Actress Alyssa Milano suggested on Twitter that women who have been the victims of sexual harassment state so by using the hashtag “MeToo.” The concept went viral on both Twitter and Facebook, and continues going strong.
Around the world, and, on my own Facebook/Twitter feeds.
For truly it is everywhere, and truly, it is pervasive in its effects on women.
When demonstrations or movements such as this arrive with the attention of calling out or bringing attention to sexual harassment, and other issues faced by women, the chorus of (mostly) men begin their “What about…” refrains in a counter protest as old as sex itself.
“What about the men that get sexually harassed? What about equal rights? What about the world’s view of us, and what about…..”
What about giving me, and the rest of the world a break with that shit?
To be clear, men are sexually harassed. Men can even be abused, raped, or silenced by shame or fear in wake of being such, and that’s not denied by any sane person. Yet if the only time the issue of male sexual abuse enters your mind enough to “speak out” about it is when a movement attempts top shine a light on the victimization of women, you cannot be that concerned with the issue of sexual harassment of any kind to begin with. What you are actually concerned with is establishing a false equivalence, wherein even in their victimhood women cannot in any way be in greater numbers than you and other “what about” men. What is intended as an exposure and education about the very real issue of sexual harassment against women, becomes instead a platform from which insecure men can remind the universe that they exist, and have known what a bad day is too, insisting that they are entitled to a hashtag.
Ignored in all of this is that they are free to create a hashtag. Ignored in all of this is the overwhelming statistical truth that a woman is not only more likely to be sexually harassed, but is also in a less powerful position, socially, professionally and physically to deflect or stop it than is the average man. It is such an obvious aspect of our society that more often men have more power, money, influence and political cover than women that it isn’t even a legitimate use of time to argue in favor of the point.
Pneumonia kills. Not always, but it can, and it does. Less so in this country than other places, but it happens. The sort of thinking described above applied to pneumonia would require a discontinuation of the study and recognition of the disease simply because in many cases, a patient did NOT die. “I had it and I’m fine today,” makes no better an argument to ignore pneumonia treatments than does, “Men get harassed too,” counter the victimization of women.
Tragically the “whataboutism” is the least insidious of all the reasons to shout down movements such as “Me too.” Horrible male insecurity and narcissism may be in that case, there are worse reasons to rail against “Me Too” and similar campaigns.
There is the notion that it’s all just “a joke” when men say such things to women. Set aside the fact that if it were just a joke, nobody should be getting this upset at being called out for doing it. If what you are doing when you harass a woman is a “joke” and you are told to stop, but insist on continuing to do it no matter how you are making a woman feel, because you have a “right to joke” or think we have become too “politically correct,” you’re not defending jokes at all. You’re defended your non-existent right to treat anyone in any manner you find entertaining. Nothing at all matters but what you think is a joke.
Ironically, (but not) there is plenty that such people would be offended by, should jokes be made about it. Tease them about something as insignificant as not being allowed into a particular showing of Wonder Woman, and watch them foam at the mouth about equality and rights. Tell them to calm down, that it’s just a joke on them for being men while you go watch the movie with only women, and you may need your mace at hand.
A similar position is, “it’s a compliment.” As much as many people would love to believe that “I want to suck your tits,” is an empowering comment to make to a stranger, who should be ultimately flattered by it, such comments are not compliments, because those who receive them do not view them as such. You are not commenting on an intrinsic positive quality in the person, only a desire you have for a specific piece of the anatomy; a piece they may or may not have any control over, but which they do not display specifically for you to ogle.
Which brings us to the next counter to “Me Too”. That women must want the sexual attention because why else would they wear a tight shirt with no bra? Because they feel like it, is of course the answer, but if that is not sufficient, consider the possibility that they want to look good for someone who is not you.
When you shout such things at women that you do not know, or those you do know, you do so with the assumption that they are engaging in a mating call, and that your ape grunts, if louder, faster and more persistent than the others will open her up to sharing your lust. It never enters your mind that she doesn’t consider you good enough for her, which she has a perfect right to determine.
It very well could be she likes the world to see her body, and see it they shall. But her willingness to show it doesn’t mean you have been given permission to say anything about it or approach her. Sorry, you’ll have to use magazines tonight, or find someone who is looking for you. But your presence in the same vicinity of a woman you find sexy doesn’t mean you will turn her on. Deal with it.
And while your at it, deal with it if she is wearing “modest” clothing and still doesn’t want you. Because if she doesn’t and you keep trying, you’ve define sexual harassment.
Ah, yes, “you can’t” deal with it. The oldest, worst, and least acceptable excuse of them all for obvious sexual harassment. Biology. Men are built to be horny, to spread their seed, to procreate. Because of this they are not, and cannot be expected to be in full control of themselves. Sex on TV, sex in the movies, sex in music. In all of these boys/men are bread to have women of a certain type, and it;s not their fault advertising works so well. But you, ladies could help stem this by dressing modestly, or giving more men a chance, or at least allowing them to catcall you, because men are built differently. It’s science.
Except it isn’t. In general, men cannot control an erection forming, and that’s about the extent of what they cannot control. (Even that can be mitigated if you put in a bit of effort beyond that of monkey.) You can control what you say, where you walk, what you look at. You do not have to do anything sexually. Believe it or not, you don’t even have to masturbate. But keep telling yourself that you do. Keep blaming the media, and keep following the incorrect assertions that a male is incapable of controlling himself once he gets to half-erection.
And when you get to believing it, you say things like “boys will be boys.” You’ll feel entitled to gratification from any woman that stirs you sexually. You’ll greet your daughter’s prom date with a shotgun slung over your shoulder because you assume he must absolutely be like you were/are, while later wondering why your son hasn’t “scored” yet or doesn’t date much.
In other words, you’ll be a prime perpetrator of sexual harassment.
“But not rape!”
Maybe not rape. There is a distinction between sexual harassment and rape. There is a distinction between “battery” and “assault with a deadly weapon.” You’re not exactly role model material if you commit the former instead of the latter. You’ll still a violent asshole. And you’re still a perverted masochistic bum if you’re okay with harassment even if you do not extend it to rape.
The comments are not a game. The following of a woman down the street is not boys being boys. Your non-erection reaction to scantily clad women is not a result of your being hostage to your hormones and rubbing, touching, patting or coming into contact with a woman without permission is not flirtation. It’s sexual harassment, and with movements such as “Me Too” I can either choose to believe that thousands of women, and more than a few of my own friends are just making it up, or I can choose to believe that sexual harassment of women is nearly embedded into the DNA of our culture, effecting nearly all women. (Whether they report it or not.)
“Women blow every little thing out of proportion into sexual harassment or rape because they like the attention.” A common jeer from this scum convention I’ve been talking about.
Attention? Really? If all they wanted was attention, why do you suppose they were doing everything they could to avoid yours? Could it be that in the morally bankrupt world of sexual manipulation, sexual harassment, and sexual violence, the ones who are truly, desperately, pathetically and dangerously pining for attention are those who have forced women everywhere to stand up and say “Me Too”?
I’m a man, in control of my mind, my actions, my dick, and my spirit. I’ll not allow anyone to claim otherwise, nor will I accept such claims from other men who judge the entirety of their existence and the ultimate fairness of the universe by how much sex they get, and how quickly they get it, upon demanding same.
A few people mentioned to me how they didn’t think I was being fair to male victims of harassment, and that no harm could come from them making use of the term to identify their victim hood. I embrace this notion in a broad sense, but still feel extra caution must be exerted. If in fact the movement is about women, (and that is where I have been coming from all along), I suspect there can be at least some collateral damage done, intentionally or unintentionally, because once again we run the risk of removing something that is about women, and making it about everyone, thus diluting the potency of the particular issue.
“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Is what Milano herself originally posted, and from that I came to believe that it really ought to be about the female version of this issue.
The last few weeks, maybe months, I’ve been up against some internal resistance in my fiction writing. I once described this experience not as writer’s block, but as writer’s weight, and I seem to be suffering from a heavy dose recently.
I don’t know exactly why, I wish I did, so I could fix it. As with so many other issues, it’s probably a combination of factors, fatigue being no small component. IN fact, what little fiction writing I have done lately, happened a few days ago, as I am in the midst of a week long “staycation” from my part-time job-a job for which I must get up way earlier in the morning than I am built for. Gaining traction on some of the lost sleep probably opened up a brief window to write a few hundred words earlier this week.
Still, I won’t put it all on being tired. I’ve worked on my fiction when tired before. The Beacons I See was written mostly while I had the same part time job, with the same lousy sleep patterns, and yet I still completed it.
As with so many of the ups, downs and neutrals of writing, it’s mental for the most part. I just haven’t “been there” as it were. I don’t mean inspiration, because I’ve known for a long time that a writer cannot wait for that to strike every time. Besides, I already know the stories I want to be working on; the inspiration for them came to me some time ago. Motivated may be a better term, but it still doesn’t quite fit how I am not feeling, as it were.
There may be a touch of thinking I am a fraud creeping in here and there. If so, I should probably be concerned with that less than any of the other likely reasons I am not writing much, for just about every writer that ever lived will feel as though they are a fake at some point. Possibly at multiple times throughout their life, and in some cases their entire life. If fear of being a fraud of contributing to my current lack of production, I’d at least be in good company.
Fear not, I haven’t set aside writing totally. I in fact writer in a private journal a bit just about every day. It’s less structured than writing intended for public consumption, and of course isn’t the same as writing fiction, but I’ve not gone numb on all wordsmithing, and that has to be a plus, right?
I’m still reading as well, fiction and non-fiction.
I imagine it will pass, or thaw, or, move on, or whatever the appropriate verb is for my situation. I suspect I won’t make my stated 2017 fiction writing goals now, (though one never knows.) But the self-appointed deadlines are just that-self appointed. If a draft gets done after that deadline, nothing bad happens because of that, other than disappointment in myself. But being too hard on oneself never helps either.
In the meantime, between now, and feeling a full normal flow of productivity, I stay open to answers, and willing to accept the slog I’m in for the time being.
Have you ever felt like this?
I’ll be giving away one free paper copy of The Beacons I See in a random drawing on Goodreads. If you;d like a chance to win, simply go to the novel’s page and click the button you find there to register for the drawing. (You must have a Goodreads account.) You have until October 1, if you’re interested.
This is my first attempt at having a Goodreads giveaway, and it ended up far easier than I expected it to be. They basically take care of everything for you. They even pick the winner at random, and send you the address. (I of course must send the book to said winner.)
I’m thinking about using the giveaway in the future for my older books as well, but for now, one giveaway at a time.
The following was originally posted on my blog on September 11, 2011.- Ty
I had no room mate in college, and people on campus rarely ever called me to do anything. Especially not a few minutes after 9:00 AM on a Tuesday. So there would be only three reasons why I would be woken up by a phone call at that hour. Someone punched in a wrong number, my academic advisor needed to ask me something, or it was my mother, and she would have been the least likely of the three possibilities.
I leaped out of the top bunk and rushed to my desk to answer the land line phone. It’s a reflex action for me to grab the phone as soon as possible whenever a call wakes me up. I don’t know why. The result being that I often answer such calls before my sleepy consciousness has thawed to the world around me. That morning was no different.
“Are you watching the news?”
Mom’s voice. She knew I would be asleep at that time. Yet given that Unglebower family business is not generally covered by television news, I at least knew right away that this unusual call was not about my kin in some fashion.
Yet she had asked the question in such a calm manner, I wouldn’t have guessed the enormity of what she was about to reveal. I may have even been somewhat annoyed for a moment. It was 9:00AM on a Tuesday and I was asleep. She knew damn well I was not watching the news.
“You need to turn on CNN or something. Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center Towers in New York, and it looks like some kind of attack.”
I stopped moving, but not out of shock or even disbelief. I tend to do that when I want to be certain I am processing important information correctly. I also tend to bend forward just a bit at those times, and I remember doing so then. The phone receiver was in my left hand, and my gaze happened upon my as yet unneeded winter coat hanging in my open closet, as though it had delivered this message to me.
“You mean, like terrorists?”
Mom confirmed it. Not that she had a particular authority to do so. But she explained that she had been watching the Today Show as she got ready for work that morning when what was thought to be a small engine plane had slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. She told me that like everyone else, she believed it was a horrible accident. But than the second plane hit the second tower, again as mom was watching, live. That was all she needed to see.
“I debated about calling you earlier,” she told me, “When it was just one plane. But just a few minutes ago a second plane hit the second tower, and there is no way this isn’t some kind of attack. The news people are saying the same thing.”
My mother might have been giving very clear and precise driving directions to a picnic, given her tone. There was no screaming. No crying. This was important I could tell, but hysteria was not her style.
“And they’re sure of it?”
Remember I have been awake for 120 seconds at most by this point. I am not as bad as some people are upon getting out of bed in the morning, but consider trying to process this while still blinking sleep out of your eyes and trying to shake the heaviness of semi-consciousness that still drapes around you like a wool blanket even after you have been awake a few minutes. Sometimes understanding that someone is headed to the store, asking you if you want anything is difficult enough at such times, and here my mother was telling me that New York City, the New York City, was under attack.
“Yes, the people I am listening to say there is no way that this could be an accident, it is a terrorist attack.”
“Does the president know? What is he doing?”
“The president is in Florida at an event.”
It went on like that for maybe ten minutes or so I can’t be sure. Speculations, a few sighs, some comments along the lines of “damn” or something to that effect. How at first it was believed to be a small plane, but now both were thought to be passenger jets. 747s. There was actually footage of the second one hitting the second tower, which I would soon see. Each of us advising the other to stay alert. I had my TV on by then, and told Mom to let me know if she heard anything new, and she told me to do the same. We hung up.
We were not off of the phone very long.
I flipped around to various channels to see how they were covering the event. And of course, they all were. I would flip between about 13 channels without stopping, just to see the universal coverage. Events seem more real and more potent, and in this case, more mind-numbing and tragic, when covered by everyone in all of journalism at the same time.
The result was live footage from various angles and perspectives of black smoke billowing out of sickening gaping holes in two of the largest buildings on the planet. Helicopter shots, shots from the ground, shots from adjacent buildings. Looking straight up. Looking down the block. People shouting. Reporters attempting to assimilate the information but clearly being just as clueless as I and my mother were at that point.
Yet the most memorable angle for me during that early coverage were the shots taken from the harbor, or from neighboring New Jersey. Perhaps the most iconic skyline on Earth set against a perfect cloudless blue sky, marred by a huge black plume of smoke. A slithering endless snake that made its way along the top of a postcard image. A thick, vandalizing streak of permanent marker across a masterpiece. I of course had no idea at the time, nobody did, that this image would pale in comparison to footage from the same vantage point less than an hour later, when the skyline itself was no longer visible for the debris cloud.
I had been watching such coverage for just over half an hour. The whole event was not even an hour old. And yet it already felt like the center of the Universe. That the entire country, if not the eyes of all of humanity were looking at the very things I was observing at the time. That a new focal point of existence had been established in our lives, made up of the shots I mentioned, hysterical interviews, wild speculation, fearful rumors, and overall pandemonium both on the ground in New York and in newsrooms everywhere. Nothing short of the alien invasion could possibly wrench our collective attention from New York City, I thought.
I was wrong.
At about 20 of ten, barely 35 minutes since Mom had woken me up, a new report. An explosion-no, another plane. A third plane had smashed into the Pentagon near D.C. Another plane. Even knowing it could be mere speculation, as there had been much of it that morning already, the possibility was more stunning to me than even the sight of the Twin Towers ablaze. Could there be a bigger, louder, and more frightening “fuck you” to American security than to hit the nerve center of the Armed Forces? A building we all felt, as sure as the sun rises, was untouchable?
It was not untouchable, and the story was not rumor. For the first time since the start of this whole affair, live shots pulled away from the nightmare in Manhattan and up came a new image. Not quite as gruesome yet as the shots from the Towers because the view was more obstructed and the surroundings less recognizable. A more distant shot from an unknown vantage point labeled only as “Arlington, Virginia” revealed a wider, not quite as dark collection of smoke, rising more slowly than the mega-plume in New York. From a journalistic standpoint it was not a great shot, to be frank. You couldn’t even see the actual Pentagon. To that end the frenzied, rattled journalist, ( I don’t recall which one) emphasized that the news of another passenger aircraft flying into the Pentagon was at the moment an unconfirmed report, despite confirmation that several passenger planes had yet to be accounted for by air traffic control.
Yet I knew. And not just on instinct. Living in Central Maryland one gets used to all kinds of live, establishing shots of DC and surrounding areas during local news casts and sporting events and such things. I’m no expert on geography, but I know the area surrounding the Pentagon when I see it. It had been hit. And it felt like a whole new nightmare for any number of reasons.
To begin with, they, whoever the hell they were, had gotten to the headquarters of the most powerful military force the world had ever seen.
Second, it meant that this attack was now on multiple cities. The notion that I would soon be viewing reports of major buildings in dozens of cities across the country being blown up was very real in my mind. The first hint in my mind of a possible guerrilla war on American soil had begun to take root. We still had no clue who these attackers were, but if they could hit New York and D.C. within an hour of each other, who knows what else they could do or would do?
And finally, it was now hitting closer to home for me. My whole life, as I mentioned, I have lived within an hour of D.C., not counting my time at college. The events unfolding in New York were a bit like being knocked in the head. Hitting something as close to DC as nearby Arlington, and the Pentagon no less, was more like a direct hit to the stomach. Or maybe a direct hit to the heart.
Then of course, there was the family angle. My younger sister drove in and around the District for work all the time. Where was she? Her boyfriend of the time did the same. What about him? A brother-in-law of mine, same deal. Were they accounted for?
I picked up the phone and dialed for Mom. Even now I was not in a panic, but the outer reaches of my nervous system and consciousness were starting to initiate crisis management. The department of survival in my mind had not yet been activated, but the lights were on in the building, if you will.
Mom answered. She too was still calm, but I think I could detect a bit more tension in her voice now that the news of the Pentagon had reached her. (She had seen it when I had.) She had not yet heard from my sister, or anyone else, and nobody at that point had cell phones. The consolation was that my sister never had any business in the Pentagon itself, though her boyfriend did. We assumed she was in transit somewhere, and would get to a phone as soon as she could. As would her boyfriend, and my brother-in-law.
Given my propensity for anxiety you would think I would be a wreck at this point, but I wasn’t really. There was an unfolding understanding that there may be a sort of danger coming from the horizon, and that I had to be prepared for it, but nothing that had me screaming, crying, or curled up into a ball on the floor. I can’t swear I could never be that way, but at that time, I wasn’t.
After exchanging notes again, I asked Mom a strange question. I had gotten up to use the bathroom down the hall once during the New York coverage, and everybody’s door was shut. I had in fact heard nothing from anyone all morning. Not outside, and not in the hallway. I figured everyone was still asleep, and I hated waking people up. For the New York thing I wasn’t going to, but once the Pentagon was hit, and fears of a nationwide attack were becoming more real by the moment, I thought I had to share it with someone in person. I was tired of being seemingly the only person in Marietta, Ohio that had any clue about what was happening.
“Do you think I should wake somebody up,” I asked Mom. It was against my nature to intrude on anybody’s sleep even then.
“If there were ever a time to do so,” she said, “This would be it, I’d say.”
After giving Mom firm instructions to call me back as soon as she heard anything from any of our local people, I hung up the phone.
It is so strange to me what I do and do not remember from that day. As I will cover later, there were key moments you would think would be forever branded into my recollection, never to fade for the rest of my life, and yet are fuzzy. Other things about that day that would seem mundane and trivial are in fact the things that might as well have been yesterday, as fresh as they seem. One of those vivid recollections of the mundane was the moment I stepped out into the hallway, intent on waking somebody, anybody up so I didn’t have to watch a war break out on American soil alone.
I swung my room door open and stepped into a hallway that in my years at Marietta College had never seemed so damned quiet. The hallway was like a tomb. Bright sunshine came in through the window at the end of the hallway, creating a morning glow reflecting from the off-white cinder block walls. It was almost 10 in the morning now, on a Tuesday. Yet there was not a sound anywhere. Nobody typing. Nobody showering. Nobody on the phone. No stereos. No custodian cleaning up. Nothing happening out in the lobby. I lived in a place called the Arts and Humanities House, so as you can probably guess, rare was the time that nothing was going on. The average weekday at 1:00AM was livelier than the moment I stepped out to be the messenger.
I wondered if I should just stand in the hallway and wake everyone up. Sound a general alarm, as it were. They all deserved to hear it. Everybody in the world needed to hear it. Yet even then I was reluctant to be that much of a pain in the ass, and besides, it would be more about me if I did that, and it should be about the gravity of the situation. So I walked two doors down and on the opposite side of the hall, where my two friends, Joe and Dave lived. With one more look down the silent hallway, (at what, I don’t know) I remember rubbing my hands together. I was wondering what would become of all of us, and knowing that I would be the first person either of them ever saw in a world that was now vastly different from the one in which they went to bed the night before.
It was Dave that opened the door. A very tall man you do not want to see angry. Nor do I believe he was angry upon looking down to see me there, but he did seem confused as to why I would be there at that time interrupting his sleep.
“Tytus,” he said, half asleep. At least I believe that is what he said. It was his nickname for me.
“I’m sorry to wake you up this early,” I said, my hands rubbing together again, “but I had to let someone know.”
I did pause for a second, and in that second, Dave nodded. I have never asked him, but I have often wondered if he thought I was about to relate some sort of half-assed personal triumph to him.
“They blew up the Pentagon.”
Dave’s brow furrowed and he reached for the remote for his television which sat nearby. I continued talking, something to the effect of:
“They don’t know who they are, but they also attacked New York about an hour ago. The World Trade Center is on fire.”
By this time Joe had sat up in bed in the bottom bunk, but hadn’t said anything. I stepped into their still dark room, (the curtains were drawn or something), and continued to relay all the information I had about the situation to them both, which of course was not much. From what I recall, Dave asked most of the questions I was trying to answer.
At this point what had still felt somewhat like a dream or hallucination began to take on a reality. In sharing it with other people who would now experience their own first impressions of this insanity, the final step towards the reality of the situation was complete. It was happening.
The live coverage on Dave’s TV I remember happened to be back on New York for the moment, so that was his first glimpse of that. I am sure he said something, but I do not recall what it was. He didn’t say much, though. None of the three of us said a whole lot for the next few minutes, other than perhaps a few stray and half-reflexive “shit”s.
My phone rang a few minutes later, and I jogged back to my room to answer it. Mom again. She had somehow hit the jackpot and confirmed that all three of the local people we were concerned about were accounted for. Sis had in fact been driving and heard about the entire thing on the radio. All three were remaining extra vigilant and staying put. Confident in that, but not as relieved as one might expect, I made my way back to Dave’s room. It was now only a few minutes before ten o’clock.
It is at this point, during perhaps the most critical, stunning, and important moment in all of the 9/11 attacks that things in my mind seem odd, looking back. I say that because on the surface it seems impossible. Yet the facts and the timeline bare it out.
I distinctly remember standing in the middle of Dave’s room, still in the dark other than the TV. Joe still sitting up in bed to my right. Dave, remote control in hand to my left, near the door. Why we were in that formation I don’t know, but in either case I was straight in front of the TV. And as we watched, the South Tower crumbled into dust. I am thinking it was CNN’s coverage.
I did nothing. I said nothing. Truth be told I am pretty sure I felt nothing. Nothing. This is what has sometimes over the years made me question if I actually saw the Tower fall on TV. For surely if I had, surrounded by two of my friends, somebody would have reacted. The people on TV were, that’s for sure. Could it be possible that I and two friends of mine could just be standing there, free of hysteria as we watched one of the most recognizable sky scrapers in the world implode in the largest example of carnage ever captured on live video?
Over and over my mind has said no. That I must have not seen it happen live after all. But considering the fact that I had been the one to wake Joe and Dave, and that it was at most 15 minutes later, at 10 o’clock that the first Tower fell and that there was zero chance of my opting to stop watching coverage less than an hour into the event, I have concluded that not only must I have seen the collapse live, but I did in fact see it on Joe and Dave’s television, and not reacted. All I can remember thinking was that in the end, it wasn’t shocking. Stunning, yes, but the idea of someone trying to blow up those towers at once felt inevitable. And when I saw one collapse, it was almost as though there were no other way it could have gone. I just observed that hell on earth as I would a complicated movie scene. My arms folded standing two feet from a television.
Nor did I hear screams from anywhere else in the building, or nearby dorms, or outside. It was as though we three were the only ones watching this act of utter devastation.
“I’d say at least 30,000 people just died.”
Joe. It is the first thing I remember him saying, though he must have been saying something before then. Yet perhaps not. Perhaps he felt a numbness to the moment as I did. I don’t know.
“At least,” I agreed, with clinical distance. We had no clue of course that the death toll, still horrendous, would end up closer to 3,000.
After that, a vague sliver of memory sometime later of New York Governor George Pataki making a live statement, followed not long afterward by an inside joke made by Joe. A joke at which I laughed, despite what was happening. If that makes me heartless, than I suppose I am heartless. But I wasn’t about to ignore one of the few funny things about that day.
Yet would you believe it if I told you that that was the last moment of which I have any clear memory for about an hour? Again, the things you forget vs the things you remember are mind boggling. For example, I remember no reports of United 93 going down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, though obviously I would have heard them. Nor do I recall watching the second tower fall at around 10:30, about half an hour after the first one, according to the official timeline. I can’t remember presidential statements, or the shot of Air Force One leaving Florida, or Gulliani’s press conference. I don’t remember getting dressed, leaving Dave’s room, calling mom again, or much of anything.
The next clear memory I have is a group gathered in the lobby of the dorm. It is a jarring jump cut of a memory review for me. I go from the dark silence of Joe and Dave’s room, to the semi-active brightness of the lobby and its old TV set surrounded by at least ten or twelve people, most of whom I knew, some of them foreign exchange students that lived in the dorm, but didn’t say much to anyone. When all of these people arrived, and how they entered the narrative, I just don’t remember.
There was one girl who lived in the dorm that came in at some point, and I think I remember asking her if she had been watching things. She said she heard something about a plane hitting a skyscraper when she left for morning class, but clearly she had not been aware of what followed. (Was nobody watching, running from class to class talking about this?)
It was CBS news on in the lobby, because I remember it being Dan Rather anchoring the coverage. The more reports of missing planes and burning buildings that came in during the second hour of coverage, the more I thought I should actually plan for escape measures, and self defense. I considered arming myself, though with what I didn’t know. But the sense that at any time any of the major cities within driving distance (Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh), could be hit next was weighing on my mind now. I was not alone in this. I recall a few rushed conversations with a handful of people about what the best course of action would be if we had to evacuate. At no time during that day or any other day did the campus security make any efforts to inform, calm, or serve the student body.
Not that I believed that terrorists would target Marietta, Ohio per se. Again, it was our proximity to major cities that worried some of us. Then there was the possibility of not an attack, but a guerrilla occupation or something. Keep in mind the idea of American soil being attacked was all new to us, and we didn’t know just how many enemies there were, what their plans were and of what they were capable. But they had hit the Pentagon, (now confirmed not to have been destroyed as previously believed), so they seemed capable of anything. Then the possibility that overall pandemonium might overcome ordinary people in town, or even on campus, and spark riots or looting, or who the hell knows what else. So whether it was World War III or civil unrest, I remember calmly packing a bag at one point and having it near the door to my room.
Yet still I felt no panic. Obviously the concern that “this isn’t over” began to permeate throughout the dorm and in my inner circle. There were still planes unaccounted for. But I never felt a sense of urgency until I heard Dan Rather say, “There are unconfirmed reports that another plane may be on the way to Camp David, the presidential retreat.” At that point I was in the lobby with the rest of the gathering group, and I will confess to running back to my room to grab the phone and call mom again. Camp David is in Thurmont, Maryland, the northernmost part of my very own county, Frederick County, Maryland. If a plane was heading for Thurmont, and the controls were jostled or the calculations were off by just a fraction, a plane of that size at that height, going that speed could easily end up in the middle of far more populous Frederick, Maryland where I and family spent much time. Or, the back yards of half my family members.
“I’m keeping my eyes open,” Mom told me, having not heard that particular report. She assured me that everyone else back home was on extra alert, and advised me once again to be on the same. I shared with her about having an escape plan, packing a bag, and maybe arming. Not one to sensationalize anything, Mom confirmed the gravity of the situation again by expressing agreement with my preparations.
The report turned out to be false, and no plane was headed towards Camp David. All other planes were being slowly accounted for, because, the news was reporting, the FAA had shut down all air traffic in the United States. That was one of the most stunning things about the whole day other than the loss of life. Until that point I didn’t know anybody anywhere had the power to ground each and every flight in the entire enormity of this country. Yet they did, and that is what happened. The idea that nothing would be flying anywhere in the country, except military and rescue aircraft as needed, amazed me. (The following night, I did see a single small plane fly across the night sky while I was up on the roof of my dorm. I assume it had clearance, but it was strange to see just the one plane for a week.)
News of the universal grounding of American flights was the last bit of live information I clearly remember seeing on 9/11. I, like most, spent a great deal of time in front of the TV for the rest of the day, and the rest of the week, but I don’t remember much of that. I do remember at last being stunned by footage from ground level later in the evening of the second plane just vanishing into the South Tower. It has just been released to the public, and it did jolt my stomach a bit.
Still on the alert, but feeling more with each passing hour that no further attacks were imminent, I went for a walk on the mall on campus that day. I don’t remember what time of day it was, only that it was mid-afternoon. It was the first time I had left the dorm all day. It is a jarring irony that it was one of the top five most gorgeous days I have ever experienced, before or since. It was about 70 degrees. The sky, without a cloud in sight was a shade of blue I didn’t even know the sky could be, so dazzling and deep was it. A perfect breeze was blowing, rustling the first stirrings of autumn leaves along the ground, as well as the American flag on the pole in the middle of the mall. If we get to pick the weather in our heaven, I’d use that day as one of my reference points.
Marietta College was a bit of a party school when I went there, and was never known for its stoicism. Yet during that walk there was a reserved quality to the campus. There were students out and about, some going to class, (though I didn’t), some on other business. If I had to encapsulate what the feeling of campus was as whole at that point, the best I could come up with would be, “What?”
Not, “What the hell,” or “What’s happening,” or “What are we going to do?” Not even the often used improper punctuation of “What???” covered it. Simply, “What?” A pervasive, collective bewilderment hung in that perfect early autumn air.
Over the next few days and weeks, there were student run charity drives for victims, dedications by the college choir, candlelight vigils, and any manner of early healing and commemoration on campus and around the world. There were presidential addresses, cautious and nervous late night talk show hosts returning for “duty”, and calls for revenge. I participated in some of those things, avoided others. I have positive thoughts about certain aspects of the post attack time frame, and negative thoughts about other aspects, both in the immediate aftermath, and since. Those could fill an entire book. They have filled many books in the last ten years, and will continue to fill books probably as long as this country exists, and even afterwards.
Yet the purpose of this post is not to share my dissatisfaction with the way things were handled by those in authority over this country as well as the way the events described here have been used in foul ways to do foul things. The purpose of this post was to at long last add myself to the national narrative. I have not avoided it until now, but I have not delved into it much either. Not out of shock, and not out of fear. But because it is my nature to move forward when possible.
Remember, but not relive, is my motto. The problem with much of the memorials, and TV shows, and books, and speeches, and expectations of society, and “as it happened” coverage every year on the anniversary is to that it constitutes reliving. And while I don’t believe in making that a habit, this ten year anniversary seemed at last the proper time to, as a writer to set down in words the minuscule dot that I myself posses in the tapestry of stories that was born out of the epic tragedy of September 11, 2001.
Believe it or not, I don’t try to out and out sell everything I write.
This shouldn’t shock any of you; I offered my essay contest earlier this year for free. (Download a copy of Thoughts I Wrote Down Because I Hate Talking to People if you haven’t yet.)
But I also don’t want to publish every single thing I write as an e-book, even a free one. And there isn’t always a contest or a magazine to which to submit something I write. (Or, full disclosure, some of my stuff has been submitted, and had not won anything, or been selected. Tear.)
In an effort to get some of my work out there which falls between the cracks of self-published story collection, self-published novel, contest-ready entry or potential magazine pitch material, I’ll be putting it up here on my website more often than I have been so far. I’ll tag it with my least used major category here- “miscellany.”
A more quirky essay you’ve seen me post here before once in a while. But I’ll also be posting more long form writings at times. I have a (soon to be reawakened) blog for my poetry, but there are a few pieces I have written that fall somewhere between poetry and essay. (Is that prose-poetry? I don’t know. I’ll look it up after I finish this entry.) I will also probably post some short fiction here.
I have not posted short fiction before, and I don’t expect it will be an every day thing. After all, as a writer I still have hope that some of my short-stories without homes in themed collections will end up winning contests or published in some form or another. Still, if in the end it doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, or if I write something I enjoy, want to share, but don’t want to spend the time and entrance fees on, it could end up here first.
Finding public homes for such stories has been tricky for me. I have a Wattpad, but I have not put anything on it in a while, and I don’t think I’m the right material for the site. I’ve looked at other “share your fiction” sites and have almost joined, but it just feels in the end like another wasteland for my orphaned stories. If they are going nowhere beyond my own satisfaction and a few reads, I’d rather them have a home here in my actual website.
And don’t worry, I know that putting them here constitutes “published,” and disqualifies it from any magazine or contest that requires submissions not be “previously published.” That’s why You’ll only find fiction here that I have either run the gamut for already, or don’t feel the need to run the gamut for in the first place. Sometimes, believe it or not a writer just wants his stuff to be read.
There will be no specific schedule for such pieces. I hope to get back soon to me regular Monday and Thursday publishing schedule, that I have been off of for a few months now, and these miscellany will show up on one of those days.