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Missing Memphis

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Seven years ago today, I had a full day scheduled ahead of me, starting with an early doctor’s visit for bloodwork before I was to catch a flight to Memphis for a company meeting. I was awaiting the needle when a call came through to my cell phone from my mother, who was worried that I might be traveling. She’d just heard that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. A small plane, it was thought at that time. Perhaps a freak accident, it was hoped.

By the time I left the doctor’s office, a second WTC strike had made it clear that the planes were not small and were no accident. On my way from the doctor’s office back to the house, during a stopover at an office store for some supplies I would need for my business trip, the news came of the hit on the Pentagon. The whole world felt unfamiliar, strange, holding a foreign void in it.

Back at the house, I kept an eye on the new broadcast from lower Manhattan as I moved on automatic, like a zombie, through my usual last-minute trip packing. Susan had left to attend to something in the kitchen when the first WTC tower disappeared. I was speechless when she returned, could only point at the hole in the TV screen where once had stood a building with so many victims still trying to escape. We watched in silence as the second tower fell.

I thought I was being at least a little clear-headed by thinking to check with my airline about the status of my flight. The TV had not yet carried the news about all flights being grounded. When informed of this development by the airline rep, I was naive enough to worry only about how badly that might delay my flight, which was supposed to be flying into Houston on its way to Memphis. “It’s unlikely that anything will fly for the rest of the day,” I was told by the airline rep. I thought out loud about whether I should consider catching a train to Memphis, not intending commercial blackmail of an airline caught up in developments beyond its control, simply not yet grasping the enormity of what we were all going through. As busy as that airline rep’s phone traffic was that day, he was nice enough to take the time to chat a minute or two with me, enquiring as to the nature of why I so urgently needed to get to Memphis. A business conference at which I was to give several speeches, the first of which was scheduled for the following morning, I told him. “And where are all the attendees now?” his rhetorical followup question. Duh me. Right about then it finally hit me. With all due respect to those who lost their lives or loved ones that day, all of our lives changed that day. Irrevocably. Permanently.

If some anecdotal information that I heard later is true, then ironically, my company might have actually been able to hold its meeting that week had I and my colleagues all already been in the air on flights headed elsewhere: due to its central location, I’m told that Memphis airport took the most unscheduled landings of any other airport that morning. As was, I gave my speeches later that autumn via Internet webcasts, an approach I had previously been unsuccessful in convincing my company of the need for.

bumper sticker [] - DRAM

Written by macheide

11 September 2008 at 2:54 pm

Posted in DRAM


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