Today is 9/11. 19th Anniversary of the day the world changed. Where were you that morning?
It’s a beautiful, mild and sunny morning here. Just like it was that morning nineteen years ago. Nineteen years. Good heavens, where has nineteen years gone? Last year on 11 September Daiana and I were driving along Lone Pine road in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan on our way to our morning walk through the grounds of Cranbrook house and campus. It was a splendid sunny, September morning. 84 degrees f (30c) and not a cloud to be seen in the sky.
Just like that tragic morning in 2001.
Normally we’re not visiting Michigan in September. But with Euro in May last year, and a wedding to attend we found ourselves Stateside. We saw students in jacket and tie walking to Christ Church, Cranbrook for a memorial service. It occurred to me the eldest students couldn’t possibly be more than 18 years of age as Cranbrook is a prep school. None of them were yet born when the attacks came. None.
As my wife and I strolled amongst the beautiful gardens and buildings of Cranbrook—reminiscing summer school/camp past—our conversation inevitably returned to where we were that morning nineteen years ago.
7.14am, Pacific Standard Time. A Tuesday. Studio City. California. I was thirty-six years old. Asleep in my little bungalow on Bloomfield Street. A lovely morning. As they are Southern California, in September. I had slept with the French doors leading out to the swimming pool open. My cat Squeak coming and going as she liked.
The house phone mounted to the wall beside the bed rang. Remember when we had land lines? It was strange for the telephone to ring at such an hour. I picked up. My friend Bryan from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He told me to turn on the television. I clicked on the enormous tube tv I had mounted on a stand to the wall across the room from the bed, switching to Fox News 11—the local affiliate—Good Day LA. I saw the twin towers amidst smoke. What I thought was the twin towers. What I did not grasp in that moment was already the South Tower had collapsed. My friend repeated: ‘One of the towers is gone. One of the towers is gone.’ My eyes played tricks on me. I could have sworn I could see the both of them. The second tower being obscured by smoke. When the other tower collapsed and I realised there was none remaining it all became frightfully real. All of this playing out whilst I was on the telephone with Bryan and then rung off to call my then girlfriend who was still asleep across town in Brentwood.
She had no idea what was happening. I was the first to send an alert. It didn’t take long when either our telephones were endlessly ringing anew, or call waiting chirped whilst we were on a call. I flipped on the radio. Howard Stern’s talk show mid-way through. His typical rude banter with Robin Quivers gone, his radio show proved to be one of the best ways to get the latest news on what was going down in Manhattan as his listners through-out the city were calling in. It was surreal. And frightening.
That September morning in 2001 all our lives changed. For some of us in small ways. For others enormously.
I adore New York. I chose to live in L.A. for the weather. The world was different before 9/11. Before, I lived in a cute little bungalow. Rock & Republic was a tiny startup in a glorified storage unit in Van Nuys. Total revenue that year less than $1 million. I drove an 8 year old Mercedes S-500. I just had moved my modelling room inside the house from the garage to the front sitting room, finishing a Tamiya Famo absolutely dripping in Aber photo-etch. Remember when we used to build models and use the entire fret of etch? Most modellers communicated through the Missing-Lynx discussion groups. My yearly principle concorso was AMPS in April in Havre de Grace, Maryland.
After 9/11, LA —like many cities—developed a bunker mentality. All the airlines shut down. Where you were was were you stayed. For days. I remember well driving into Beverly Hills to have dinner at Mr. Chow in my huge black, Russian gangster looking S-500 Mercedes. On the drive along Wilshire from Brentwood, people lined the street holding candle vigils. At the restaurant we sat next to an Englishman, a film producer. Stranded. He was staying at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and eating every night at Mr. Chow.
We were the lucky ones.
During the day my eyes were glued to the news coming from NYC and the Pentagon. Sitting at my modelling workbench staring at the TV. The news repeatedly showing the smouldering ruins at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the scar in the earth in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nobody doubted it was terrorism. We just didn’t know exactly who to blame it on. Not yet.
Post 9/11 my world was to be just as different as it was for many others. Fortunately, in most regards, it was for the better. I remember in the days after 9/11 Trump being interviewed and telling traders to not sell off on Wall Street. Of course everybody did and the markets tanked so much it was shuttered for days. When it opened again it plunged more. I was watching the stock tickers and seeing how low everything was I thought I must buy something before stock prices began to climb again. But what? I had just bought a first generation iPod that summer. For me it was a game changer. Apple. What was
Apple stock at? $6 USD a share. I set up an Ameritrade account and bought 8,000 shares. I held onto it for eleven years and sold it off after it split twice. It was a good investment.
I attended an AMPS show near Austin, Texas in October. Flying out of LAX wasn’t bad. But the return flight we stood in security queues for hours before being able to get to our boarding gates. The new normal.
Rock & Republic grew. I moved to a much bigger home in the Hills of Sherman Oaks. I discovered a new local hobby shop called Mission Models and became friends with the owner Jon Tamkin. He
opened my eyes to an entire new world of modelling. He introduced me to Euro-Militaire which he had already been attending. My Tamiya Famo appeared in the 3rd issue of AFV Modeller in March/April of 2002. I grew my hair out. I let an apartment in Manhattan and began spending a week each month in New York City. I began playing the game of actor spotting. Bumping into leads and support cast from Sex and the City, the Sopranos and Law & Order in places like Central Park, the Rose Bar at the Grammercy Park Hotel and the Apple Store in Soho. It was at this time I discovered the utter brilliance of Soho House in Meatpacking District and I finally visited the World Trade Center site. The twisted metal gone it looked like any other construction site.
I would at least once a month travel out of the City on the Raritan Line train to visit my fellow modeller Georg Eyerman who lived in New Jersey and visit his local hobby shop haunts. Later, I gave up on Missing-Lynx and began using something new called social networking. Facebook.
And so the world has changed. And we’ve gotten through it. As one does. And we remember. As we are meant to. My fear though, is those who were not yet alive or have no memory of that time, will not have learnt from the changes thrust upon us. It’s for those who witnessed it and lived though it to remind others to be wise and diligent.
From the ashes rises the hope of a better day. The twin beams of light rising from the WTC site a symbol of recovery and reflection. New York lives on. The world isn’t perfect. But, nor is it bad. At least on this patch.
That’s my 9/11 story. What is yours?