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September 11, 2001
Sep 11, 2001 :: Michael Sippey

(No big ideas. No explanations. Just words, pointless words.)

I've been in a media daze and emotional stupor all day long. As I write this, Peter Jennings continues his series of late night dialogs with experts and former CIA directors, the images of downtown Manhattan occasionally making their way into the feed; either live shots from the rescue efforts downtown, or repeats of the images we've already seen hundreds of times since this morning.

I wouldn't have turned on the television this morning if it hadn't been for my father-in-law, who's visiting, who had been listening to the radio reports since about 6:15 pacific; just minutes after the first plane hit the north tower. From about 7:00 on, Trina, Larry and I stood and stared at the television; watched the videotape of the second plane. Watched the south tower fall. Then the north tower. The whole time we're doing our best to shield Kate from the images, letting her play on the floor with her blocks, trying to keep her engaged in anything but the television.

Meanwhile, the phone's ringing. First, Mom, checking that I wasn't traveling, and to relay news. My cousin Scott had been working with a close family friend in the AMEX building, and had yet to be heard from. My Dad had been flying from Chicago to Nashville, and landed safely. The pilot of his plane came over the intercom system to tell the passengers what had happened in New York; I can't fathom why they would do that.

Then, just before the south tower falls, an old old friend calls to let us know that she and her partner are fine. She's clearly a mess, her voice shaking, the stress level through the roof. "I saw it all Sippey, I saw it all. It was terrible." I tell her we love them, and then we both sacrifice the precious circuit out of New York.

At some point Kate seems to comprehend that something is wrong. Not sure if it's just that we're glued to the television, or the stress in our voices, or the worry on our faces, but she starts to cry. We comfort her, take her out of the living room, and eventually we drop her off at our friends house with whom we share a babysitter. I decide to "work" from home; at this point I'm still worried about things like the Bay Bridge, and can't take my eyes off of the television, can't stop thinking about my cousin, can't get the image of the plane out of my head.

An hour later, another call from Mom -- Scott's OK. And then an email from his brother Bryan, fwding on a message from Scott: "i can not believe what i just saw or went through."

Throughout the day, traffic on an discussion list I host is dedicated to making sure that NY-based members are present and accounted for. Owen's partner Greg was in Newark; Viv checks in, she's on the phone with Leslie. Leslie then checks in, who reports that Noah's safe. Rebecca asks that someone in NY make a local call to check on a relative; Leslie calls her and finds her safe and sound.

For most of the day, the television stays on. I try to get some work done -- a few conference calls, some email -- but I can't stop listening and watching, trying to find clues, answers, explanations. None come, of course, just the endless stream of inexplicable images.

Late in the afternoon we shut it off, and pick up Kate. She's happier than she was in the morning, having been away from the television and the worried voices most of the day. We drive up to the pool at Strawberry Canyon above UC Berkeley, and let Kate splash and crawl about the baby pool. She's happy, beautiful, wonderful, and I manage to bury the worry of the day when we'll have to explain. Everything.

Sixteen hours later, our close friends and family are accounted for. Obviously thousands of others haven't been as lucky. In the days ahead, I fear reading hearing about the others -- the long lost college friends, the colleagues, the casual acquaintances, the friends of friends -- the horror stories that will drive this even further home.

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