Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: A New Hope

As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, I must admit that September 11, 2001 affected me in a way unlike most others. Let me be clear, what happened to our east coast brethren was a horrible atrocity and I solemnly remember those who lost their lives that day and those who have fought for our country since then.  For me, however, it was one of the most powerful days I’ve had in my 12 years in Los Angeles and possibly my nearly three-dozen years on Earth.

During 2001 I was working an awful job in human resources at a big movie studio.  If you know me at all, you know that I am definitely not an HR kind of guy. The job probably wasn’t awful if you are into TPS Reports and that kind of thing but I absolutely was not.

When I woke up that morning and flipped on the TV, my jaw dropped while watching the visuals taking place in New York City.  I immediately called a couple people on the east coast to make sure they were safe and thankfully they were.  Then my aunt called to tell me that my cousin who worked in one of the Twin Towers had stayed home that day. As I watched Good Day LA, I was also thankful that Steve Edwards was working that day because one of the last people you would want reporting a story like the one that was unfolding is Jillian Barberie. 

My parents were visiting from Ohio and staying at a hotel up the street from my apartment. I called to make sure they were aware of the situation and they were also captivated by the TV. As I was getting dressed, I received a phone call from my boss saying that due to the attacks, work was canceled for the day.  At that point, I was thrilled to have a day away from the misery of I-9 Forms and endless interviews.  So I got dressed and met my parents at Dupar's for a late breakfast. Over the next couple of hours we watched the events unfold and life as we knew it evolve.  There would be no more taking safety for granted. None of us knew if any further terrorist activity was subsequently headed our direction given that we were in the 2nd largest city in the US and #1 had just been hit. 

Not knowing what to do with ourselves that day and quickly realizing that most of Los Angeles was shut down due to the attacks, we drove west down a desolate Santa Monica Boulevard until it ended. We parked and walked around the deserted Third Street Promenade. A few vendors were open but the great majority were not.  Even on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the stores are closed the movies and restaurants are thriving. This was like nothing  any of us had seen before.

Eventually we wandered over to the Santa Monica Pier. It was empty. No vendors, no tourists, no nothing. Ironically, the terrorist activity back east had turned what is normally a tourist filled madhouse into the most peaceful place on earth. For me the beach has always been a place of tranquility.  As I looked over the great Pacific, I had no idea where my life was headed or if there would even be a tomorrow. But somehow I felt comfort in that situation being surrounded by the beautiful blue abyss. Needless to say, I was very fortunate to be able to share that day with my parents. 

That evening my parents and I met my brother and sister-in-law and her parents for dinner at one of the few places that was open in the area, the wonderful Trattoria Amici.  As we nibbled on focaccia and talked about what had happened that day, how it affected us and what was to come, we received a major life-changing revelation. It was at that meal when I learned that my sister-in-law was pregnant and 6 months later I was blessed with my first nephew.  The joy of that spectacular news helped brighten what had already been a very emotionally charged day.

Obviously my son, BC, is too young to learn about the tragedy that hit our nation that fateful day a decade ago.  So today, what my wife and I did with our son is what I did with my parents exactly 10 years ago. We went to the beach. It had been overcast in LA yesterday, so the beach was nearly deserted when we arrived, very much like that day in Santa Monica.  For a few hours we sat and talked, played and ate. Interestingly, BC seems to be as enamored by the ocean as I am.  Someday I will have to tell him about the catastrophe that befell our nation on 9/11/01 and I am lucky that I’ll be able to share some good stories with the bad. Because for me 9/11 was not only a tragedy but also a life-changing day filled with peace, serenity and family.   

Thanks for reading! Your comments are appreciated.  Tell your friends...

--JJ aka The Dude of the House

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Here's a link to a beautiful song that always reminds me of 9/11/01:
"Brokedown Palace"- Grateful Dead, 6/21/89 Shoreline Amphitheater


  1. Wow! I forgot that we shared the news that day! Also, I can't remember if we planned to do it that night before the attack or because of the attack. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Very nice. As I was watching the news that day, I got an email from my sister with the first pictures I'd seen of her newborn daughter. It made me break down crying. So I totally relate to you having good memories along with the bad.

  3. I'm sure it was a tad bit comforting being with your family on 9/11/01. It's a time that we will never forget the horror of tragedies that happened that day.
    We were very glad to spend 9/11/11 with the 3 of you. It was a beautiful day of play, sand eating, sun and friendship!