Like most Americans over the age of 15, I can remember September 11, 2001 as if it were yesterday. Who could forget that incredibly blue, cloudless sky and the fresh, crisp air with the first hints of the coming change in seasons that would soon be Fall.
It was shortly before 9:00 AM and I was working at the computer in my “Parkway South” (aka home) law office in South Minneapolis. I had a television on in the background with the CBS Morning Show on when I heard Bryant Gumbel announce reports of a fire at the World Trade Center. I thought to myself, “this has got to be interesting…” and got up and went over to the t.v. just in time to see what looked like a shadow pass in back of one of the towers only to explode out of the side of the tower facing the camera in a spectacular orange fire ball.
As I stood there staring at the television screen in utter disbelief, the telephone rang and like I was in some kind of strange, hypnotic trance, I picked up the receiver and said hello without even glancing, as was my custom, at the caller ID. You see, I had consulted earlier that summer with a potential client, a bank robbery suspect, being held under a federal hold at the Sherburne County, MN jail. At the time they were constructing a new federal courthouse and detention center in downtown Minneapolis and until the new facility was ready, the federal government was contracting with Sherburne County, which had just built a state of the art facility with plenty of capacity, to house federal detainees and prisoners awaiting trial and/or hearing.
When my prospective client did not come up with the retainer fee, I stopped taking his collect calls from the Sherburne County jail which had run up to a not insignificant amount. Because my prospective client had been accused by jail staff of being uncooperative, they had moved him into the solitary confinement wing at the Sherburne County jail.
Hearing the voice of my unrequited client, I snapped out of my trance and unleashed a torrent of verbage, something to the effect: “You would never believe what just happened, I just watched an airliner fly into and explode against one of the World Trade Centers…”. Over the course of the next hour, the one hour my client had outside his cell in solitary, I relayed the incoming news to my client who in turn was passing along the information to the other prisoners in the solitary wing by yelling updates down the hall.
It was not until the next day and reading the Minneapolis and St. Paul newspapers did we discover that also in the solitary wing of the Sherburne County jail that day was Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been held since August of 2001 after raising suspicions at a Minnesota flight school. Despite what the newspapers reported as when Moussaoui first learned of the attacks when he walked into a television lounge and saw new reports later in the day, to which he allegedly pumped his fist in triumph, both my prospective client and I knew the truth, that we were the first persons to apprise him of the news of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
If you will remember, in the days following 911 there was considerable discussion of the government listening in on attorney client phone calls from jail and you can bet I was sweating that I would receive a phone call from the FBI asking me to explain myself, which thankfully never came.
This story just goes to show how interconnected we are and how small the world is that I would play a role in the most defining event of our generation. Kevin Bacon eat your heart out.