Seven Years Later

World Trade Center

Source: Wiki Commons. Used under GNU license

Seven years ago this morning, I walked out to my car and saw that I had a flat tire.  With no Triple A at the time, I knew it’d be a bad day.  I shelled out the $40, had the car towed up to my mechanic, and waited in at the Servati Pastry across the street while Bruce pulled a shard of broken glass out of my tire.

After breakfast, I ran back across Beechmont Avenue (really not a bright thing to do if you’ve ever been on Beechmont between 5 AM and midnight).  In the lobby, while Bruce wrote up my bill, I caught the news on the battered 19-inch.  One of the Twin Towers was on fire.  Someone flew a plane into the side of it.  My first thought was “How do they put that out?” followed by “What moron buzzes the tallest building in the world?”  This was followed immediately by “It’s a beautiful September day.  Why the hell don’t I play hookie?”  I paid my bill, oblivious to what was really happening and tried to think of a good excuse to get off work.

I got home in time to see the plane hit the second tower.  A coworker called and said, “Take half a day.  We have no idea what’s going on.”

I hung up.  My computer was up and running (on dial-up, no less).  As Charlie Rando, a college kid I knew from Connecticut, IM’d me, asking “J, this is spooky stuff.  What’s going on?”  As those words popped up on my screen, I turned and watched one of the towers collapse.  By then, Fox’s DC crew was trying to figure out whether the White House or the Pentagon had been hit.

The real question is whether the world really changed that day?

Here’s the unpopular answer:  No.

A lot of people in this country woke up to something I knew a long time ago.  The world is not safe.  It never was safe.  It never will be safe.  Paradoxically, I’ve taken a lot of comfort in that.  I’ve flown more since 9/11.  I still work near three major terrorist targets, and my biggest worry is dodging television cameras.  (Imagine that.  The comedian can’t stand being on television.)  A lot of people adopted a bunker mentality after the attacks.  I didn’t.  If the world was always dangerous, what changed?

Plastic sheeting over the windows?  Duck and cover.

SARS?  Polio.

H5N1 bird flu?  Swine flu.

The more fear mongering done by the government, mostly out of an inept ability to look like it’s doing something dammit, the more I shrugged.  It’s like that Tommy Lee Jones line from Men in Black.  “There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet…”

Only difference is I know there’s a great plague lurking somewhere in the gullet of a bird or some little coward convinced if he blows up the federal building across the street from my job that he’ll be greeted by seventy-two virgins or some little Napoleon wannabe who thinks a nuke would make a great little toy.

And you know what?  I also know I spent the first twenty-six years of my life with 75% of the Soviet nuclear arsenal pointed at me, and some of it still is, along with part of China’s.  Guess what.

I got up yesterday morning, took a long shower, and rode the bus into work reading Sean Chercover’s latest.  I interviewed for a new position.  I took a long walk with Nita in the park after dinner.  I reassembled my oversized monster of a desk.  Today, I meet with a possible corporate client about doing some standup at company functions in the near future.

I’m submitting a nonfic book proposal and going over a novel and working with a Realtor to offload one of our houses.  I’m getting ready for college and planning to vote for Barack Obama.

In other words, I have refused to go down into the bunker.  It’s not that I’m oblivious to the danger.  I just refuse to bow to it.

Because that’s really when the terrorists win.  I refuse to be a hostage.