There were periods in my life when watching television mattered to me. Over many years, I was hooked on a soap opera. All My Children, soon to be terminated by the ABC Network (and recently sold to an internet company where it will take on a new life form), was the soap which held captive my attention. The show featured a “super couple” known as “Tad and Dixie.” Tad and Dixie, wonderfully portrayed by Michael E. Knight and Cady McClain, kept me watching.
It was in the late 1990s that I participated in a Yahoo! Group created for Tad and Dixie fans. Most of the time, we shared our views and soap magazine stories about the characters, what made the show’s writing good or bad, and the scoops of what was yet to come. However, sometimes the conversation drifted into more personal topics. The fans all got to know each other fairly well.
One morning in 2001, I expected the day to play out as it always did. I would wake up abruptly, get out of bed, turn on the computer, bring up a news website, check email, and then make sure the boys were out the door to go to school. The routine also included bringing up my instant messenger chat on the computer. A few of the people I knew from the Tad and Dixie Yahoo! Group were friends on my instant messenger contact list.
Alyssa was online that morning.
Twenty-one year old Alyssa, a college student in Medford, Massachusetts and a fellow Tad and Dixie fan, was at her computer when she noticed my name move from inactive to active status on her chat list. Before I could bring up a news website on my computer, Alyssa typed to me “You need to turn on CNN. We’re being attacked.”
Her words set me into motion. I immediately ran across the room to turn on the television, not daring to guess what her words meant. I had no idea what I’d find on CNN. I would soon see the images that would stay with me for the rest of my life.
When I was a small child, I often wondered what would happen if a skyscraper came crashing down. Would it fall sideways? Would it collapse? Would a falling skyscraper ever happen during my lifetime?
Alyssa and I shared the horror and helplessness of what we observed as the violence took place in the sky far above the New York streets. The dark smoke. The flames. The horrific understanding that lives were lost and many more were about to be lost. I flipped the channel, and that’s when a well known news anchor was describing what he was watching just as the plane moved into view. The plane impacted the building. The devastating moment was nearly impossible for the anchor to report on. He struggled to find the words….
Typing message after message, no sooner had one of us commented on something, we’d see or hear about something else to react to. Television news placed us there in “real time.” We were watching the flames, the explosions, the individuals leaping from the top floors, the fire fighters trying to reach the terrified workers trapped throughout the twin towers. Then, we witnessed the building break up, one floor at a time.
The soap opera, Tad and Dixie, and the events of September 11th have provided us with opportunities to get to know one another and become good friends. I sometimes pause to reflect on this unusual connection we will always share. To date, ten years have passed, and we have never met in person. As for the upcoming anniversary of the event, Alyssa told me she will be flying somewhere on September 11th. Airfare is incredibly inexpensive on that particular day.