I was woken up by my pregnant wife that morning, who said a plane had crashed into the WTC. Like Mark, I thought little of it. I figured a small commuter plane had screwed up and collided with the building.
I sat down at the television, instantly realized it was no small collision, and seconds later watched the second plane plow through the 80-something-ieth floor windows of the other tower. And I can remember that horrified feeling very palpably. Chills just typing it, the worst kind of chills.
Soon thereafter I got the call not to bother coming into my Federal government office. Glad to have missed that chaos due to sleeping in a little. But the next call was the worst, and I also remember that one all too vividly: our fratre Otis called me and said, "You know, Lud works in the World Trade Center." Sinking feeling Part II, more chills and a whole lot of anxiety. Reminds me of the first Superman movie when Miss Teschmacher overhears her boss Lex Luthor divulging his sinister, imminent plan to send missiles at the east and west coasts, including one headed to Hackensack, New Jersey at that moment:
MISS TESCHMACHERBut Lex, my mother lives in Hackensack.
LEX LUTHOR[looks at his watch, shakes his head no]
Hollywood and DC Comics are one thing. This was real life, or lack thereof.
Never really occurred to me at the time that Lud might not have made it out. He's Lud, the nicest guy I had ever met. Bar none. For real, not some posthumous superlative like we're prone to distributing. He was a shirt-off-his-back and maybe the top layer of skin if you needed it, too. Of course he made it out. He's Lud.
But subsequent phone calls forebode bad things. He worked on a floor with a big number. Damn his big shot job. He'd called his mom and said they told his office to stay put. Got that news right around the time the first tower imploded like a sand castle. Oh, shit. Then the second. Way worse words than shit.
And then, as Rob described, the waiting. And hoping against hope. It's an agonizing type of passing for family and friends, because you don't have the cops or the soldiers or the firefighters come to your door with bad news. You just don't have your loved one come to the door with good news. Over and over, minute after minute, and day after day.
Eventually, our group of friends became resigned to the sad fact. And then we found out our other fraternity brother Scoop Edwards, a year Lud's elder and a goofy guy with whom I attended a few Dead shows (brah), was gone, too. And a third Pi Lam, Jim Conner, who was old enough (class of '85) that we hadn't met or hadn't remembered meeting. As I recall, six William & Mary undergrad alums perished in the attacks, three of whom were in our fraternity within six years. Are you kidding me?
And so a week and a half later we sent Lud off with a fitting day and night in Manhattan, serious and sad followed by drunken and stupid, all of it filled with Ludisms and fond memories. It was also my 31st birthday. You assholes tried in vain to put my head in the john. Lud protected me. Seems like a million years ago.
The last time I saw Lud, eerily, was at Evan's funeral kegger two months prior. He had come out from the city to Pennsyltucky with Hud (simple nicknamers, we) to pay his remembrances to another great one. He gave my brother-in-law a ride to the hotel when no one would, because that's what he did, and then he drove home the next day and began a conversation with his wife about how he would want to be remembered in a funeral service (or lack thereof) like Evan's, which he assumed he would have to remind her over the years. Evan's festival of remembrance was July 22. Lud's would be September 22. A bad run of luck by any measure for our group. But that humdinger of a send-off for Ev was the last time I saw Lud.
The story didn't get rosier as time wore on. Lud's widow, I suppose I can say here in relative obscurity, turned out to be pretty horrible, though her horribleness benefits greatly from the context of those who removed her husband from this world. It suffers from any comparison to the man we cherished, of course. Lud's dad, who had mentored most of us W&M ruggers in the sport at one time or another and was a Welsh prince without the lineage, was eaten up by Alzheimer's and left us a few years back. And Lud's little sister, one of my favorite friends from college and Dave's/Rob's/my freshman hallmate, got married to a limey bastard who gave her children as well as much more than a pintful of heartache. No luck for the downtrodden.
That's all I have to say about that right now. Getting a mite bit choked before a meeting and a work happy hour wasn't on my agenda, but 9/11 is mostly about unplanned alterations in a workday -- and a life. God bless you merry gentlemen and women of G:TB on a Thursday extraordinary only in its place on the calendar, a date which dredges up sad and sorry memories for us. Thank goodness.