I remember the day so vividly, still.
I was on the road when it happened, driving in silence.
Had I been listening to NPR, I would have known. I would have pulled the car over and taken a moment.
I arrived at the IDS Center moments later. I parked my car in the underground lot and took the elevators up to the first floor. I walked through the empty lobby of the tallest building in Minneapolis, and I became instantly uncomfortable.
I walked past the scrambling concierge desk at the hotel, past the sullen bellboys and alert security guards to take my place behind the hotel bar. The lounge was filled with guests, mostly New Yorkers. Their eyes glazed over as they stared at the televisions sets in the lobby, all replaying the same images. It was in that setting that I saw the planes hit for the first time. It was then that the severity of the day began to settle into my bones.
My cocktail server called out that morning, and I was left alone with a mass of people that had nowhere to go and no way of reaching their families. The French Asshole that was my General Manager at the time made a snarky remark about how he could have understood being upset if they had hit the Statue of Liberty, before telling me to get out there and “sell those people some coffee”.
It took all of my reserve not to punch that short fuck square in the jaw, and I may have if I wasn’t so connected to the emotions of Those People. In that room, at that moment, we were together. Together we were afraid, unsure, confused, worried, frustrated, helpless and in complete shock.
There was no way that I could walk through that crowd, tray in hand, asking Those People if there was “anything I could get for them”. My hands were barely steady enough to hold a tray in the first place, and I refused to interrupt the somber silence with sales tactics.
I looked to Fadi, my Food and Beverage Director for an answer, and he must have seen the question in my eyes. He smiled warmly at me, walked behind the bar, and gave me a hug. It was then that I burst into tears. He quietly thanked me for staying, and told me to take a break to collect myself.
I came back to the lounge with carafes full of coffee and iced water. I quietly lined one of the tables in the back, and set up a station full of glassware and warm mugs so that the guests could fill or refill their drinks without having to ask or be asked. Fadi nodded in approval when I had finished and resumed opening the bar.
To this day, I don’t remember the name of the dismissive General Manager with dollar signs in his eyes that was so quick to make a joke at the expense of our collective loss. But I remember Fadi’s kindness, and I remember the horrible uniform I had to wear. I remember the shame I felt when guests looked suspiciously at Fadi because he was Arabic, and the regret I felt towards the state of our Nation.
When I got home from work, I sat in the comfort of my own tiny apartment with my best friend and we re-watched the events unfold. The shock never went away, and years later the images still bring fast tears to my eyes.
It’s been twelve years?