Blogging Like I've Never Blogged Before

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Can I do a 9/11 post on 9/13? OK, thanks.

Here is a story. It is long and I am not sure it has a point. And I could swear I have told it here before, but after an exhaustive search, I don't believe I have.

As you may already know, I was in New Orleans on 9/11. I went down there by myself on a last minute vacation. I booked my ticket on 9/6 and I was there on 9/9. So of course I wake up on Tuesday morning, still probably half drunk. The night before I had watched the Denver Broncos beat the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. And just like Lozo, I remember Ed McCaffrey breaking his leg. That was my memory of 9/10.

Ed McCaffrey. Never Forget.

One of the reasons I did go to New Orleans, aside from the booze and the cheap JetBlue flight, my friend Chaz was going to be there on a business trip. So I thought, Cool, I will get to hang out with Chaz (real name Chris) for a bit while I am there. We met up on Sunday night, had some beers, watched some football, and said we'd see each other again. I had called him on Monday night, but couldn't get in touch with him. I didn't have a cell phone, so if he was going to call me, it was going to be through the hotel.

So Monday goes by and it's now Tuesday morning and I am sleeping. I remember hearing someone in the hotel room next to me on the phone. He said something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. I was barely awake. I fell back asleep and woke up maybe two minutes later, not really sure if what I just heard was a dream or not. I turned on the TV, and of course, I see it was not a dream. The Twin Towers are burning alive.

Holy shit.

The first thing I do is dial home. This was the first time I ever used a hotel phone before checking to see how they would screw me with their rates. My dad answered and I said, "Are you watching this?" And of course he was. And then I don't think we said anything for the next ten minutes. We just sat there on the phone. It was good enough for me, because after I would hang up the phone, there was no one else to talk to.

We eventually hung up and I ordered room service for the first time in my life. Even though I was sick to my stomach, I needed something. So this woman comes up with my food, and wanting to talk to someone, I say, "Can you believe what's going on?" She looks at the TV, but I think was more interested in a tip, and she says, "Oh yeah. Nobody died, right?" I almost puked on her. A plane just hit a building. I've got my money on the pilot dying.

After about eight hours of watching TV, seeing the towers fall again and again, I decide to leave my hotel and just walk around. Never have I wanted to be home so bad.

The first thing I encounter when I walk out of the hotel are these businessmen on a smoke break. What do you think they'd be talking about? Maybe who did this to us? What about all of those poor people in those buildings? How are we going to get home? No. This is what I heard:

You think Barry Bonds is gonna break the record?

Holy shit, where the fuck country am I?!?! <--- Trust me... that sentence was gramtically correct when I thought it.

So I walked around. Went to the cathedral that Bush would eventually stand in front of when he gave his Katrina speech. Lots of people were in there, mostly silent, some crying, but after hearing the Barry Bonds conversation, I didn't know whether or not they were there for the same reason I was. I wasn't there because I am religious. I was there because thousands of people just died, and I wanted to find a place that wasn't showing them dying over and over again.

My long and rambling point is this: I wanted to find people that were from New York. I wanted to find someone who knew what those buildings looked like and felt like. At the time, I was commuting to Jersey City, and during my drive I would focus on the Twin Towers. They were sort of my finish line. Even though it was Jersey City, the Towers were right across the river. Just about as close as you could get without being in the city.

So I wanted to commiserate. I felt like nobody could relate. I would talk to a few people, and I'd get comments like, "Oh, you poor thing" or "These fucking Arabs." Those weren't things I wanted to hear. I just wanted to talk to someone about those buildings. People who had never seen them just didn't get how mammoth they were.

So the day goes by and I go check my messages at the hotel to see if Chaz called. Nothing. I call him again but get no answer. Oh well. It is now night time and I decide to hit Bourbon Street and get drunk.

Go back to that day. Can you think of any place you would rather not be than New Orleans? Party City. Show me your tits. And all I want to do is steal a car and drive home. So I go into a few bars, and nothing feels right. I walk towards the end of Bourbon Street and see a bar that is practically empty. This bar is practically off of Bourbon Street. It looks like a nothing bar, almost no reason to be there.

There is a bartender and two people sitting at the bar, a couple that consists of a guy and a girl. I go there, order a beer. We are all watching the TV. Of course. The girl turns to me and shakes her head and says, "I just can't believe all of this." I say, "I know. I practically grew up next to New York." She asks me where I am from and I tell her New Jersey. And then she says, like the angel I was looking for, "I am from New Jersey too!"

Thank fucking god. Finally, someone who has a clue as to what is going on. She was from South Jersey, the part that affiliates itself more with Philadelphia, but still, she knew what this meant. So I start talking to her and one of the first things I talk about is just the enormity of the buildings, and what it felt like to stand next to them, and I can't imagine how many people were there.

And then she says, "You know, I've never been to New York City."

I wanted to punch my angel in the face.

This girl lived two hours away from New York City for her entire life and was never there. I was deflated. There was no one in this city I could talk to. I felt like I was in another country.

But I stayed here, because despite this girl not knowing what it really felt like, she was at least the most sympathetic person I had met. We talked for quite a bit while her boyfriend did shots with the bartender. I had told her how I just wanted to be with my family and my friends more than anything else that day. She told me I was lucky that I wasn't in the area, and I told her how horrible it felt NOT to be in the area. You wanted to be there. Not to witness carnage, but to be among people who were feeling the exact same thing.

Some time went by at this stupid little bar that no one was visiting. I was getting fairly lit, and the South Jersey Girl was also lit. She was talking and I looked up and saw some people walk inside. A group of about five guys, when all of the sudden, I yell out, "CHAZ!!!"

Chaz walks into this bar, this stupid little bar that barely qualifies as Bourbon Street. At heart, I believe I am a fairly large cynic. But that moment is one of the most, "Why on earth would that ever happen?" moments in my life. Keep in mind, Chaz is with a bunch of dudes in New Orleans. They want to see some boobs. They should have gone to Senor Frog's or some shit like that. In a city with hundreds of bars, they decided to walk into the biggest dive with no one in it.

So I don't know, fate, divine intervention, lucky ass shit. Whatever it was, it felt like a fucking miracle on that day.

Then I found out that Chaz had called me about five times over the past two days. The flashing message light on my hotel room phone wasn't working. It was then I realized I needed a cell phone.

So the lesson of this post is that cell phones are fantastic.

This story, I think, would have been way more dramatic on 9/11. This 9/13 bullshit just doesn't cut it. Sorry to rehash what we were all feeling two days ago. I know everyone wants to get back to what killed Anna Nicole's son.

A few months ago, I saw this in a bathroom. So true.

All material © Mike Toole; 2003 - 2006