Saturday, September 11, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: 20 Years Ago

The topic for today's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun was somewhat expected.

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music):

(1) Today is September 11, and the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States.  Where were you, what were you doing, and how did it affect you?

(2) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or on Facebook.  Be sure to leave a comment with a link to your blog post on this post.

On September 11, 2001, I was working for the Seismological Society of America in El Cerrito, California, Pacific time zone.  I usually went in early, around 7:00 or 7:30 a.m.  I did not hear anything about the attacks until I was already at work, because I didn't turn on a TV in the morning.

I don't really remember, but I don't recall that anyone else who came in to the office that day (a small staff of four people, including me) knew either when they arrived.  Apparently we were a rather insular bunch.

Sometime during the morning we found out.  I think that someone outside the office told me, and I told the others.  We didn't have a TV in the office, but we were able to watch some news videos on the computers.

We didn't talk about it very much, and I don't remember us leaving the office early.  Like I said, we were rather insular.

I lived by myself, so when I got home after work I had no one to talk to other than my pets, who never were big on conversation.  I turned on the television for company.  I had seen the CNN footage several times already, so I tried to find something else to watch, even if just for a new take on the attacks.  I went through the entire line-up of channels I had available, probably 40 or 50 at the time.  Every network but two was replaying the same CNN footage.  The only two that were not were Food Network and Comedy Central.  Food Network, which is based in New York City, had posted a static slide expressing sympathy for everyone who had suffered a loss.

Comedy Central was the only network that was airing programming unrelated to the attacks.  I watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for the first and last time in my life.  The guests that day were John Linnell and John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants.  I watched not only because there was nothing else on but because I have actually seen them perform several times and have met them.  I learned that they have been friends with Stewart for a long time and that they apparently know each other from New Jersey (along with a friend of mine, who used to be one of the band's managers).  Or something similar to that.  I'm a little fuzzy on the details.

Somehow, on a very surreal day, it seems appropriate that I watched two guys known for their surreal lyrics and absurdist take on music.


People rarely write, or are asked to write, about what happened in the days following the attacks.  I remember that my brother and several of his work colleagues were in Los Angeles for a conference.  They all lived in the Washington, D.C. area.  Air travel was cancelled indefinitely, so they were told to keep themselves amused in Southern Califorina.  They went one day to Disneyland and commented that they had never seen it so empty; they were able to ride all the rides they wanted to multiple times.  As fun as that was, however, they became bored quickly and decided if they couldn't fly home, they would drive.  They found a rental car and made it across the country in an extremely short time.  I think my estimate was something like an average of around 75–80 mph for the trip.  My brother said he could neither confirm nor deny the results of my mathematical skills but did concede that they had been trading off driving shifts so as not to need to book any hotel rooms on the way back.


  1. It was a beautiful day in Kenosha, WI. I was ready for work, but was waiting for a neighbor to look at my landlord's lawnmower. In between it all, the television caught my attention. As I watched the screen I thought, "Isn't that a no-fly zone? Who would get that close to the Towers?" I didn't have the volume on. I attended to the rest of my routine of getting ready for work and departed. With a half-hour drive to work my frustration with the day grew as I was unable to find a radio station that was playing music. I arrived at work and was told by my coworkers and my morning suddenly made sense. Over the next week our resolve to be fearless Americans grew in every way. The nightly news was a regular event as we sought to make sense and mourn everyone that was lost in this terrible and destructive act of terrorism.

  2. I didn't learn of it until work. We had the same problem as you with the TV. Our youngest daughter would not let us watch about it. Perhaps the Disney channel had programming, I don't remember.

    1. I had not thought about premium networks. I didn't have any of those, so some or most might have had regular programming.

  3. Surreal is the perfect way to describe that day. It is a bit ironic that Comedy Central was the only station broadcasting its regular shows.

    1. I was definitely surprised, but at the time I was quite happy that they were doing so.


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