SEATTLE - Funny how this day can sneak up on us, after five years that sometimes seem like 25.
You're in the Emerald City on a West Coast wine/golf tour, sitting with a bunch of golfers lamenting that this town banned lap dancing on Saturday nights (no joke), and you realize that Sept. 11 is two days away.
Oh sure, you knew it was coming, in an abstract sort of way. The national news shows always treat it as a chance to break out the specials and go for a few Emmys. And there's Bill Clinton throwing a fit over the TV miniseries based on the 9/11 commission hearings. (No one makes news like Bubba.)
But it hadn't hit home as a real event, as opposed to a news event - and anyone whose view of Hurricane Katrina consisted of more than Anderson Cooper sloshing through the street in his galoshes should know the difference.
When 9/11 becomes real, I usually think of a trader from Cantor Fitzgerald I met on the first anniversary of the attacks. He was one of the lucky few who weren't at the company's offices on the 105th floor of the North Tower that dark day, when 658 of his 960 colleagues lost their lives. He told me that on that 9/11, and every one thereafter, he would call in sick, play golf and get drunk like he was a frat boy again.
He said it with tears in his eyes.
It's a lesson all of us could use. What better day to flake out on work and hit the tees than today? If 9/11 taught those who weren't immediately affected by it anything (and there's light years difference between losing someone you love and "experiencing" that day), it's that life is too short.
You'll lament those golf rounds you could have played a lot more than those Mondays at the office.
Forget a return to normalcy. Wouldn't it be great if work productivity plunged to all-time lows on this 9/11, and on 9/11 20 years from now? Here's hoping golf courses from coast to coast are flooded today with tee-time traffic jams.
Swing merry and think deep.
Think that's disrespectful? Believe that people shouldn't go out of their way to enjoy themselves on a solemn day? I'd argue that the truly distasteful thing is the near cottage industry built off supposed 9/11 grief.
Ground Zero long ago morphed into a tourist attraction. It's just another site NewYork visitors check off their to-do list, along with the Empire State Building, Central Park and the big ferris wheel at the Times Square Toys "R" Us.
The big hole in the ground is more of a curiosity than a real place of remembrance. Vendors hawk T-shirts, buttons, hats - anything the disaster tourists might grab. There are kids, little kids too, getting their snapshot taken at a mass-grave site.
You'd rather be there than on a golf course?
Please. At least golf is a celebration of life for those who love it. One of the sad things is that just five years later a lot of the tribute fund-raising tournaments that cropped up in wake of Sept. 11 have come and gone. Now the stage is largely left to inane discussions over whether enough time has passed for Hollywood to make 9/11 movies. Like movies are going to make anyone who doesn't have an understanding of the day by now feel its impact in a new way.
A large percentage of the population gets more worked up about Katie Couric's debut on NBC News. An even larger percentage is much more into the NFL's opening weekend than any tributes.
And in a way, that's all right too.
Most people who aren't from New York think that everyone in New York has a 9/11 story. Most don't. Or at least they don't have a significant enough story that they shouldn't be embarrassed to tell it. I had to walk home that day because the subways were shut down and I couldn't call my family for two whole hours doesn't qualify as the hardship many people seem to think it does.
I was living in New Jersey a quick 20-minute drive from the city, with a view of the Twin Towers from a hill near my house, and I slept through the first plane hitting. (I'd covered a late game the night before, and sportswriters tend to be a little nocturnal anyways, with the notable exceptions of Tony Kornhesier and TravelGolf.com's own 8:30 p.m.-bedtime man, Tim McDonald.)
If not for the frantic phone calls from friends in Michigan - one of those states where folks believed everyone they knew within 400 miles of the World Trade Center could have been inside - I'd probably have slept through the second plane.
Told you most real 9/11 stories are embarrassing.
There was no great awakening for me that day. If anything it came later, when I was drafted by my paper to interview families of Sept. 11 victims. A few days of listening to others' incredible, completely indescribable heartbreak quickly convinced me I'd rather be writing about golf.
And I'd bet many of you would rather be playing it. So why don't you? It's one of those days. Some time in the sun obsessing about things that really don't matter, like that last bogey, could do everyone a little good.
And a little good goes a long way on a day like today.
September 11, 2006