For Better or Worse, 9/11 Is Our Generation’s “Where Were You When” Moment
It’s inevitable, or at least inevitable barring a tragedy of even greater magnitude — 9/11/2001 is my generation’s “where were you when…?” moment. It’ll be one thing that unites us even when we’re senile and soiling ourselves in nursing homes (as opposed to drunk and soiling ourselves in the gutter, which is more the current trend among my peers).
Happily, I will have a good story to tell, even whem I’m ancient and no one else cares except the other three guys on Super-Extra-Why-Won’t-They-Die-Assisted-Living: I was in trouble.
9/11 happened when I was in high school. I’d been running a quietly successful poker game under the loading dock stairs that got busted on 9/11. The security guards were downright gleeful; they clearly hadn’t heard. Certainly none of us had. The first I got a whiff that anything was wrong was when the dean said he had more important things to deal with and threw me out of his office, rather than nailing me to the wall with the biggest spikes handy. He said “I can’t deal with this today. There’s something major going on. Go back to class; don’t gamble in school anymore.”
It was a good clue, given that I was in as deep as you could get without actually shooting someone. I walked out of that office with a serious what the hell is going on here? in the back of my head.
I also walked out with the better part of a period to kill, since I’d been kicking my heels against the dean’s waiting room wall during the passing period and into the start of my next class, so I toddled on down to the computer lab to see what was up. Now, I invite you to remember what “computer labs” were like around the turn of the millennium — our school was very fancy, in that it had a T1 line. News network’s websites weren’t that much better equipped (and were still being designed for 28.8k modem compatibility), and none of them could handle the demand that morning.
I got white screens for most of the period, but finally got BBC up in time to see the second tower go and the narrative change from “Oh my God there’s been a horrible accident” to “Oh my God we’re under attack.”
Hell of a story to take to fifth period with you, let me tell you. We didn’t get much else done the rest of that day, though they didn’t let us out early as some had hoped.
But the part I’ll always remember is wondering what the hell kind of news event could have shaken the dean so badly that he let me go when I’d been caught red-handed running a poker game out by the loading dock. Turns out it was a pretty big one after all.