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Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 - Memories of a Former Foreigner

(This is the annual "reprinting" of my inaugural post on Sept. 11, 2011 - lest I one day forget why I wrote it.)


The thing I remember most about 9/11 is how selfish I felt - at the very beginning.

September 11th was supposed to be the day I paid my debts and made some serious money. I clearly remember the last thing I said as my balding head hit the soft pillow on the 10th: "Tomorrow is going to be a great day, man, tomorrow is going to be a great day."

Source: Anthony Grimley
Five months prior to 9/11 and new to California, I had met several fellow Irishmen at a pub or six, which networked into an interview with a starched suit who looked me up and down to see if I could sell gold coins.

"I can sell a Yankees hat in Boston, or a Cowboys jersey in New York, surely I can sell a little coin over the phone?" I said, full of the optimism of the uninformed American sports fan.

My new boss didn't really care. I'd earn a bare stipend for a couple of months, and then work on one hundred percent commission, so no skin off his nose.

They call the big investors "whales," and it took five months of living off credit cards to reel two in. One lived in New York; the other was in Jersey. I arranged great deals with both retired men; deals that culminated on Monday the 10th, and happy as a pig in a blanket, I later went for a few drinks with the boys, having promised my whales that they'd receive the official paperwork via fax before noon EST Tuesday.

That's the only reason I was up at 5:50 a.m. PST, but as soon as I saw the plane hit the second tower just after 6 a.m. my time, I knew the deals were done - and so was I. (I had no clue how bad it would be - did anyone?)

I wallowed in pity for about thirty-five minutes until I heard another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. Driving to work in my new, unpaid-for Mustang, I jumped up as far as my seatbelt would allow, and let out a scream of hurt and anger I hope my ears will never again endure.

As an immigrant with naturalization papers in process, I had no doubt that the attack was on my country (I swore in July 3, 2003,) and my people.

In October 2001, I tried joining the USAF, but the recruiter told me a 19-year-old's pay "ain't going to take care of the credit problems belonging to a 31-year-old."

On 9/11, as always, I'll wear my Liz Claiborne WTC shirt that I bought 'cos the Statue of Liberty looks cool in the forefront (it was 2002 before I "saw" the Twin Towers for the first time.) I will also reflect on how I awoke thinking only about me, but ended the day thinking only about "U.S." and the thousands whose lives had been destroyed by hate and fear.

May the good God bless the souls of all those lost on 9/11, and Lord, please continue to protect those who, with a servant's heart, always run into harms way while we scream to get the hell out of there.

Thomas J. Foley, 32, Rescue 3, FDNY, died in the collapse of Tower 2, WTC, New York, 9.59 am, 9/11/01. RIP


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Didn't take you long to realize there were people having a far worse day than you.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

God bless all of those who've fallen then and since.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

9/11 red into the memory but we must never forget the future. Sad for the fallen, happy for the survivors.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Summer 2011, my husband and I drove to Rhode Island. He suggested we take a tour of NYC (he always wanted to see the towers, as seen on Friends). I imagined it with my brood (then 1,3,5, and 7) and said, "No, it's not like they're going anywhere."

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark - these days happen I hope once in a blue moon for you - and never again for anyone to go through an attack like that one on NYC ...

My thoughts .. Hilary

Elephant's Child said...

Sad and bad.

Jo said...

A friend phoned me to turn on the TV. We thought it was an accident until the second plane crashed into the tower. I was glued to the TV all day and horrified for all the people who died. September 11 will always be remembered as a day of infamy.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Your post caught the slow realization of what was happening. I was teaching at the time and felt the anger you described.

Rachna Chhabria said...

9/11 is firmly etched in my memory, I remember watching it on T.V in complete shock.

Unknown said...

All of us remember 9/11, no matter which part of the world we were in. Thanks for sharing this.

Kay said...

That day was so catastrophic that I can remember almost everything about that day. The disbelief, the horror, the grief! I was teaching 1st grade and children came in telling me a plane had hit a building in NY. I told them, it was sad about the pilot because it must have been a small plane. Within the next hour, I would learn the truth.

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