Before the Towers Fell
by Derrick G. Jeter
When Chris Williams, Jan White, and I traveled to Boston on September 8, 2001, the events of 9/11—the destruction and death—were as alien to our minds as little green men from Mars. In fact, the entire weekend seemed like something from another world, and it began with a ridiculous trip from the Boston airport to our downtown hotel.
After stuffing ourselves into an airport shuttle and snuggling up to strangers, we braved the frantic twists and turns through Boston’s ever-congested streets. Each time the driver slammed on the brakes, we hoped against hope we wouldn’t be wacked in the back of the head by luggage piled to the ceiling.
Thankfully, we eventually came to a screeching halt somewhat near our hotel in the Back Bay area of Boston. We peeled ourselves off our newfound friends, bid them safe journey to their destinations—and God’s grace if they didn’t make it—and freed our luggage from the bottom of the pile. The driver pointed to our hotel . . . down the street . . . and held out his hand for a tip. I gave him a dollar—my thanks for not killing us on the way to the hotel and my displeasure for not dropping us off at the front door.
Walking down the street, we passed a bar with plate glass windows. I glanced in and, while I thought nothing of it at the time, I didn’t notice any women inside. Soon after, we reached the hotel, an older but quaint abode. Chris and I approached the desk while Jan stayed in the lobby watching our bags. Since Chris had made the reservations, she spoke first: a room with two twin beds for Chris Williams and Jan White. The clerk searched his computer. Yes, he had her reservation, but he didn’t have a room with two twin beds; he only had a room with one queen-sized bed.
As Chris tried to straighten out her room reservation, I noticed two women had come into the lobby and struck up a conversation with Jan. These women politely asked where Jan was from and what she was doing in Boston. Then they wanted to know what she was doing that evening. Jan said something about going to dinner with Chris and me. They looked at the front desk . . . saw Chris standing there . . . and then said they’d be happy to show Jan and Chris a good time.
I turned back to Chris, still haggling with the hotel clerk, and joked, “Jan has just been propositioned by two lesbians and I think you’ve just been invited to an evening of fun.” It was then I heard the clerk say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I misunderstood. We rarely get reservations for two beds in this hotel. We do have one room on another floor, if you don’t mind being separated from Mr. Jeter. You’ll like it . . . it’s quieter on that floor.”
What did he mean by that?
Then it dawned on me . . . the all male bar, the two lesbians propositioning Jan, and the queen-sized bed. I turned to Chris, “If sometime during our stay in this hotel I grab you and kiss you smack on the mouth, don’t be offended. It will be the greatest service I could do for you and for me this whole trip. And I guarantee Joe and Christy will thank me for it!” That clued Chris in, but Jan was still having a pleasant conversation with the two lesbians.
No doubt about it, we had just checked into an all gay hotel.
I wasn’t in my room two minutes before the phone rang. I picked it up and said, “Are you ready to go?”
All Chris could muster was, “Get me the hell out of here!”
While I explained to the hotel clerk that we had obviously made a mistake in making reservations at this hotel, and we wouldn’t want to keep his usual clientele from having rooms for the night, Chris made quick arrangements for a taxi to pick us up and drop us off at Faneuil Hall, across the street from City Hall. There, a client was to meet us and, after we took her out to dinner, deliver us to our usual hotel—the one we had always stayed at during our travels to Boston.
Sitting in casual business attire on a curb at the base of a statue of Samuel Adams in Boston’s bustling downtown on a Saturday evening . . . while watching three suitcases alone as Chris and Jan went shopping, I looked like the best-dressed, well equipped homeless man Boston had ever seen. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. Our client arrived, we took her to the Oyster House, and she took us to a clean, and traditional hotel outside the city.
When I settled into my room, I had a good chuckle and thanked God that the most exciting part of the trip was behind us.
Unknown to us that Saturday evening, however, the most exciting part of the trip was before us.
A plot to murder thousands of innocent men and women was unfolding that very night in Boston, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. Within a few days the plot would prove successful. And life as we knew it would never be the same.
Sunday, September 9, was an uneventful day of sightseeing in and around Boston. On Monday morning, September 10, we were to finish our business in Boston, and then complete our New England trip that evening at the Rhode Island headquarters of CVS Caremark. The next day we were to fly out of Logan Airport—the very airport from which American Airlines Flight 11 and United Flight 175 departed. CVS, however, needed to push back our meeting a day, so on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, instead of boarding a plane in Boston we climbed into a rental car headed for Rhode Island.
✯ ✯ ✯
If you’d like to read the rest of the story of my 9/11 experience and the troubling questions I wrestled with after the events of September 11, 2001—question many wrestled with—please purchase A 911 for 9/11: Finding Answers to the Evil of September 11, 2001 available from Amazon. All proceeds from the sale of the book, from September 11, 2011 to September 11, 2012, will go to benefit The National September 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation.
Find out more about the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum at www.911memorial.org.