The DC Beltway in my estimation is the second worst highway in America, with top honors going to the LIE (Long Island Expressway.) There is usually heavy traffic on 295 in both directions at any random time of day or night, often crawling at a nerve wracking stop and go pace. There are choke pints at a few key areas that always screw things up (the 270 merge, the Wilson bridge, and the mixing bowl.) It just sucks.
I was running late to work on Tuesday after what was supposed to be an early morning doctor's appointment that ended up holding me past 11:00. There should have been lunch traffic circling, but the lanes were surprisingly clear.
The only thing impeding my progress was a slow moving flat-bed truck with some scrap metal on it, but I was able to get around it easily enough. I was dismayed when I saw flashing lights up ahead. But there were a few more flatbeds before I could see that the lights were on a black SUV, which is a common sight in DC. You usually see a caravan of black cars zooming through lights and screwing up the already abysmal traffic patterns. I will curse whatever overpaid government worker with an inflated ego is at the center of the don't-shoot-me parade. This time it was nothing like that.
As I passed the procession of trucks laden with contorted metal, I noticed that each one had progressively larger American flags displayed on them or attached to the tie-down chains. This quickly reminded me of an e-mail one of my co-workers forwarded to me the other day about the newly commissioned USS New York.
When I realized what I was driving next to I slowed. It took another few seconds before I found myself saying a silent prayer for friends and family, for those still overseas, and for those still seen as enemies. And it took yet a few more seconds for me to realize I have a camera phone and this may be something I wished I had a picture of later.
So here are two of the clearer shots I was able to get of the day the World Trade Center drove past me in Washington, DC. Complete with an escort of Maryland State Troopers, Secret Service vans and a chase truck with a camera crew. I am not sure where they had been or where they were going, but I have no doubt of what those twisted I-beams used to be and what they still represented. For several hours I was able to remember what I felt like in September eight years and two weeks earlier. To say it was sobering falls short, but those are the only words that come to me.
The first person I called was my oldest brother with whom I have a strained relationship. But not only did he lose a close friend that day, but is reliving another tough experience from that year now. I needed to talk to him. And then I called Red at her office who had been in NYC between gigs and catching Urine Town off Broadway back then. I didn't know her in 2001, but I can't imagine what my life would be like now if she had been a few miles south that day.
I wanted to call everyone I know and check on them, if you can remember that feeling. But by the time I made those two calls I had hit my exit and was closing in on the parking lot at work. I was still shaken up and entered the office with an expression like I had just seen a ghost. I didn't think of it like that at the time, but I guess I had just seen about 2,600 ghosts.