Sep 11, 2014

My 9-11 Story

It's that time of year again when everyone who was old enough to remember takes a look back at a time before long airport lines, loss of privacy and rights.  And most ironically the loss of freedoms we used to enjoy before that September morning back in 2001.  A time of innocence, peace and a budget surplus.

On this day we all look back and remember every detail of that day. Everyone has a 9-11 story, and once again here's mine as I remembered it when I posted this originally back in 2006. 




It was Fall of 2001 and my band had just secured a demo deal with Madonna's record label, Maverick Records. A few weeks prior a rep from that company came to see us at one of our local shows. At that time my band was at the top of its popularity locally and we had a really good turnout. The rep was the guy who discovered the band Disturbed who was, and still is a pretty popular metal band from Chicago. The deal we got furnished us the opportunity to record a demo in Chicago with the producer that recorded all of Disturbed's music, Johnny K that would be listened to personally by the president of Maverick Records. This was the big break we had been waiting for. The weeks leading up to our visit to Chicago we rehearsed the songs we thought were our best and just started counting the days.

The counting was over. Our bags were packed, our flights all arranged and our songs were as tight as they could be. The night before we all tried to just get a good nights sleep for our big day. Earlier than I had liked, my phone rang the next morning. It was my good friend and photographer of many shows, Justin. I answered the phone and before I could rant about how early it was he said "you're not going to Chicago today" why not, what are you talking about? "turn on the TV... We're under attack" WHAT? ! Shut up man, we have our plane tickets and everything.. What the hell are you talking about? My girlfriend Meg is waking up and asking what is going on. justin continues, "no dude, they bombed the world trade center in NY" Meg turned on the TV .. I just stared with my mouth open.. Oh my god what the fuck is going on. Questions and emotions filled me, just as almost everyone experiencing this at this moment. Then, the other plane hit and I remember the news people confirming that this indeed wasn't some accident. It was an attack. As if anyone had real doubt, hope maybe, but not doubt that this was anything other than what it really was. After the reality of it all sank in, and they started talking about grounding flights I remembered I had a flight today. The chance of my life to get a real studio demo for a label just got cancelled. I heard the TV news guy say something about pieces falling off the buildings and I looked... The first tower fell.. INSANITY.. Me and Meg are just in complete awe. Then the second one falls... How could this happen?!?! Immediately conspiracy theories popped into our heads "bush probably did this" we both agreed. But why? Still worried about our flight, I called the rest of my band members who were still dealing with what they just saw on TV... We called our manager. We scrambled to the Hotwire.com site to confirm that they would not refund our tickets... There was no clause in the agreement about terrorist attacks... We were frantic. What the hell do we do? On the TV, they were showing cheering crowds in Pakistan or somewhere, burning American flags and celebrating. whhaaat? I was like.. Why don't we fucking bomb those motherfuckers.. Look they're happy.. THEY did it.

By the next day, after reeling from all that transpired we found out finally that Hotwire is refunding tickets because of the tragedy. Without a flight tho, we still needed to get to Chicago. We wouldn't let some terrorists stop us from our chance at getting a record deal. We did what any self respecting band would do. We rented a minivan, loaded it with luggage and band equipment kissed our loved ones goodbye and drove! We drove like the wind. Nonstop minivan from Martinez to Chicago.

On the drive out there we were constantly reminded of the events from the day before. Every car on the road had an American flag on it. Every house, every storefront all had the full 2 page American flag that the newspaper printed in that days issue. It was pretty crazy. We even got some cheap Chinese made flags to put on the minivan. You could really see how unified the country was at that time. And you could defiantly see the reality of the flights being grounded. No planes anywhere.. And if you did see a plane you questioned it and got a little scared. There were a lot more rental cars and people driving. When we stopped in Cheyenne Wyoming for dinner we started talking about the Matrix sequel which was in production and that it was being filmed back home in Alameda. At this time a family had been seated near us and the father got up and corrected us on some fact we were curious about as h e walked by. He was gone before we could ask how he knew but his wife told us. "He's a director in Hollywood" cool, has he done anything we would have heard of? "he just finished American Pie 2..." And something else but I cant remember. Anyway, they were in that shitty little dinner place because they too, were driving across the country back to LA. We chit chatted about 9-11, and bragged that we were on our way to do a demo with a famous producer. 2 up and comers in the entertainment industry having no business in that little Italian restaurant brought together by a tragedy.

We finally made it to Chicago. It was amazing.. I had never been further than Reno and now I'm in Chicago, having just experienced "the Heartland" first hand. As we got closer to Chicago the first thing you see is the Sears Tower, realizing that now its the tallest building in America. We got a little worried that it would be the next target. We didn't get to go to the top and see the observation deck because it was, of course, closed because of the attack. There were these little reminders everywhere. Even tho we were there chasing our dream to be rockstars, it was overshadowed by what had happened. I'm trying not to say "9/11" because at that point, on 9-13, it wasn't a phrase people used yet. It was still just the other day to us.

One of the reminders which hit home with us was when Johnny got a letter from a record company colleague about songs that radio stations were pulling because of the attacks... "Anything referring to death, airplanes, buildings, bombs, fire..... "
etc etc etc... The list of songs included the obvious, "let the bodies hit the floor" by Drowning Pool and other heavy metal songs similar to that.. And the not so obvious "Benny and the jets" by Elton John and other songs by unthreatening artists with similar songs with "jets" or "plane" or "fire" in the title. It was ridiculous and our first taste of the powers that be stripping us of our rights and freedoms in the name of "the war on terrorism" Next came the Patriot act.

Jumping a few months ahead, my band ended up not signing with Maverick due to them not giving us an actual contract to sign. We gave them 2 weeks to listen to the demo. We paid for the trip out to Chicago but Johnny liked what we recorded so much, he was so confident we'd get a deal, he waived his fees and said to pay him when we got signed. With our confidence from that, at an all time high we took that demo and shopped it to every Major Label. Jump to November 2001, after months of schmoozing, showcasing for labels in LA we wake up the day we fly to NY to Showcase for Island records to find out that a plane crashed in NY. Not again! Our flight was not cancelled but delayed a few hours while they determined it wasn't connected to terrorism, by now we're just pissed because those damn terrorists are keeping us from getting a record deal. We joked that it was a plot to keep us down. We arrive in NY, play for Island records and through an odd turn of events, we end up the next day in a NY high rise meeting with the head of rock music at Columbia records. Midway through our meeting we get on the subject of September 11th and he shows us a photo of him and his son on a boat in NY harbor with the twin towers in the background. He tells us that the picture was taken on Sept. 9th and continues to share with us how he remembers that day. It was interesting to get New Yorker's perspective. It really hit us pretty hard never really thinking about how regular people, not directly affected by it, but who were in NY dealt with it all.

Jumping even further now. Its been a couple years, we have recorded our album and are out on tour. We've been so caught up in our success and living the dream it sort of took us out of reality. We knew that there was a war, we knew there was shit going on but we kind of didn't think about it. I remember one day in like Iowa or something at a truckstop diner looking up at a TV showing war news and saying jokingly "so, did we win yet?" but the hardened down-home USA patrons of the establishment didn't think it was funny. I never felt so small in my life. And it sort of put everything back into perspective for me. The war was real and people were still very patriotic and concerned with what was going on. 


In my original post this is the point at which I updated you on where I was at that time and the status of the nation but it's been almost 10 years since that original post. Unlike back in 2003, people have become disconnected with the "War on Terror". The word "Patriotism" is almost synonymous with militias and the religious right wing than over it's true meaning.  Hollywood distractions seem more and more prevalent and the auto-tuning of society is at an all time high.   Now we have a black President which did more to show us how racist of a country we still are than anything.  We caught BinLaden but we're still at war with terror.  The Middle East seems like more of a shit storm than ever. The government is spying on us. Guantanamo is still full of innocent (until proven guilty)  people. The economy has taken the most titanic shit ever.  The middle class is almost completely non-existent and the top 1% just keeps on buying the government, avoiding taxes and slowly tuning the United States into the next 3rd world country.

Happy 9-11.
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