My friend Ted and I haven't talked in quite a while. He and I were roommates in college, and played in innumerable bar bands to pay the rent. He was my best man at my wedding, and my wife and kids think the world of him. He has been a true friend to me for almost 26 years. We have had some great times. But I've hardly spoken to him in a few years for more than a few minutes at gatherings, until the other day, in which he had quite a story to tell me.
It seems the morning of 9/11/01, he was driving along Rte.2 west in Massachusetts, from his home in Greenfield, MA, right before the US Rt. 91 interchange that goes north to Vermont and south to Conn./NY. He and an mutual friend of ours work at a college in S. Vermont. They were driving in Ted's car, on their way to work that morning, when they heard a low rumble, then a colossal roar out of nowhere, looked up and backwards, and saw a shadow and then a HUGE airliner flying right over their heads, not more than a couple of hundred feet or so above the them and the highway, flying in a drunken fashion, wings wagging up and down, tail swaying and slipping from left to right, apparently following the roadway west from Boston. Our other friend said, something's not right with that plane- nobody flies like that on purpose. At that point, the plane overshot the interchange, just as they were getting off at that exit to go north on Rte. 91 to VT.
They then observed the plane turn in a steep, tight yet wobbly arc, almost falling out of the sky, as if it was about to slide backwards, my friend said. The plane doubled back, flattened out a bit, then shot out at about 500' off the ground, accelerating like a rocket down Rte. 91 south, hugging the roadway, towards New York City, as it later turns out. It was, unbeknownst to them, one the planes that hit the twin towers. But from what they saw, they were both stunned, but kept on driving to work, thinking eventually about their workday, and shrugging off what they saw.
Until they got to work, a little after 9 AM.
In the lobby, all over the campus, every TV visible was on, the images of the planes slamming into the WTC were running repeatedly as if on a perpetual tape loop, people were standing numb, staring crying and slack-jawed at the unprecedented slaughter and holocaust in the towers and Pentagon. Kids and adults grabbed cellphones in an unsuccessful attempt to call relatives and friends. (The service was down for hours.)
Ted and Steve attempted to tell people what they had seen, but nobody was listening. They realized suddenly what the crazily-piloted plane must have meant. But everyone else was numb to their words. Ted had been a real granola liberal until that day, but no longer. He wishes he could say the same for his colleagues at the liberal campus who only experienced it all through the tube, but they still live in a cozy world of denial, self-loathing and rationalization.
He, however, unlike them, had seen evil in action, unfiltered.