Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sept. 11, 2001

It started as a normal day.

I woke up at 8. At the time I lived in New Britain, Conn. I was working the night cops shift that night for The Hartford Courant., so I wasn't scheduled to be at work until 2. I was beginning to be disillusioned with newspaper employment, and that morning I was scheduled to have a phone interview with someone from American Express Financial Advisors about becoming a stockbroker.

I ate breakfast and showered. Then I went into my room and checked the Internet shortly before 9 and saw a headline.

"Plane Crashes into World Trade Center."

And I remember thinking, Wow, what a horrible, tragic story. And then I thought, That's awfully low for a plane to be flying.

About 15 minuets later, the second plane hit. And then I figured out what was happening.

I got a call informing me that my AmEx interview was canceled. I watched the news for an hour and then called into my bureau chief. I didn't work in Hartford but in the satellite bureau in Avon, smack dab in the middle of the Farmington Valley, a high-net-worth area where there's hardly any crime. There were notable exceptions, but night cops for me usually meant a night off.

I called my bureau chief.

"Do you want me to come in early or do anything special tonight?" I asked.

"Don't you now what's going on?!" he said.

"Of course I know what's going on. Do you want me to come in early or not?"

"No. Come in at the usual time. Just look for a local angle when you get in."

I went to the gym. I needed to do something to take my mind off of it. Nobody was there. When I got home my dad called, thinking that New Britain was close enough that I might have had reason to be in New York that day and praying I wasn't. Then I tried calling a few friends who lived in New York to see if they were
OK. The phone lines were dead. Then I called my ex-girlfriend. We both needed someone to talk to.

I showed up for work and around dinner time that angle came in. An Avon school board member's daughter had been in one of the towers that day for a job interview. They were waiting to hear from her. They had heard nothing.

This was not a school board member I got along with particularly well. A few weeks earlier I had written a story with quite a satirical bite to it about how he and the rest of the board spent an hour at their last meeting trying to write a mission statement for the school district. He wasn't happy. Now I was sent to go knock on his door. It was the last thing I wanted to do.

He told me to get the fuck off his property and slammed the door in my face.

I wrote that night that he was waiting to hear from his daughter and did not want to comment further. It was the extent of my contribution to the Courant's coverage.

A couple of days later his daughter's body was found. He called back a day after that and apologized to me, and I told him that I totally understood why he was upset at me and didn't take any of it personally.

After Sept. 11, I realized that I hated the newspaper business more than I thought. Five months later I left the Courant to take a job as a stockbroker, not for AmEx but for a different company that would allow me to move back to Massachusetts. After Sept. 11, I realized I wanted to be closer to home.

That's all I have. Obviously I'm not a New Yorker or a Washingtonian or a Pennsylvanian and don't have any stories from Ground Zero. I wasn't at Logan or Dulles or Newark airports when the planes took off.

But this was how I spent Sept. 11, 2001. It was deeply personal to me and still is, 10 years later.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this Phil.

  2. "After September 11, I realized I wanted to be closer to home." That one line says everything.