I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch in Morro Bay, down at a restaurant called the Flying Dutchman.
Mom knocked on the bathroom door, then popped her head in to tell me the news.
Somebody's crashing airplanes into the World Trade Center.
I think they just said somebody hit the Pentagon, too.
Mom shut the door. I hopped out of the shower, dressed without even bothering to dry myself. In the living room, my sister, father, and mother were all standing around the television. It was just after 7 a.m., Pacific.
I sat down on the couch just as the South Tower collapsed....
* * * *
I don't know why, but for some reason, watching live via satellite as hundreds died reminded me of something my grandfather had told me a long time ago.
I remembered being an eight-year-old, watching the news with Grandpa, watching the coverage of hijacked Pan Am Flight 73.
Grandpa, who'd spent two decades in the State Department, who spent most of that time stationed in places like Pakistan and Egypt, never let me watch cartoons without first agreeing to watch the Nightly News with him.
On that particular night, we watched the footage of a plane being retaken and heard accounts of how several hostages had died.
I remember being terrified not so much by that day's events - after all, those Flight 73 passengers were no more real to me than any other foreign event on the television screen - as by my grandfather's reaction.
One day, someone's going to bring that here, Grandpa said, the words cut into my memory like initials in a birch tree.
And it will happen in your lifetime.
* * * *
And, of course, someone did.
I never bought the whole "nobody saw this coming" excuse. The writing's been on the wall for decades. It was only a matter of time before the U.S. had a major terrorist incident on American soil.
Simply by being the World's last remaining Super Power, the United States has become the world's last remaining bull's-eye, a ready target for any homicidal maniac with a God Complex.
I feel no safer Sept. 11, 2006, than I did Sept. 11, 2001.
Why should I feel safe? Because some government agency banned sharp objects on planes? Or because a few al-Qaeda leaders have turned up dead?
The purpose of terrorism - of all terrorist acts - is to create an atmosphere of fear, to use symbolic, pinpoint assaults to affect a larger social structure without resorting to full-scale war.
There are still Americans who refuse to fly the not-so-friendly skies. One cannot ignore the periodic squabbling in Washington over the course of some "War on Terror," a war that lacks real definition or foreseeable end, where things like secret prisons, torture, and hidden courts have become as American as apple pie.
Who's really winning this "War on Terror?"
Every time Osama bin Laden so much as burps on camera, someone in the White House starts writing a "we're winning, seriously" speech. Some politico flies to Iraq to rally troops to some undefined "cause." And a thousand and one pundits will slice and dice every aspect of American security down to a few terrifying statistics on a thousand and one news stations.
There's this group of guys, hiding in some cave in Central Asia, who have the ability to panic the world's wealthiest nation simply by having someone drop a tape off at al-Jazeera.
Safety is as relevant in a Post-9/11 World as the next pile of smoldering skyscraper.