Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001

I woke up somewhere before 6:00 am in Hollywood, CA. A couple months previous, I'd moved to a bachelor apartment right near the Hollywood Blvd entrance/exit for the 101 freeway. My then-boyfriend called me and told me to turn on the tv-- it didn't really matter what channel. He told me what had happened as I grabbed my remote with my other hand.
I'll be perfectly honest: I had never heard of the World Trade Center before that morning. If I had, it simply didn't register that it was something that I should know about or be aware of.
Our phone conversation was brief. My boyfriend told me about the pentagon being hit. I can't remember if, by then, one of the towers had already collapsed or both. What I do remember is calling my parents immediately to talk with them. I know by the time I was on the phone with them, both towers had collapsed. I think they also told me about the plane that had crashed in a Pennsylvania field, but I'm not certain.
I was definitely thinking more emotionally than analytically on that day.
I watched the news for a long time. It wasn't so much a typical news day as it was a live documentary unfolding before me. I sat on my sofa bed, alone in my dark apartment, watching horrible things happen. I was roughly 3,000 miles away and felt completely helpless.
One thing the newscasters were able to broadcast was the government's current oppinion that those not directly afftected by the day's events should resume their daily lives. They urged everyone to go to work, school, or whatever else was planned for the day. The rationale of this was to prove to the terrorists (because by then it was obvious that this was a calculated attack) hadn't phased us.
I had two jobs at that time. I was a professional extra (non-union) on tv and film productions, and I was a waitress who worked the graveyard shift at a 24-hour restaurant. The newscasters were reporting, along with the rest of the events and the government's oppinions, that Hollywood was shutting down for the day. There was a big possibility that I wouldn't have to work that day.
Most extras go through a casting agency. They will call their agency and try to book their own jobs. Depending on the agency, your chances of working on a regular basis can be slim. As a full-time extra, however, I had a call-in service. They would book me on jobs, and I pretty much worked everyday unless it was Sunday or I asked for it off. As a regular extra, I was used a lot as a student (from junior high to college) or a random crowd member. My service would leave me a message on my answering machine the night before to tell me what I would work that day.
That day, I was scheduled to be a stand-in on a PBS show called "Madison Heights". I don't think it was a show on our PBS station, but I really have no idea. A stand-in, for those who don't know is someone who takes the place of the actor while the crew sets up the lighting and cameras. It can sometimes be a long process (definitely a boring one) and no one wants the actor to fall out of character.
I called my service to ask if I was still supposed to work. The woman on the other end told me that I was, despite most every other production being shut down for the day. She asked me to call back just before I was about to leave for the gig, but even then it was still going as planned.
I arrived to pretty much the only working production in Los Angeles to find a very distracted studio. We didn't really work that day. Mostly, we watched a small television in one of the offices. Because by then, the President was about to make a speech. We were all there, cast and crew, crammed into this office as a white plane landed on a massive stretch of lawn.
"Boy, it's a good thing the President didn't get killed." I said outloud, as he made his way to a podium. "Because then there'd be total chaos."
Perhaps that was a naive statement, as there was plenty of chaos already. Either way, it brought the ire of the director.
"You realize he has no power, right?!" He shouted at me. Everyone looked away from the tv and watched with shocked faces. No one else had really paid attention to what I'd said. "You realize that, right?!"
"Yeah..." I said, trying to diffuse the situation. "He's just a figurehead."
I don't really remember what else happened on that gig. I'm pretty sure not much work was accomplished. Not surprisingly, I wasn't booked on that show, anymore.
I also don't remember much of my waitressing job that night. To be fair, I rarely slept during those days, but it was also ten years ago. All I remember is knowing that as soon as my shift was over, I was going home. No to my apartment. Not anywhere else. Bad men had made planes knock down towers in New York, and I was going home to mommy and daddy. Because I could and I wasn't ashamed of it.
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