus backed into it (sort of like I did last night while racing to be on TV and win a new car which did not happen).
… Go whole hog and get a new pair of glasses – frames and progressive lenses with a BRAND NEW prescription from an eyeball doctor.
… Write a fricken book.
… Or two mebbe.
… Call a plumber to fix the pathetic bloody shower.
… Downsize, cash up, buy a place in the country, with a carport for a motor home, a four wheeler, and a two-holer kayak for me and a big dog-to-be-named-later.
I need my Mommy.
It doesn’t matter than I am 58 years old.
Or that Mom went to God in 1996.
What matters is I have been down with lung gunk for three weeks now, and I need my Mommy.
Because she always made it better when I was sick.
Dry toast and flat 7 Up if you were puking. Chicken noodle soup with Saltine crackers if not.
A cool, wet washrag for your forehead. An aspirin hidden in a spoonful of grape jelly. And a mug of honey & lemon juice in hot water.
I am not happy.
Here I sit, in Auckland New Zealand, trying to continue my efforts to reconnect to the ‘Merican Mothership, this time by listening to the OU vs Somebody in Louisiana football game.
But that is not possible. Not unless you are subscribed and endorsed and whup out your Amex Black Card to pay up big.
Alas, it seems that, being Sooner Born and Sooner Bred, and when you die, being Sooner Dead, no longer qualifies you to listen to the Giant Money Making Machine Previously Known As Oklahoma Sooner Football.
And that makes me sick, because…
1. I literally grew up in Owens Stadium. When I was little, my uncle ran OU concessions. So every home game, basically our whole family would be involved. For years and years, while my Mom and Aunts made 10 billion hotdogs, my cousins and buddies and I ran wild under the stadium.
Other than war, there is nothing more traumatic, more hellish, than Two-A-Day football practices.
Especially if they were in Oklahoma, under the brutal, scorching, relentless August heat, circa 1972-1974.
I had not thought of Harve Collins in a million years. But when we drove by there recently on my ‘Merican vacation, memories came flooding back.
If I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I blame the blood, sweat and tears, the screams and the whistles. And the moldy jock strap.
Oh Dear Lord, not the moldy jock strap.
Even if the coaches watered the field in July, come August, it resembled the surface of Mars — hot, dead, no sign of life.
The perfect place to
torture coach high school football players.
Breakfast of Champions
As a Tiger, my two-a-day breakfast consisted of a jug of Gatorade, a piece of dry toast, and two Allerest.
Anything more, and it would have come up during wind sprints. Anything less, and I would have died of heat stroke, dehydration or hay fever.
“You’ve been cutting your eyebrows again, haven’t you?”
Says the Missus.
In that tone that your Mother used to use.
When you had been very bad.
So I man up and give my answer.
“No, I have not.”
And I quickly walk away because, I may look stupid, but I’m really not.
See, you reach a point in life when you get Deranged Old Man Eyebrows.
There is nothing you can do about them. Like Abs of Pudding, they are part of the cycle of life.
I try to ignore my Deranged Old Man Eyebrows (D.O.M.E.), but when they start getting stuck in my glasses, they make me crazy.
Sometimes, I rip those suckers right out of my head, but I prefer not to do that for two reasons.
I’m not sure why the death of Robin Williams has hit me so hard; why this thing’s weight is so heavy, so suffocating, so oppressive.
It may be because initial reports of his death said it was self-inflicted asphyxiation.
Rightly or wrongly, that gave me a ghastly image of poor Robin hanging himself.
Rightly or wrongly, it made me think that the demons he battled so long and so hard, finally convinced him with their lies.
That it was all too hard, too pointless, too over. That whatever he had done was unforgivable. That no one cared anyway. So he should just end it all.
When such a kind, enormously talented person like Robin Williams falls like this, I just feel so very sad.