Shocked into Reality

by Chuck Toporek

The events that took place yesterday -- Tuesday, September 11, 2001 (or 9-11) -- seemed surreal. As if watching some Hollywood production, I sat glazed on the sofa at home watching the images of a second jetliner screaming toward one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. But this wasn't fake -- this was real.

By the time I heard the news about what happened, I instantly turned to the Internet as my source of news. Fat chance I could get on CNN's site; they've never been able to handle the load of a big news story, so I called home and told my wife, Kellie, to turn on the television and go to CNN...but she didn't have to get that far. All of the networks were broadcasting the news, live, as it happened from New York. She watched in horror as the second plane crashed into the second tower and screamed as she saw the plane come in from outside the picture. "Why?!," she screamed, "Why?!". was a little better, bringing me my first glimpse at the horror, as depicted by the explosion of the second airliner slammed into the second tower. This couldn't be happening, could it? But I wanted news. I wanted a live feed, images or not. NPR's site was also clogged, so I went to Boston's local NPR affiliate, WGBH, and managed to get what I wanted -- a live streaming QuickTime audio feed. Now I was plugged in and could hear what was going on.

As other editors here posted messages about trying to find out about their authors in New York City, I too realized I had an author, Brook Conner, who lived in NYC. I tried calling, but the phone lines were busy, so I resorted to email:

Hi Brook,

I just heard what happened in NY, and would like to know whether you and your family are okay.

Please drop me a line and let me know if you're well.


A few minutes later, I received the following response:

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, at 10:20 AM, Chuck Toporek wrote:

> I just heard what happened in NY, and would

> like to know whether you and your family are

> okay.

When I got this, my initial response was "What the heck is he talking about?"

Then I checked the news, saw "Plane crashes into World Trade Center" and suddenly realized why so many of my neighbors on 12th street were looking out their windows. I'm north of the WTC, and my apt faces north - they face south.

> Please drop me a line and let me know if you're

> well.

Lots of sirens, but I'm fine. :-)

Gonna go up to the roof and see it now


Later, I received another message from Brook, saying that he had heard news saying his parents, who worked in Washington, DC, were also okay. Even though I'm just his editor, I was relieved to hear that both Brook and his family were fine.

As Kellie and I sat on the sofa last night, watching the images from CNN, listening to our President, George W. Bush, addressing the American public and the world, we could hear the drone of fighter jets overhead from nearby Hanscom Air Force Base. What had the world become? What happened to our Nation? The "Friendly Skies" have turned into the "Patrolled Skies," and America would forever be changed by these terrorist acts of war.

I couldn't help but feel shocked. Instead of crying like some people, I sat there feeling anger and disgust over what happened. We live in a "free" country with limitless borders and lax security, so it's easy to see how this could happen, but it is still difficult to fathom the events of yesterday.

Many people lost their lives yesterday as they tried to do their jobs. Whether they were office workers, military personnel, police and firemen, or people who were trying to get somewhere on one of those four planes, they all set out yesterday morning like every other day. But today is not the same, and nor will tomorrow or the next.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who lost loved ones in the tragic acts of terrorism in NYC and DC.