Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11

I remember waking up, cold and aching, on the floor of the crew connex box at Prudhoe because Logistics had blown my camp booking. I was puzzled to see that my email inbox had exploded, but with the stalled dialup connection, I couldn’t see why. Back at camp, I saw people standing twenty deep around the large-screen TVs. Besides the East Coast situation, news came of a Korean Air jet headed to AK and transponding the code for a hijacking. The rest of the crew were stuck in Anchorage so I did the field work alone. I remember sitting in the truck, eating an egg salad sandwich and listening the radio discussing the target potential of the oil pipeline over which I was parked. I felt extra alone because just a week before, the final death knell had sounded on 13 years of loving someone who didn’t care if I lived or died. I wondered what would happen to my dogs if I didn't get back home. Three days later I was in the first group to fly out. We were the guinea pigs for new security measures, and the two-room airport in Deadhorse had become a military installation.

A few years later, I stood at the temporary memorial at Shanksville, near where I was born. Down a dirt road past a junkyard with old refrigerators and dead Pepsi vending machines, there was nothing but a length of pink tape to separate us from the view of that scar in the land. I hooked an Alaska keytag to the sections of chain-link fence that served as a makeshift memorial cache.

My only contribution to the story of that day was later on, to write the "Hero" television PSA, which touched many people across the country and won some recognition. Mostly I just remember worrying about my family a couple hours west of NYC, and I remember eating that sandwich out on the tundra.