There is something I can always get into a lively discussion with, with just about anyone — especially other Scientologists, which is the somber question of, “Where were you on September 11th, 2001?”
It’s something that I find it pertinent to revisit today — 7 years after the disasters happened in DC and New York. Though, unfortunately for those who were there, it’s generally known to the world as the day the “Twin Towers went down”. The Pentagon is generally a totally forgotten piece to the story, and I’ve come across many people that didn’t even know the first thing about it — or if it was even hit at all.
For me, it marks one of the most amazing displays of camaraderie and unthinking help that I’ve ever seen, and as such I don’t like revisiting it as reminder of something terrible, but really the kickoff of a rebirth of the Scientology Volunteer Ministers in the true spirit that L. Ron Hubbard originally envisioned.
So, that said, where was I on September 11th?
In 2001, I was with the Founding Church of Scientology of Washington, D.C. – helping them with organizational efficiency and establishment, as well as various promotional tasks. I lived in Falls Church, Virginia, and rode my mountain bike in to the Church’s location in Dupont Circle, DC each day. Anyone who knows DC traffic knows that it can be faster to take a bike than a car sometimes, especially when the Pentagon is actually there and working. I’d ride in each day partially on the road, and until the Pentagon Annex, and then would take the bike path down the hill, past the Pentagon helipad, and then across the Memorial Bridge. I truly beautiful ride that I miss doing.
In any case, a few days before, on the 8th of September or so, I went up to the Church’s New York City continental office for some training. I was staying in a friends house in midtown Manhattan, and was all set to leave on Tuesday, September 11th, when all of the sudden I was rustled out of bed by my friend who told me that the World Trade Center “just exploded”.
We raced up to his roof to see the plume of smoke coming from the first tower. Being on 43rd St, we couldn’t hear a thing, but could definitely see the smoke. Not knowing what in the hell was happening, we raced down to catch the news, just in time to see the 2nd plane hit the other tower. The rest unfolded like the rest of the world saw it, and both towers came down. Again, up on 43rd st, we could see it occur, but couldn’t hear it at all — so to us it was just like some terrible, awful movie.
Of course, being Scientologists, our first impulse was to go do something about it, so we raced outside to get down to the Church management building, so we could get some organization going on what to do.
The people outside were in a total daze. It was terrible. Like the entirety of New York had all just stumbled out of the same bad movie, in a complete disbelief of what had just happened.
Not too much later, the Church had started to organize up teams that were going to go down and start getting in there and pitching — something that has now become the stuff of legend. I was definitely urged to stay and get down there, but unfortunately most people in New York had already also forgotten that my home city had just been hit as well.
I unfortunately could not get out of Manhattan until Tuesday the 12th at about 6pm, as the entire island was entirely locked-down. The night of Tuesday, September 11th was one of the most eerie I have ever experienced. A walk to Times Square allowed me a view of something I will never see again this lifetime: I looked all the way up and down Broadway, and there was not one single car on the road. Not one. It was a ghost town. The only thing open was McDonalds, and some hearty individuals were there sharing their stories and their friendship. It was a very, very different crowd than I’ve ever seen.
I got a 6pm train out of Penn Station the next day, stopping about 8 times on the way to DC so that the K9 search teams could go through the train cars looking for terrorists. I finally arrived back to DC that night, to see the horror that became of the Pentagon.
In addition to punching a hole through what the hard workers there had just spent years renovating, the bastard terrorists had just skidded across the same bike path I took to the Church every day — and had happened to blast through it at exactly the same time as I used to ride past it. So, I guess it was good that I happened to be in NYC at the time, or I would have found myself blasted into the side wall of the Pentagon, along with my bike.
The rest of 9/11 is less interesting and pertinent history. I spent my next months helping the Church build its corps of Volunteer Ministers, and went on to do many more things to promote the cause of Scientology Volunteer Ministers world over. You see it in my Scientology Volunteers Blog — I definitely like Volunteer Ministers.
But man was that a sobering 24 hours, and a wake up call for me personally.
Where were you on 9/11?
Tags: 9/11, Scientology, Volunteer Ministers
Thank god you weren’t in Washington on the bike path dude.
I was in a corner shop when I saw the new playing on a little TV screen. I’d never heard of the World Trade Center and it still changed my life.