This story is intended to be read with a little humor and sadness. I was fortunate, nobody I knew died in the 9/11 attacks 10 years ago, and because of that, it was easy to take the event for granted. Once the initial threat had passed, I went on with my life and didn’t think much of it. Events like this story, brought the situation home and made it real for me.
Prelude: September 11th, 2001
I guess 9/11 will be my generation’s “where were you when Kennedy was shot”. Like the Kennedy stories I heard my parents tell often, I remember exactly what I was doing when the planes hit the Twin Towers. I was in an odd conference room in the front of my company’s old office in Voorhees, NJ. I had requested a television and VCR because I was training a co-op and future friend (who I call “Shame” in this blog) and we were watching networking basics videos.
I had just started the film when a manager (his name was Rich Cafferty, who was a really cool guy, he has since passed away) burst into the room and said “Holy Shit, you have a TV, get the news on.” I asked what was happening and he told us that a plane had hit one of the towers in New York. At the time we still thought it might have been an accident. The television quickly dismissed that thought.
The rest of the day was spent worrying about friends and family and we wondered what would happen next. But that day passed and things went back to normal for most people, it certainly did for me.
18 months after the events of 9-11, my favorite co-op Shame was now up for a full time job with the company. At the time, it helped your chances to secure full time employment if you went out to intern and development program social events (aka happy hours). I was on the development team’s leadership group and usually forced Shame to go to these events (against both of our better judgement).
On this particular evening, we happened to be at Tir Na Nog in Center City (Philadelphia). After the typical networking requirements were out of the way, some people left and the rest of us started to seriously drink. Shame had gone outside to smoke and I went to the bar to grab a drink. I noticed an attractive girl looking at me, so I asked the bartender what the girl and her friend were drinking and asked her to give them a refill (I was on the other side of the bar). The girls accepted my drink and came over to speak to me. As if on command, Shame appeared to claim one of my new friends.
Having witnessed Shame in action, I knew it was better to let him get first pick and be done with it. Through a series of facial ticks and gestures, Shame established his preference. It so happened that he did not pick the girl I was interested in, so I thought we were going to have a good, conflict-free night. Wrong.
The girls finished their drinks and suggested we head over to Rotten Ralphs. They must have been reading my mind because I did not want my other co-workers around to start gossip, off we went. We started doing shots. And more shots. This evening had the potential to make one hell of a story. Shame and his friend got up and walked away for a while. I got to know my new lady-friend a little better until Shame came back alone…
“Where is Kate?” I should note that I am making this name up, both to protect the innocent and also because I do not remember either girl’s name anymore. Shame pulled me aside and asked me if I could go out to talk to her. He said that she started crying and didn’t know why. I knew exactly what his move was. He viewed “Kate” as a lost cause and wanted to move into my territory. We go back to the table and he basically repeats his request in front of my lady-friend. He trapped me: I looked like an asshole if I don’t go out, but if I do, he gets the green light to commit the robbery.
Looking back, I have to wonder why my lady-friend didn’t go to check on “Kate”, I have to think “Kate” either pulled this crying move before or my lady-friend was just a rotten person, either way, I got up to talk to “Kate”. Her eyes were red and puffy and she was still sort of crying, I assumed Shame made an inappropriate advance. I asked her what was wrong and if there was anything I could do to help; she immediately started to tell me that her fiance died in the 9-11 attack and she still wasn’t over it. Certainly not what I was expecting. It didn’t help matters that “Kate” had too much to drink and was staggering. I was wondering where this was going to go (if she was going to come back inside), but she did not leave me wondering for long.
“Can you walk me home?”
Before any of you perverts get the wrong idea, the thought never crossed my mind to do anything other than take this poor creature home. I hooked her arm over my shoulder and walked her to her apartment complex nearby (which is why I am assuming they picked Ralph’s in the first place). There were benches in the front and I sat her down. I wanted to make sure she was at the right place and that she was okay to get up to her apartment (I made it clear I was staying down in the lobby).
I asked her if she had spoken to anyone professionally about what happened. She said she talked to a counselor at work but stopped after a few sessions. “Kate” basically told me she tried to talk to friends and family but they were starting to get sick of hearing it. I told her she should see someone not aligned to work, or friends because she needed an objective opinion. She nodded as another tear rolled down her red puffy cheek. She got up and thanked me for walking her home, called me a “gentlemen” and staggered into the gold doors and up the elevator.
If you are wondering what happened with Shame and my lady friend. Exactly what you would expect to happen happened. I came back and they were making out. I told Shame I was leaving but he asked me hangout (aka I was his ride home at the train station). I detected that justice might rear her head in this situation… and she did. Shame got a tad too aggressive (he might have told the girl that he loved her), she freaked out and took off. He was heartbroken for about 15 seconds until we got on the train and he passed out. I must have fallen asleep too because a PATCO employee woke us up in Lindenwold.
I often wondered what happened to “Kate”. I would like to think she eventually ditched her crappy friend, found a nice guy and made peace with everything that happened. Things don’t always end happily ever after, but in this case I sure hope it did for her…
… and I also hope that her friend got herpes.
I would say the same for Shame, but we know he is STD free thanks to his yearly December check-ups and subsequent memo.