Here is what I remember:
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, my wife and I were sleeping in a hotel room in Los Angeles during one of our regular family visits. My mother-in-law called and told us to put on the TV: “Some planes have crashed into some buildings.”
We watched, first in our room and then downstairs at the breakfast bar. Talk was muted, everyone was stunned. We decamped at my in-laws’ where, like everyone in America, we watched the television. I plugged my laptop into the phone to monitor news online and check in with friends, particularly those working at the Pentagon. Back at home on the East Coast, friends were rushing home. In L.A., my in-laws live on a flight path where the drone of jets and the buzz of helicopters are so frequent that the noise passes unnoticed. But that day, the city was silent.
Months later, during the Super Bowl half-time ceremony, I realized we had also taken a cross-country flight from one of the airports the hijackers had used. But we had carefully scheduled our flights so that we would be home in time for the Jewish new year.
In the months and years that followed, I heard from friends who had happened to be visiting New York that day. They talked about helping to organize on-site blood drives. Another friend, who raises rescue dogs, volunteered in the weeks afterwards and commuted up to New York.
On 9/11, I wrote. It was a short article for NRO, calling for countering terror with a diplomatic offensive for freedom and human rights. It wasn’t much (although the article holds up), but in a small way I felt as though I could do something besides watch.
What stays with me, exemplifying the divide between pre- and post-9/11, is what I told my wife when she relayed her mother’s words to me: “Tell your mom to turn off the cartoon channel.”