Memories of 9/11

I was slightly more than half the age I am now when 9/11 occurred. I’d graduated college in May of that year and was living with my parents, attempting to start my career as a writer and author of novels and short stories. I had no outlets but writing, and so my writing suffered. Instead of being distracted by my smartphone or social media (both of which didn’t exist back then), I had to contend with dial-up Internet and boredom.

Still, it wasn’t all bad. I was planning to visit some of my friends from college in late September. I also decided on something fortuitous. I decided to keep all the emails we sent back and forth, starting after graduation and continuing through the beginning of 2002.

It seems appropriate that the year I entered “the real world” is when the real world went to shit. This was the start of the Patriot Act (with parts still enforced to this day), the TSA, and ICE. After the USSR fell apart in the early 90s, people growing up then (including me) thought that the world would be less dangerous and more hopeful. 9/11 changed that.

I had an on-again, off-again regiment when it came to writing, but that Tuesday I was prepared to wake up early and do some writing. From my diary entry for Tuesday, September 11:

When I woke up at 9:25, Mom told me I had to come down + see this (not telling me what). What I saw was a replay of the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center + exploding out the other side. Dad called around 10 to see if I had seen what was going on, forgetting Mom went in late today. After he called, the third plane hit the Pentagon, thought at first they didn’t know what had happened (or did Dad call after this?). The fourth plane later crashed into a rural part of Pa.

Mom was there when the 1st tower of the WTC fell (about 10:15 or so). She had left by the time the 2nd one fell (at 10:29). Throughout the day, I watched the TV, stunned. Dad came home early from work (I think around 12:30 or 1). All airports had been closed in the US w/ no domestic flights taking off since soon after the Pentagon was attacked. Military were dispatched, the Speaker of the House +VP + Pres were brought to different secure locations, Congress adjourned, NYC essentially shut down – as did D.C.

What I remember most about that first week were two things. One, I used to hear planes fly past my parents house all the time. Those sounds stopped. And two, how fearful I felt because it took a few days before we had a full picture of who was responsible. I’m pretty sure I experienced PTSD watching all the news programs interviewing survivors and showing scenes from Ground Zero. And remember, I was planning to visit friends in late September, yet at the time, all flights were grounded. From my diary entry of Thursday, September 13:

Had a hard time getting to sleep last night. I doubt I will sleep easily again for a long time. I fall asleep scared. Although I have still decided to fly down to Dulles + back, my fears about hijacking last night while trying to go to sleep manifested themselves despite the fact that I never would have been on those flights…

Planes only started flying again maybe a week before my visit. The plane I took there was pretty empty (maybe 25% full). The woman sitting next to me introduced herself, shook my hand, and wished me a safe flight (as I did her). Then the pilot got on the intercom and along with the usual information concerning the weather and ETA, he told us the flight would be very safe, as his wife was on board.

This trip was my first visit to Washington, D.C. The National Archives and the Washington Monument were closed (though the former might’ve been due to the time I arrived), and the White House had snipers on the roof. I did get to see, however, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. The latter deeply impressed me.

First, the wall is only one block tall. Then, it gets larger and larger as you descend, and more + more names are listed. Then you ascend, + the reverse happens…Seeing all those names there an eerie calm fell over me. I felt I was in a holy place + tried not to speak too loud or too much lest I disturb the place. In fact, I didn’t take a pic until we were past it + I could get the whole thing (or most of it) in my camera [lens]. However, it just looks like a black wall from where I took it.

When I headed back to the airport on Sunday, I got a spectacular view of the sky. In my diary, I mention it looking like a painting. And while they did have curbside check-in…

Dulles has really high security. My little buttons on my jacket + jeans set off the metal detector (I guess they did, as I was wanded + patted down). I felt safe flying, though. Full flight. I got middle seat. Guy w/ window seat…talked to me a bit during the flight. He has a 7-year-old who’s a little freaked out over what’s happened + his dad flying.

And then I saw an even more impressive sight from the plane.

As we descended through the clouds to land, we could see horizontal rain (that looked like snow) and a red glow illuminating strands of cloud parallel to the plane + horizontal to me. At first, I thought lights on the plane were causing this to occur, but those lights were white. This phenomenon stopped for a bit, + then reappeared. This time, though, I could see where this red light was coming from – the sun…I actually saw it set from the plane, illuminating all the clouds between it and us. It was absolutely breathtaking.

As we dropped below the clouds (after it had set), there was still a red glow above where it had disappeared. Above us, a single long bank of puffy cumulus clouds w/ no gaps in their ranks glowed a reddish-pink. After we landed, my dad said he had gone outside a few times to see the sunset cuz it was so amazing.

After seeing that sunset, I knew we’d be okay, but oh what blunders my country made after 9/11! We used goodwill for revenge and fought unnecessary wars, the first of which only ended last month. Our fear became anger; we made others suffer because we suffered. The ramifications of the Patriot Act continue to haunt us. Guantanamo Bay is still open.

Here is the concluding paragraph of that September 30th diary entry. I’m not sure that my attempt at profundity in the last sentence works, but I stand by the sentiment:

On the aisle seat next to me was a man of Middle Eastern or Near Eastern descent. I wonder how he felt flying w/ us. I know how I felt flying w/ him. At the airport (Dulles), I saw all different kinds of people pass by my gate, including Orthodox Jews + a really colorfully-dressed woman (who was on my flight), + I saw all of them in a different light. These were the people of the world; many were the people of the U.S. All different, yet all one people. Hopefully, one day, we will all learn to appreciate + respect our differences, realizing that we are merely many different snowflakes coming from the same cloud.



In middle school or thereabouts, I began writing down “Dates to Remember,” which were dates when important events happened in my life, starting with my birth.  About a week ago, I read through these dates, which now cover over 9 lined pages.

Two things struck me as I read.  One was the type of events I thought important to remember.  The other was how long ago many of these events occurred, and how much has happened since.  Most of the dates cover 8th grade through college.  There are quite a few from when I was in Japan.  Many of the events not covered are in my diary entries, but important weddings, births, and deaths are listed, as are romantic milestones.

For example, I included when my pet hamster died and the first school dance I went to.  I have the date we picked up our dog, and the day we put our dog to sleep.  Lots of firsts, too.  Besides the first dance, there’s my first pep rally, first marching band competition, and first rejection letter from a girl (which I still have).  I have the date Dan Jansen finally won his gold medal, and the date Steven Spielberg finally won his Oscar (which I watched on my Game Gear TV from bed).  My first girlfriend, first date, first job, and first kiss are included, as are the day I learned how to tie a tie and the first time I swallowed a pill.

Some dates turned out not to be as significant as I thought they would be.  Meetings with people I never saw again, dates with girls I never dated again, important parties that are no longer important.  And there are some dates that happened later than expected, and some that have yet to happen.

And yet, as I looked through these dates, I felt overwhelmingly content.  No matter the reason for remembering them, they are all times when something significant happened.  They remind me of how much has happened in my life, and how much I have to look forward to.

The Age of Video Games

I grew up with video games. When I was a child, my family had an Atari 2600, which broke after too many people tripped over the cord. Lesson: don’t play games during extended family functions. By the time that happened, however, I had been introduced to Nintendo at one of my friend’s houses, and Super Mario Bros.

I grew up with video games.  When I was a child, my family had an Atari 2600, which broke after too many people tripped over the cord.  Lesson: don’t play games during extended family functions.  By the time that happened, however, I had been introduced to Nintendo at one of my friend’s houses, and Super Mario Bros.  For Christmas that year, my dad bought both an Atari 7800 and a Nintendo, not knowing if the latter system was good or not.  We played a few games on the 7800, like Pole Position II, but whereas everyone had played games on the old Atari, I ended up being the only one who kept playing games on the Nintendo, at least until my brother was older.

For me, Nintendo was the golden age of video games.  Most game genres, as we know them today, were created during that time (two exceptions, created during the era of 16-bit gaming, were one-on-one fighting games and first-person shooters).  Most games were platform games, but on the computer, Lord British was creating the first role-playing games with the Ultima series, and other genres exported from the computer included puzzle and strategy games.  Still, those games and genres got their greatest exposure on the 8-bit NES.  Even though Atari systems and games were still around during the early days of Nintendo, and the Sega Master System had its converts, it was Nintendo that all but ruled the gaming world during the heyday of the NES, a span lasting almost 10 years.  In fact, the Famicon (the original Japanese version of the NES) was supported from 1983 to 2003, an unprecedented 20 year span.

Over that period of time, games got bigger and more complex, graphics got better, and the music improved.  The best example of this is to compare the original Super Mario Bros. with Super Mario Bros. 3–the latter of which is, in my opinion, the best platform game ever made, and one of the best games ever made.

Next came the silver age of gaming.  When Nintendo released Double Dragon on the NES without Sega’s permission, the resulting lawsuit allowed Sega to get a head start on the 16-bit wars, as well as relegate Nintendo’s first portable handheld system, the Game Boy, to black-and-white.  This lawsuit, and the release of third-party companies from their exclusive contract with Nintendo (which was Nintendo’s biggest advantage over Sega, since they had huge third-party support), paved the way for the 16-bit wars of Sega and Nintendo, with some wiggle room for a third system, the TurboGrafx-16 (which used dual 8 bit processors instead of one 16 bit processor).  And let’s not forget that TurboGrafx-16 was the first system to have games on CD, provided that you bought the TurboGrafx Duo or TurboGrafx CD accessory.

When Super Mario Bros. 3 was released, it contained 4 MB of memory, making it the largest game at the time.  16-bit games started at 4 MB and increased from there.  The catalyst for this was Street Fighter II, the monster hit of an arcade game that sent everyone scrambling to enter the fighting genre arena. Games at that point has expanded to 8 MB; now they expanded to 16 MB.  By the time consoles were making way for the new 32-bit systems like the Playstation and Dreamcast, cartridges were as large as 48 MB, mainly for graphical storage space, as was the case with Super Street Fighter II. In addition, with each new development in the gaming wars, more and more buttons and functions were added to controllers (the Atari Jaguar took this to ridiculous extremes, even if computer games nowadays use many more).

With increased storage space, games also became more expensive to buy.  One game, the 24 MB Phantasy Star IV for the Genesis, cost a hundred dollars to buy (on the other hand, the 24-bit Neo Geo system had been selling cartridges for $200 for years, one reason why their games were popular in the arcades, but somewhat of a Holy Grail for the average gamer)!  With the advent of CDs (and then DVDs and Blu-rays), games have dropped back down to within the $60 range, which is incredibly when one thinks that Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (released in 1988 in America) cost roughly $50 the year it was released.  To compare: the almost $50 Zelda II:

…with 2011’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which can be purchased for $60:

The Atari 2600 was the birth of my exposure to video games, the NES my childhood, the Genesis my adolescence, the Playstation and computer games my college and post-college years, the PS2 and old gaming sites my young adulthood.  I read Game Players magazine and Nintendo Power when young, and GamePro magazine when older. With that kind of upbringing, how can I not love video games?

And yet, to play NES games now is to realize how frustrating they were, where one missed jump could spell death, where the challenge was often due to how many continues you received, or whether there was a password feature or not, or where you could save the game.  Now, games allow saves wherever you wish, platform games are mostly a memory (though you can still fall to your death in some games), all environments are immersive, and simplistic game play can only be found on websites devoted to old video games, like GoG or VirtualNES.

And yet, some of those old games are still good, because no matter how simplistic the graphics, or the storyline, or the world, what matters is how much passion was put into the project, and how much talent.  There have always been talented and passionate people to make video games.  The difference now is that they no longer have to fool the CPU.  They only have to fool the gamer into thinking the world they have created is real, and that the characters who inhabit it exist.

(Thanks to the always-reliable Wikipedia for information on the history of video games, particularly this link to the NES and its tight control of third-party companies, and this article on Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Other information I took from articles I read in gaming magazines and my personal experiences).