I remember exactly where I was when I first learned that something terrible had happened on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
My usual morning routine at that time was to stop by the market of former Caruso’s Market manager Jude Bruno. He had opened recently in the space under the Venetian Club now occupied by the Chestnut Hill Pharmacy.
I would get a cup of coffee and chat with Jude for a few minutes. A favorite topic was basketball (Jude’s a huge fan).
On that morning, just as I had paid for my coffee, a contractor ran in, red and breathless.
“You gotta see what they’ve done to us,” he said. “Turn on the TV.”
Jude had a TV in the corner and flipped it on. The news told us the rest.
I came into the office that Tuesday for what seemed like an endless morning (see Clark Groome’s front-page piece in this issue).We continued to work on proofing that week’s Local, the whole time glued to a small television.
I was at a conference room table here when the first tower actually crumbled sending smoke into the sky. I recall thinking that what I had seen was an illusion. It had to be just smoke. There was no way the whole building could just crumble like that. No way.
The afternoon came, the paper shipped to the printer, and suddenly everyone at the Local had gone home. Everyone except me and former staffer Rob Formica. Not wanting to go home, we walked up to the Hill Tavern for something to drink, sipping whiskey and staring at the TV news with all the other disbelievers.
Now, as I think about that morning, it’s hard to believe it was 10 years ago. It’s hard to believe that so little time has passed. That time before Sept. 11 seems like it was a whole age ago.
Even as the country continues to fight wars set in motion by the events of that day, and even as the threat of senseless acts of terrorism are as real today as they were then, we seem now a people who are, I think on the whole, wiser but also calloused. After a brief period of real fear, life for most of us has returned to normal.
We are now aware of terrorism’s violent possibilities, but we are not crippled by the realization. We don’t travel afraid. In fact, I would guess most of us spend very little time even thinking about it.
Instead we are concerned about the economy, the start of a new school year, wet basements and the Phillies’ playoff roster.
I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. No, it’s a necessary thing – a natural way for us to keep on.
Yes, we should “always remember.” But we must also live our lives. Living without fear is the only real way to live. I can only hope that 20, 30, 50 years later, we can all say the same thing.
Thanks to everyone who submitted an essay for this issue. I’m grateful for every contribution.
And special thanks to Clark Groome who envisioned this issue and did a great deal to organize it. Without him, it wouldn’t have been possible.