Episode 16- Where Was I on 9/11?

In honor of the anniversary of 9/11, here is the podcast version of what I was doing on that tragic day.

 

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Where Was I on 9/11?

             This is a story of perhaps one of the most tragic days in my generation: the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center and also crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C, killing nearly three thousand people, many of whom were first responders. There was also another plane crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania where passengers made the ultimate sacrifice and thwarted another attack that was rumored to be aimed at the White House. That day was the day that more or less changed America and the way people looked at America forever.
            But this story is not really about the 9/11 attacks at all. This is the story of what I was doing on that tragic day.
            I was still living in Tivoli, located near Red Hook, New York at the time. It was a Tuesday and at the time I was off from my job as a cashier at Stop and Shop, a grocery store that was located in Rhinebeck. The weather was nice that day as well. I started out the morning going up to the barn to feed my sister’s horses. It seemed like it was going to be just another normal day to me.
            Sometime later, I got a phone call from my mother who was working at a pet shop in Red Hook that my family owned at the time. She was asking me if I heard anything about a plane crash in New York City and I obviously hadn’t. I turned on the radio but I couldn’t really hear much so I was still pretty much in the dark for a little while longer.
            It wasn’t until I went into town to do my usual routine on my days off from work that I finally found out what was going on. When I went to the post office to get my mail, I found out that I couldn’t because the country had ordered all federal institutions to be closed down, including post offices, banks and schools. So I couldn’t get my mail that day. Nor could I go to the library to use the Internet. At that time I was not fully active on the whole Internet scene because social media did not really exist at that time. I mainly used the Internet to look up new movies that were coming out. However had Facebook, Twitter and YouTube existed at that time, you could guarantee that this would practically be the main topic everyone would be talking about.
            After dropping off a load of laundry at the Laundromat, I stopped off at Broadway Pizza and also at Milagro’s, a health food deli that was located in Tivoli. They had the TV on and it was there where I finally got my first look at the chaos and devastation that occurred in New York City as the image of the burning towers appeared on the TV.
            On one of the news segments they showed an image of a Boeing 747 jet plane smashing into the second tower of the World Trade Center. This all happened on national television and it was then that the reporters announced that it was an official terrorist attack on American soil at a magnitude not seen since Pearl Harbor during World War II, a day that came to be known as “the day of infamy.”
            My initial reaction when I saw the plane smash into the South Tower was “Is this shit for real?” To some, people assumed that the footage of an airliner crashing into the Twin Towers looked like it could have been part of an action movie that was filming. However, the devastation proved to be all too real. People were shocked, devastated but at the same time they were cheering on the first responders (police, paramedics and the fire department officials that arrived on the scene in an attempt to rescue survivors when the towers collapsed and later when rescuers from all around the country converged on the remains of the World Trade Center.
            In the days that followed, I watched the news because that’s what was on 24/7 during the remainder of that week and this was also at a time when I still had cable TV. I bought the newspapers that were out during the week. During that week, I along with the rest of the country learned all about the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden and so on and that the attacks were directed at us because Al Qaeda hated everything America stood for, namely freedom. I watched the speech where then-President George W. Bush declared a “war on terror” against Al Qaeda and all terrorist organizations throughout the world. The first target was the Taliban because Afghanistan was the country harboring Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Shortly after the attacks, Americans felt a wave of patriotism that had not been seen before or since.
            However at the same time, America changed even more in the years after 9/11. More organizations were created for the purpose of security, including the Department of Homeland Security. Bin Laden was eventually tracked down and killed by Navy SEALs in 2011. We have been through a recession, two wars, another very controversial president (Barack Obama) and more social, political and economic problems than you can shake a fist at. Our international standing is not what it used to be and the country is more divided than it used to be. And we are on the verge of another election year where we will have to select a new president and one of the candidates is a woman (Hillary Rodham Clinton) who I definitely will not be voting for because I hate everything she stands for and I will just leave it at that.
            As far as I go, 9/11 didn’t really affect me all that much. I didn’t have any relatives or anyone I know that died on that day, either as a bystander or as part of the rescue teams trying to save others. For me life went on as usual but it was a minor deciding factor for my family moving out of the Red Hook area a year later after all the city people started moving up to the area in the months afterward. However, 9/11 did have a positive significance for me because my youngest nephew was born on that day in 2007.
            Unfortunately, this is going to be a short story about a national tragedy because it did not affect me at all. The reason why I decided to write this was because I felt obligated to get a 9/11 story out there and this probably would not be a memoir if I did not include a story about what I was doing on my generation’s “day of infamy.”

 

Rot In Hell, Mr. Bin Laden

Well, I’m sure by now everyone has heard the good news. Last night, President Obama held a late-night news conference saying that Osama Bin Laden, mastermind behind 9/11 and one of the most evil men in the history of the free world, has been killed by US forces during an invasion of his compound in Pakistan. I was originally planning to do a video of this on YouTube but then since I was tired from work last night, I decided that a written blog would be better.

There is a hint of irony as far as the date May 1, when Osama was officially confirmed dead. Also on that date in 1945, another evil man was officially declared dead and of course I am talking about Adolf Hitler, whose body was found by Allied forces a day after he committed suicide rather than face justice for crimes against humanity. As far as Bin Laden goes, justice has officially been done. And the fact that this news comes four months before the 10th anniversary of 9/11 makes this major victory much better.

So I just want to take this time to thank all the troops who have risked everything and continue to put their lives on the line to keep people like you and me safe. And now, I like to take the time for everyone to join me in a moment of silence for Osama Bin Laden so we can give him the respect he deserves: “Good riddance, you evil bastard! May you rot in hell!” Thank you.

High School Revisited

My high school senior portrait from Red Hook High School taken in 1996.


This year is a year that I have dreaded ever since I graduated from Red Hook High School back in June of 1997. This year marks ten years since I received my high school diploma and you know what that means, right? That means the inevitable ten-year reunion is right around the corner.

Even though my former classmates have not planned anything yet as far as when and where the reunion is going to be held, it is a small pit in my stomach and it has been there ever since I got out of high school. Of course I left the Red Hook area nearly five years ago to move to Herkimer County in the middle of the state of New York. I had nothing back there anyways, except for a job as a grocery store cashier at Stop and Shop in Rhinebeck, and if I went back there again, I probably still won’t.

Before I go on again about why I left, let me tell you a little bit about my high school life. It was during the mid-90’s, a time before cell phones and the Internet was still a novelty. I went through high school like I normally did: Doing my school work, pining after various girls, and so on. I almost went to the prom in my freshman year but the girl I asked had a date, but would consider me as an “alternate date” in case he could not get out of work. Of course, the other guy ended up going. In high school, we had only two dances every year: The Christmas Ball and the Senior Prom, as opposed to several dances when I was in Junior High. We had no homecoming back in my day. Since the two dances I mentioned above were formal dances and since they were very expensive and required couples, I ended up not going to any dances at all during my time in high school.

My sophomore year was uneventful, but things really picked up in my junior year. I considered that year to be the best year of my life. That year, I became the manager of my high school’s girls basketball team. At that time, they were the best in the area. My job mainly consisted of making sure that the girls had water, as well as keeping track of the team statistics; running the shot clock at home games; and taking care of the equipment. I had done so well that I came back as a manager during my final year of high school.

Also during the spring of my junior year, I went with my Spanish class on a trip to Puerto Rico. It was really fun. We went all around the island, including staying in San Juan for nearly a week. I also almost found love down there during my stay down in Parguera, a town famous for Phosphoescent Bay. At night, when you went out in a boat, you can see it glowing in the dark. I also learned how to play pool there. I had such a good time that when it was time to leave, I did not want to go back. However, I did come back to Red Hook, because if I didn’t, I would not be here today.

After I got back from Puerto Rico, I competed in my high school’s Lip Sync. I performed the Elvis Presley tune, “Jailhouse Rock” and I won a hundred dollars for my performance. I am not sure if that would qualify me for “American Idol,” but at least it was something that I could be proud of.

By the time I returned for my senior year, I had found something new to do. I decided to write a fictional book based on my experiences the year before. I called it “The Year of Opportunity.” However, I never got it published because by that time, I had graduated and went right into the work force when I was hired at Grand Union (a supermarket that later became Stop and Shop) in August, 1997.

Aside from the fact that I had returned as the manager of the girls’ basketball team, the fact that I was also writing a book, and the fact that I blew off my prom because noone wanted to go out with me, my senior year was uneventful, even up to the day that I got my high school diploma along with the rest of my class.

So much has happened since then. Since then, 9/11 happened. Then I left the area and moved to Herkimer County where I have been for the last four and a half years. That is also how long I have been working at Wal-Mart. Okay, so it isn’t really anything to brag to your classmates about. That is pretty much why I am not planning to go back to my reunion.

June 28 marks the tenth anniversary of the day that I graduated.