It’s Tuesday, September 11th and I’m sitting in the diningroom listening to country music on the US Armed Forces Radio station, just like I do most every Tuesday night after my Moriya Community Center class. The last time this date fell on a Tuesday was in 2001. Like tonight, Kayoko was in the next room watching the news.
I only half listened when she said, “Dane, a plane just flew into the World Trade Center.”
I guess it was the pitch of her voice the second time she said it that I decided to get up from the dining table chair and see what the hell she was talking about.
As I did, I said, “No Kayoko, it’s probably a scene from some panic movie. Besides, if it was real, AFN would interrupt their programming to report it, and they’re still playing Toby Keith and Trace Adkins. ”
A moment later I was standing at the doorway looking in at the incredible sight on the TV screen.
“How could a pilot make such a mistake?” she wondered aloud.
I took it as a real question and said “No pilot could be that stupid. Look, they had perfect visibility,” recalling my father’s complaints about poor visibility on so many of his flights over Germany.
“Well somehow he managed to run into the building. Look at that!”
“That’s no accident, Kayoko, that’s got to be a terrorist attack,” I said, totally convinced it could not be anything else.
While the Japanese networks were all broadcasting live coverage of this ongoing tragedy (Kayoko surfed every channel), country songs continued to issue from the American military radio station, providing a bizarre soundtrack for the horror on the screen.
Eventually, after 20 minutes or so, the Yokota GIs figured out what was going on and switched to live US network coverage. I stood there in the doorframe watching the NHK coverage in front of me while listening to the American broadcast behind me.
When the enormity of the disaster became clear, we both suddenly remembered at the same time that Aran’s hospital was on 16th Street, not that far from the WTC.
“I wonder if Aran’s hospital is going to be involved,” I asked.
“Probably,” she confirmed. “We’d better try to call him.”
We tried his cell phone. Nothing. His home phone. Nothing. Then we tried Jim and Kyoko who live in Queens. Nothing.
By this time the reports seem indicate that it the damage was limited to the downtown area so we figured Aran was safe, but probably busy as hell.
The rest of the evening we followed the broadcasts of horror that have become the defining images of our time.
At one point I remember watching people blocks away from the burning building running uptown in panic as rescue teams headed south.
“What whimps,” I thought. “Those guys are on the street a safe distance away. There’s no way the towers could tumble down on top of them!”
I was wrong. I am ashamed of myself for my cavalier and inaccurate criticism. Moments later the world came tumbling down in a murderous cloud of ash.
Around 1AM we got a call from New Orleans. It was Karli, Aran’s girlfriend, calling to tell us she had heard from Aran and he was OK.
Aran later told us that he and the other med students were busy moving gurneys and other emergency equipment into the hallways in preparation for the wounded from the towers. All that work turned out to be futile. The only patients they received were rescue workers and passersby suffering from smoke and soot inhalation.
The wounded never left the towers.