Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Our Trauma Will Be Televised II
One year ago today, I was late to work. I'd overslept. The T was crowded and slow. And when I finally arrived at the Steak & Sirloin building to take the elevator to Fast Company's offices, I overheard a conversation that made me wish I'd read the newspaper on the way -- or turned on the TV before I left home. I had no idea what was happening, but it didn't sound good.

Once at FCHQ, I found all of my co-workers and friends crowded around the 'Rang, our communal lunch and meeting table, glued to CNN, watching the events of the day unfold. We watched the second plane hit, live and in real time. Once it hit me what was happening, I rushed to my office to call my parents, sister, grandmother, and girlfriend at the time. Then I emailed the Company of Friends groups in New York City and Washington, DC, to see how folks were affected, how they were faring -- and how I could help.

But I neglected Media Diet. I made a dismissive post about how there were better sources for 911 news and commentary than this blog. And I wrote about some of the projects CoF members were taking on to help other members, to serve their communities, and to stay sane and able in the face of the unexpected, inexplicable, and incomprehensible.

My girlfriend didn't want me to stay at work. I didn't feel safe leaving until it was relatively clear that downtown Boston wasn't a target -- and that the evacuation traffic leaving the business district had let up some. There's nothing worse than being stuck underground in a train car when you're not sure if it's safe up above. That night, we gathered at my girlfriend's house for pizza, TV, and conversation. And several days later I was finally able to reschedule my flight to Vancouver for last year's CoF Roadshow. It was hard to be 3,000 miles away from home, sleeping in the homes of strangers, immediately after the disasters, but it was also somewhat comforting. Life goes on. We are not alone. We're all in this together.

Fast forward to today. I'm no longer dating the woman I was last fall. I leave for the 2002 CoF Roadshow in eight measly days -- almost a year to the day. And this morning, I came into work at about the same time I did 365 days ago. This time, I was witness to a moment of silence on the T perched on the Boston edge of the Charles River, anonymous passengers around me sitting still as the conductor recognized the tragedy of 911. (Guiltily, I smirked a little because it sounded like he said "7-11" instead of "September 11." Oh, the atrocities of convenience stores.)

And arriving in the office right now, it's a ghost town. No people milling around. Nothing on the TV. No sound. I just took a walk around the space. Turns out I'm not alone. Our receptionist is here. One of the designers just walked by. And later today, the entire team will observe a moment of silence with other Gruner & Jahr and Bertlesmann employees around the world. But today feels empty. And while I felt a rush of connection and companionship a year ago today, I feel a little alone this morning.

Perhaps I'm a little overwhelmed. New relationship. Upcoming road trip. New assistant at work. Lots of loose ends to tie up before I leave eight days from now. The coming end of summer. But perhaps it's a malaise exacerbated on by 911 overdose. I haven't been able to bring myself to read any of the 911 coverage in the newspaper. While I bought some of the early lefty books sharing perspectives on the events, I've yet to read them. The thought of going to war against Iraq curdles my stomach. And I'm going to avoid the 911 TV events this evening like the plague. I don't need it. I don't want it. And I'm not sure it's how we as a nation -- as a world -- need to process and proceed from what happened 365 days ago.

But we do need to make sure it doesn't happen again -- anywhere. Recognize this day in your own way. But please recognize it.

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