I was on my way to drop off my car for 5,000 mile maintenance at the dealer when the song stopped and the dj started talking about the 'unprecedented wave of terrorism across the country.' I kept driving, because I vaguely pictured something minor, pipe bombs or whatever. Then he said something about the WTC and the Pentagon, and I realized that I didn't want to not have my car today. Nothing logical, there wasn't any incidents in California, but some instinct to be able to be mobile if I had to be. So I u-turned and went back to the house and flicked on the TV. Fire and talking heads and terrible images and I realized that I wasn't going into work that day.
I sat and watched a little more, and then wondered if I should wake my roommates. Again, nothing logical, there wasn't anything they could do and they wouldn't necessarily be pleased to be woken up early to tragedy. I kept going down the hallway and calling lightly and rapping on the door, hoping they'd wake with me really having to *wake* them. Eventually they did and we all ended up in the living room with our laptops, trying to load overloaded news pages and boggling with friends on messaging and muds. Trying to check in with friends and family; I knew my mother was travelling; I didn't think she was on a plane that day, but I was very glad when I finally contacted her. My brother heard the plane go over, my sister had heard the explosion at the Pentagon while she was watching the WTC burn on the television, and she had thought to herself 'no, that can't be another, surely', and then a few moments later an announcer broke in with the first report of the Pentagon explosion. A day when the ridiculous came true.
I really remember very little coherent thought; the clearest thought I had was how much it reminded me of the Challenger, the same abstract unreality, the same clear blue sky and elegant death. Because there was something elegant about the first image, the tilting curve of silver metal and the ballooning ball of fire, just like the arcing white trails of booster rockets blown free from their shuttle.
It took a while to sink in that the buildings had actually collapsed; I had seen the footage where a slab of the facade slams into the street, but I assumed it had just fallen off the building. It took several repetitions on a mud before I grasped that yes, they were gone. I had seen them, I had been in the PATH station underneath, I had craned my head trying to get a proper view and grasp the height, I had thought that some day, when I had more time, I would go up to the observation deck and look out over New York.
It makes me feel a little guilty, that the loss of the buildings strikes -- not deeper, but truer, than so many deaths. The lives are the greater loss, but I knew none of them, and thus my grief was an abstract one; the buildings had been a real presence to me. It's not a noble thing to admit, but it's true.