Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 in Somers, NY: vivid memories in a letter to a colleague.

Dear Boss/Pal/Comrade,

I imagine you were in your corner office, surrounded by wild turkeys and Canadian geese on the lawn, pileated woodpeckers and black-capped chickadees in the woods and red-tailed hawks on the treetops. Or maybe you were in a morning meeting with Dupaquier (aka "Dupe a Queer". I think Little Lou D. had already been dismissed?), maybe Sandy Carter, Jocelyn "Queen of Mean" Attal, Nancy Pearson (with chocolates) or one of the other power ranger executives. I recall that I was in a user-testing session for some internal app with about 20 other randomly-selected folks in building 3. Somebody came in and whispered a message to the coordinator, who briefly stepped outside, then returned to announce that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, and that we would be updated as necessary. We half-assedly continued with our testing. Then a few minutes later someone came in and announced that another WTC building, along with the Pentagon, had been hit, and that we were all dismissed and encouraged to go home to our families. I said to the guy next to me "sounds like somebody is trying to pick a fight." In retrospect it would have been so much easier had some country decided to start a war with the US, instead of the country-less network of Islamic radicals it turned out to be. (I never could buy the Saddam theory).

By the time I got back to building 1 the place was pretty much deserted. Our hall mates: Scully, Teresa the schwag lady, Laure Dunne, Jolene Hall, Rocky T., the Tursimeister, Bob Doran, Charlotte Sjoberg, Jim Kennedy (I think Sharon Hinton had already died of brain cancer or was at least already gone), Waugh might have been in the city, and perhaps Anne Rubin too though I don't think she worked for you at the time. At any rate it was very quiet, except that you were in your office with the radio on. I wasn't gonna leave you there because 1. I've never been sure of what really effects your performance rating, and going home certainly would indicate a lack of "passion for the business" and 2. we quickly found out that Manhattan was closed, you were at loose ends and I had a guest room. So we kind of sat out most of the day as events unfolded and the normally busy skies became suddenly empty of planes and even bluer than usual, listening to the radio in your office, checking in with family at home and in the west, and, for me anyway, pretending to give a shit about my IBM "to-do" list.

Plowing through the "to-do" list, making priorities out of trivial, inconsequential activities so as to avoid confronting things like a terrorist attack just a few miles down the road, or Mom slipping away into Alzheimer's land, my own true career desires, a growing family and so many other "real" priorities. Even on such a day, threatened by planes masquerading as bombs, or it could have been a hurricane, famine, disease, whatever... I always found a way to hide in my "to do" list. But on that day I think both you and I realized that we couldn't even do our "to-dos" because everybody else in the company had gone home. Of course your home was inaccessible so I think we piled into my black Saab and headed to Ridgefield to watch the towers come down on the tube, over and over and over. I imagine my kids were wondering if it was all some kind of video game, but at the same time serious enough to warrant an overnight guest.

I think we made something simple - a pasta with red sauce, perhaps. I poured myself into a bottle of sake as I usually did back in those days (can't even pour myself into a cold beer these days but that's another story), you and Holly had a glass of red, I think mindful that this was no time to get shitfaced. The kids may have stayed up a little later than usual but overall it felt like a quiet evening at home made a little extra special with an important (Dad's boss!!) house guest. I can picture us so clearly, huddled by our one TV in it's age old bookshelf in the corner, talking of who we might have known in those towers, for once perhaps thinking that our President, the village idiot, could inspire something like confidence in the strength and safety of our country moving forward, while at the same time leaving us wondering how we ever allowed such an unprecedented breach of security in the first place. I remember feeling overwhelmed with questions and suddenly unable to articulate them, knowing that there were no answers, just conjecture.

The next day you had stubble on your chin and were itching to get back to Tamara and your Manhattan apartment. At some point the trains started running, I think, though the roads remained closed? I just remember the both of us driving somewhere that next morning, and that you had found a way to make it into Manhattan and I was going back to Somers. A "to-do" list was waiting, and what else was there to do in between the breaking news reports but to continue pretend that somebody better tend to the "on demand" business of IBM. Not much has changed, and everything has changed, in the decade since that day. I still live in constant fear of getting "resourced", my "to do" list is really quite absurd, and after all these years I have started to get a little recognition for the creative skills that I keep so well disguised by my corporate charade: my debut novel, "Hack", is getting published by Harper-Davis in the spring, and you Mr. Rosen are guaranteed to get a few good belly laughs out of it. It'll take you about 3 hours to read - a couple of train rides. Plus there's the "stranger than fiction" true story of my agent Melanie Mills, which happened I think when you were still in the corner office:

So. Shit. Ten years ago. I guess I'm thankful to be able to close my eyes and see the events of that day so clearly, and be reminded that I spent it with a guy for whom I have a tremendous amount of affection and respect, my corporate "protector". Even in the face of some profoundly irrelevant trivial shit, we managed to have some fun, and even though I'm glad you've shed that oily and acrid corporate costume, I miss having you around to mentor me through the frustrating nonsense that makes up my job.

Best of luck to you and Tamara and my sincere hope that you all are in best of health and you've still got that irreverent twinkle in your eye,

Big Fat Love from The Hairy Family Singers,

The Jebster