Friday, September 10, 2010

September 11, 2001 to September 11, 2010

On September 11, 2001 I woke up to the sound of Susan, my girlfriend at the time, yelling in to my answering machine.

"You gotta wake up. A second plane just hit the World Trade Center!"

Clearly our country was under attack. And I called my dad. He was wondering who did it. I knew it was Al Qaeda because my brother had told me years before about the 1998 Nightline interview with Osama Bin Laden. That they had declared war on all citizens of the United States. They had already attacked the WTC in 1991 and US embassies in East Africa.

My step-dad, Michael, had a court case that afternoon in NY. So he took the red-eye in from Los Angeles. My mom and I didn't know if he was on one of the planes that hit the buildings or if he was on one of the other ones still flying around. It was total chaos. And for hours cell phones didn't work because the emergency overloaded the system.

Finally, my mom gets an email from my step-dad's Blackberry. "I am ok." We rejoiced. He had gone straight to his hotel room and gone to sleep oblivious. He landed safely in NY within minutes of the 1st plane hitting the tower.

I went back upstairs and as I watched the gigantic masses of steel that were the World Trade Center tumble to the ground looking like so many toys, I called some friends that I knew didn't have TV, were probably still asleep and wouldn't have a clue what was going on.

I remember describing what was happening to my friends Jeff and Elvis, neither of whom had TV's and were just listening on the radio. I actually said to Jeff that it's got to be only a matter of time before we hear about someone we know that was on one of the 4 planes or working in the towers.

A couple minutes later I get a call from my friend Brent. He is very distraught. He says, "We think Elvis's mom was on one of the planes."

She was near Boston at their house on Cape Cod. I had hooked Elvis up with his first ever solo show for that night. It was to be at the Rainbow Bar & Grill.

Being the ebullient, ever-loving soul that she was, Elvis's mom conspired with some of her close friends in LA to surprise him and come see his first show. Knowing her it made complete sense. She loved her boys Oz and El. She wouldn't have missed it for the world.

On all the channels they had the hot line to call to find out if your friend or loved one might be on one of the planes. I called it.

"Was Berry Perkins on any of the flight manifests?" The response after 15 seconds was a bit of a relieved, "no" from the American Airlines employee on the other end of the line.

Then I ask, "What about Berry Berenson?" The reply, "Are you a family member?" I say "No." She says "I can't reveal that information unless you are a family member. Please hold." I just hung up.

Her flight was American Airlines Flight 11. The first plane to hit the towers.

The next amount of time is all a blur, but I called Elvis. And some other friends and lost it with my mom.

We went from the elation of knowing that Michael was safe and sound asleep in his hotel room to the out of control despair of losing Elvis's mom in a matter of minutes.

Next call we get is from my step-mom. My dad has gone in to emergency surgery. Cardiac ablation. They sort of vaporize little pieces of the heart muscle that are beating erratically to tune it up.

A few days earlier my dad's heart had stopped for 3 or 4 seconds.

He was walking through the hospital doing rounds on a Sunday. He fell backwards on to the concrete floor and hit his head. His colleagues took care of him immediately. On Monday September 10th, he missed one of the small handful of work days he ever missed in his mighty career that continues to this day. Doctor's orders.

But on this morning when I called him to talk about the terrorist attacks, he had already been awake and at a meeting for several hours.

So an hour after finding out Michael was alive and Berry was gone, my dad was in emergency surgery.

The only thing we could do was gather the troops and head to Elvis's house. The airline couldn't completely confirm if his mom was on the plane or not. We still had a little hope that maybe she missed the flight.

I remember standing out on his deck in the middle of the Hollywood Hills and hearing the eerie silence of no planes in the air.

I remember hugging Elvis when the airline finally called to confirm that his mom boarded the plane.

I remember when we all held hands in a circle out on the deck and Pat Ast sang the Lord's Prayer and a little bumble bee kept landing on my hand forcing us to break the circle and laugh right in the middle of all that pain. Elvis had written the song "While You Were Sleeping" a couple years before for his mom while she was taking a nap at their house on Cape Cod, and in that song he calls her, "My Honey B."

I remember when my mom called to let me know that my dad was alright. It was while we were in that circle with the bee landing on my hand and after the 5 hour operation they performed on him that day was done.

I remember going home and my mom cooking chicken for dinner.

Tomorrow is September 11, 2010.

My great high school friend Jeremy Corbell is marrying his Honey B, Katrina Bea, at the glorious Henry Miller Library. And my band has the honor of playing.

We will do it for to make September 11th a better day in the world in our own small way. And to send our Jeremy and Bea out on a beautiful adventure together with and for us all. And we will do it for Berry and her boys.

Elvis Perkins: "While You Were Sleeping"

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