& is used with permission.
And the main reason for that is because I don't have much to tell. No one I know was killed in any of the attacks, although I know people who did. But if did affect me in other ways.
I was on the DC Beltway, driving from my home in Arlington to my job in Fairfax, VA, when the first plane hit. I was listening to the radio as I drove, and initial reports made it seem like an accident -- because no one expected the truth.
I got to work late, and I'm honestly not sure if it was because of usual DC traffic, or because other people heard the same reports and were slowing down. I am honestly not sure what time I got to work, as most of that morning is a haze for me. By the time I arrived, the other plane had already hit, and people were saying it was a terrorist attack, but I don't recall if the Pentagon strike happened before or after I got off the Interstate.
I think it was before, because the very first thing I did when I got to work was to call my parents (I didn't have a cell phone) and tell them that I was all right, which isn't something I would have done had it just been the NYC attacks.
I remember the chaos as contradictory information came out. I know for a fact I heard on the radio that a bomb had exploded in front of the State Department (or perhaps the Secretary of State's house; I just recall the word State was used a lot); and then later we were told that was incorrect, and nothing else was said about it. To this day I don't know if that was just a rumor someone started, or if a car simply caught fire, or what.
I remember being terribly excited by the whole thing. No, not in a fun way; it was a combination of anxiety over "What's going to get hit next? Who are we at war with? Are we going to win?" and that adrenaline-pumping feeling you get in action movies where the music picks up and you go "Oh yeah. now the righteous ass-kicking will commence!" If you remember being glued to your seats during the first Gulf War, you know the feeling I'm talking about -- lots of energy, but nothing productive to do with it.
I remember how eerie it was, in the weeks that followed, that the sky was completely silent. And I remember realizing that being in a capital city meant that I was living in a bullseye, and I didn't like that feeling one bit.
I experienced a similar feeling when the Northeast Blackout of 2003. I was fortunate not to be affected by it, but I had a close friend who was. I remember being amazed at the scale of the situation: fifty-five million people without power. I remember being pleasantly surprised -- no, shocked -- that America's largest city being without power for an entire night didn't result in massive amounts of assault, looting, and arson. I'd like to think that the lesson of 9/11/01 was still fresh in everyone's mind, and that's why New York citizens were kind to one another.
But mostly, I remember thinking "When the lights go out, cities turn into traps." I saw pictures of the traffic backed up as cars tried to make their way out of the city without power at the intersections, and realized that if people needed to get out of Manhattan quickly, they wouldn't be able to, and that if was a life or death situation, many would die.
It's these two events which are chiefly responsible for me becoming a prepper. There are others, but these affected me so profoundly that they altered the way I think:
- I realized, on a visceral level, that there are people who want to do me harm.
- I realized that anxiety is wasted energy that could be better used implementing a plan of action. Of course, to do that, I needed to make a plan of action that I could implement.
- I realized that I never wanted be caught off-guard in the case of disaster, and so even if I didn't have a plan of action I could implement a plan of reaction. Example: Carry a first-aid kit.
- I realized how fragile everything is: human life, communication, the cocoon of life support and comfort we wrap ourselves in.
- I realized that any place you can't easily get away from can go from "cradle" to "tomb" in a heartbeat.
Because of this, I have changed the way I live:
- I understand that even if I'm not interested in hurting anyone, they may be interested in hurting me, so I maintain situational awareness.
- I have, at least, a reactive plan for situations, such as "What would I do if someone were to take hostages in the bookstore I like to attend?" Once I have reactive plans, I can then make proactive ones.
- I carry useful equipment with me, so that I can act sensibly in an emergency, rather than panic or be filled with useless anxiety.
- I visit cities, but I never live in them. They don't exactly make me claustrophobic, but I've never liked crowds, and now that I see people as potential blockades in an evacuation, I like them even less. As I've said elsewhere, I like persons but I detest people.
- I prep, because it makes me feel secure and gives me an outlet. Some people might call it a crutch; I call it a coping mechanism, and it's a lot healthier than getting drunk.
Thank you, New York City.
Thank you, Pentagon.
Thank you, United Airlines Flight 93.
I have learned the lessons that you taught me.
I hope those lessons help me to save lives.