Saturday, September 10, 2011

The End Of The World

Tomorrow is the ten year anniversary of the end of a way of life. I remember flying, living before the attacks in September of 2001. I also remember having to fly about a week afterwards.
Reflecting on that morning and the days that followed reminded me of a belief I have always held; the world will end on a normal day. That September day fit the bill. It was a typically beautiful early fall day in north Florida and when the radio announcer said planes had flown into the World Trade Center my mind shifted into a bit of a fugue state. I saw my hands, I knew they were on the steering wheel. I also knew that my body knew the way to my office so I let my auto-pilot take over.

In March of 1993 I was barely 32 years old and on my second gig as a country radio station program director. I didn't particularly like country music, but I liked programming and understood the business and how to manage the infantile personalities most disc jockeys had. We had a contract engineer instead of one on staff which meant that when I had an equipment problem that I couldn't fix, I called him.
My station went off the air somewhere around three am that March day and my overnight girl called to let me know. I started trying to figure out why the power was out at my transmitter site some 40 miles away but the power co-op wouldn't answer. I called the engineer. His name is Charles, and he is still an engineer, but then he was a very young engineer and trying to be brave when he picked me up at my studios. It was just starting to work towards a grey dawn when we got close to the transmitter site. Driving out of Tallahassee was like playing hopscotch. We had to dodge tree limbs in the roads and highways and jittered over diet cokes as we took 90 minutes to make a 45 minute trip.
I don't think the sky got past a sickly shade of pale pear the entire day, and all of the wind that had made the night frightening had sucked away across the Gulf leaving nothing but stillness.
I knew my parents were safe, they were in Tallahassee too and we had only experienced the equivalent of a cat 1 hurricane. Rain, rain; wind, wind, power outage and some downed limbs. Other family and friends were down close to the Gulf and that was where the horror was.
When I was a kid, my dad was head Forest Ranger and we lived on a compound. There was a sweet lady who lived there, too, with her Forest Ranger husband and young children. Her name was Miss Allie Jean. Her family all lived on the corner of a canal and the Gulf in big houses on stilts that were connected to each other by walkways high off the ground. We used to go crabbing in their canal, and I remember being 6 or 7 and looking up at those three houses knitted together by wood slats and rope.
Her family woke up in the middle of that wild night to water, 12 feet high, lashing in from our normally gentle beach.They ran to be together in the house furtherest back from the water by ten feet or so and held hands to try to save themselves from the suck of the outgoing waves. The storm picked them off like sweet grapes from a stem. Allie Jean lost eleven of her brothers, sisters, neices and nephews and even her mother that night. 
That day, that dreadful pale-green sky day, was an End of the World day. That was what the Last Day should look like.
Not that sweet, soft September day ten years ago.
This is my new reality. I live close to one major airbase and less than two driving hours from two others. Paradise with a poisoned thorn - who wants to live next to the Big Red X?
Apparantly me since I moved here.

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