Saturday, September 11, 2010

9 years ago today was a beautiful, clear morning, and The Notorious B.O.B. and I were hauling lobster pots about 3 miles due east of Boston Light. We didn't have a radio aboard- our entertainment was the sound of the hydraulic hauler and the constant stream of ridiculous BS that we passed back and forth as the B.O.B. hauled the pots and I baited, sorted the bugs, and fired the traps up into stacks of 25 in the back of the boat.
I remember very distinctly two acquaintances discussing the first plane to strike the Towers over the VHF. The B.O.B. and I assumed it was a Cessna. I think I made a joke about a 60-foot tall gorilla being at the top of the building being responsible. Then the radio got active again. "Jesus, another jet hit the other tower. Guess it wasn't a coincidence."
The B.O.B. and I stopped for a second. I very clearly remember putting my hands on the corners of the trap I was carrying, and sliding my fingers into the mesh of the trap, and sort of leaning over on the trap, putting some of my weight on it as it balanced on one edge of the wash rail. Bob and I made eye contact. I said "Jesus Fucking Christ," and Bob nodded. Then I spun around and slip the trap into place, about midway in the pile. We continued on.
I didn't get the scale of the destruction, or even that someone was using passenger jets as weapons. When word got out over the VHF that a plane crashed into the Pentagon, Bob said "We're under attack."
We hauled another 50 pots- about 45 minutes or an hour later, when I looked up. "Bob", I says, "Where the hell are all the planes?" An hour before, every minute or so, a jet would pass by overhead, only about 6-700 feet or so- we weren't far from the airport.
No contrails, no noise. We hauled another 25 traps, and a Coast Guard Falcon jet screamed by only 200 feet above us, maybe 300 feet away. It was deafening. The plane circled us once, and Bob switched to VHF channel 16, the distress and hailing channel. Almost immediately, the pilot of the plane hailed us by our hull registration number (Printed neatly in large block letters on the overhead, or roof, of the wheelhouse). He asked us for the vessel name, our homeport, and the number of persons aboard. After answering, the pilot told us to stay on channel 16, and that all vessels were ordered to return to port immediately.
A few minutes later, as we were setting the traps back in the water, another voice on the VHF made the official announcement that all vessels were ordered to return to port, there to stay until released by the captain of the port.
Bob tuned us slightly south of west, and throttled up to our high cruising speed. I rinsed the deck off while he washed down the dashboard and control station. We didn't talk much for the 10 minutes or so while we cleaned. After finishing the cleaning, I took the wheel while Bob had a smoke. Neither of us had any idea of the devastation, but neither of us was feeling relaxed, either. We knew something bad was happening.
We were among the last of the boats to tie up at the dock. Normally a social time, the dock was deserted, except for a friend of Bob's who was waiting for us, and told us about the scale and scope of the attack. We were all stunned, and spoke only quietly. That was among only a handful of times when Bob and I didn't have a beer before heading home. I went to my parents, stinking of bait and covered in dry salt, and sat at my mother's kitchen table while we talked about what had happened. I saw the video footage of the buildings fall at that time. My mother had told me about it happening. I knew to expect it. I didn't expect that I'd start to cry when I saw it. I've got my emotions pretty tightly reined in normally.

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