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What were you doing on September 11th, 2001?
I was living in Orange County, and I’d already decided to quit my job; I was leaving to come back to Australia in two months. It was a hermetic, unpleasant work environment, and I was already not on speaking terms with my colleagues—over some inconceivably unreal pique.
I tended to sleep in; I still do. I was roused at 7 am, rather earlier than usual, by a phone call from my mother.
—Nick! Turn on the TV! Some planes hit a building in New York!
—… Wha? What are you bothering me with that for? Go away.
I hung up, and blearily turned on the TV.
I stayed pinned to the TV for the next six hours. And while the fourth plane’s whereabouts were unknown, I was convinced that it was heading straight for my head.
I tried calling a friend in upstate New York; I didn’t even bother trying to call my friend in Manhattan. I didn’t get through to upstate New York. (I did get through to my friend in Manhattan some days later. He knew what was coming next, and he sang me peace songs on the phone, in a hushed voice.)
I ended up at work in the afternoon, but not a lot of work got done that day. Or the next. And of course, noone bothered with not being on speaking terms any more.
People walked around in shock that day, and the next few weeks. People were walking on egg shells. People were extra polite and solicitous. There was an upsurge of American flags on cars, but it did not feel tubthumping and jingoist at the time.