On this 9/11 anniversary, something did change for me. I realized how (perhaps) permanently different our country is now as opposed to then (day before, on 9/10/2001). Most of the differences I see are not good. I'm not going to elaborate on it. No one cares. What follows is what I remembered two years ago, and nothing has changed since then. I suspect I will re-post this same item one year from now.
"9/10/2002" (posted originally on 9/11/09)
Eight years ago today, I was executive chef and restaurant manager at the Saint Louis Art Museum. The phone rang that morning, and it was my co-worker Sharon calling from our corporate office, where she was attending a meeting. She said, "Bring the TV upstairs and turn it on. Something's going on. It looks like a plane crashed into the World Trade Center." We kept a TV in our storage area for the purpose of renting it to clients who needed A/V for meetings in our private dining room. I looked at online news first and saw the initial story on one of the news websites. I clicked to another page and saw the updated news stating that a second plane had hit the second tower. I brought the TV up into the cafe's kitchen and for the next couple of hours all work stopped as my staff and I learned of the third plane crashing into the Pentagon and the fourth one whose fate was unclear for a while, and watched the Trade Center towers crumble to the ground. There were rumors and misinformation moving about as well: perhaps military aircraft had shot down a hijacked plane, perhaps there were many more planes en route to suicide collisions. Someone said that there had been a car bomb at the State Department.
The Art Museum shut down at noon that day as a security precaution, as did similar venues around the city such as the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Arch. Some of my colleagues and I, not knowing what else to do with the rest of the day, met at a bar and drank away much of the afternoon, peering at TVs occasionally, waiting for more news. What we all noticed that afternoon, and what I will never forget, was the strange quiet that resulted from no aircraft in the sky. In St. Louis, as in most cities with big airports, there is a constant, faint underlying drone of air traffic. It's unnoticeable until it's gone, and that was the first time it was ever gone.
Almost one year later, on the tenth of September 2002, I was still in that job at the Art Museum. A disagreeable customer, a lady who was one of a group of six ladies, started raising hell over our policy of not providing separate checks. It was bad enough that I was summoned by their server to try to smooth it over. With great, dripping disdain, she said to me, and I shit you not, "I can't believe that you would put everybody through this, and on the anniversary of 9/11, too!" And she sneered at me. For putting them "through this." Of course, I am a total professional in customer service situations, so I held back and did not reply thus: "Put you through what, you dumb disgusting ghoul? You think your sad-sack piece-of-shit little problem is somehow worth mentioning in the same breath as 9/11? Because you didn't get a separate check for your six dollar lunch? Well, fuck you. And look at a calendar. Today is nine-TEN!"
I'm sure there are still douchebags all over America trying to form self-righteous and ridiculous connections between their stupid, petty problems and 9/11, and the anniversary itself is certainly the day of days for it. But I'd ask those folks to instead show a little goddamned respect. And maybe consider for just one day that the whole fucking world isn't all about them. And when they get their lower lips all a-tremble about 9/11, how about shedding a tear or two for all the thousands of our soldiers and the tens of thousands of other people worldwide who have had to die in this endless war that we have fought ever since that awful day and will probably never quit fighting during the lifetimes of anyone alive today.