That fateful morning, I was grumbling, because I was late for work. My office was 50 km. (30 miles) away and I had to wait for the next city to city commuter bus.
Funny what you remember, isn’t it? The little things. The bus air conditioning was freezing, almost unbearable. I remember cursing inwardly, because I hadn’t thought it necessary to bring a jacket.
Seemed obviously warm out – the sun was shining in a clear blue sky. I remember trying to figure out what side of the bus I should sit on, to avoid the sunlight once the bus pulled out of the station.
There were maybe about 20 people on the large bus. One of the benefits of catching the late bus. It meant it wouldn’t be necessary to share a seat with anyone. A silver lining in every cloud.
A week before I had purchased a cool set of orange headphones, which served only one purpose: to play AM-FM radio stations. I put them on and dialled into a local rock station, and, ignoring my rapidly lowering core temperature, decided to try and sleep my way to work.
I think we had been on the highway for about ten minutes, when a loud voice interrupted my thoughts. Maybe I had been asleep. Can’t seem to remember. I didn’t catch what was being said, but I opened my eyes and noticed other people looking around and at each other. So I took off my headphones and sat up straighter.
It was the bus driver, and he was using the P.A. system to speak. “A plane has just crashed into the second World Trade Center in New York.”
“Oh’, I thought. “Wow. Must have been a hell of a pilot error. Wonder how many people were hurt. Seems like a tragedy.” Then I thought “but why is he talking about it? It’s just one plane. Probably a four seater Cessna. Why so dramatic?”
“This is the second plane to crash into the towers. I’m being told it’s a terrorist attack.”
I remember blinking in confusion, and then looking at others. It honestly seemed like a bad joke. Like he was playing with the P.A. system. It took a while for the surreal feeling to subside, and my logical mind to catch up. Still, I felt sure he had gotten it wrong.
So I slapped on my headphones and found the news station on the A.M. dial. That’s when it was confirmed, and more information was being broadcast.
I spoke up to the rest of the bus. “There are five terrorist planes in the air right now”.
One lady looked at me. “How do you know?”
“I’m listening to a news station.”
People started leaving their seats and gathering closer. I listened closely and, during the course of the trip heard many false reports. The bus driver made another announcement when a plane crashed into the Pentagon. I told the passengers about the final crash in Pennsylvania.
We still had no idea how bad the attack was, or the scope of it. I think we were all still shocked when we got off of the bus in Toronto.
I walked to work, expecting to have to wait outside the doors for about an hour, while the striking pickets let us through slowly. But when I got there, all of the pickets were down, and the labour dispute was forgotten, ignored.
There was no work that day. Employees all gathered around big TV sets in the foyer, rapt, waiting for more information. We saw people jumping from the towers to escape the flames. Many of us looked in horror, and many more of us cried.
In the days to follow, I stayed near news sources. I was in a bar one night when President Bush made one of his major speeches about the attacks. As God is my witness, I have never in my life felt so angry at what had been done to our American neighbours. I *wanted* those assholes who had done this dead. Needed them to die.
When Bush said the United States was going to take the fight to the terrorists, I applauded along with everyone else in the bar. Stupid, isn’t it? Bush and the Americans couldn’t hear us. Yet we felt compelled to applaud.
I remember thinking that for all of our cross-border disagreements over trade, and free movement across our borders and politics and what-have-you, all of any brotherly rivalry seemed to just fall. Immediately. As if we had never disagreed. You can argue with my brother all you like, and even call him an asshole. But if you bloody his nose, you’ll have to answer to me. That’s how it is with my own siblings, and it seemed that then, even as now, that’s how it is between Canada and the U.S.