Morbid as it may be, my first impulse when people mention “September 11th” is to grab my copy of God Hates Us All by Slayer. It’s how I spend the day every year. Playing it over and over. It really is a good album.
That morning was pretty normal. I was working in purchasing for HMV, a huge international record chain that never really broke into the US market before music retail chains became a thing of the past. I worked at the flagship store in downtown Toronto and we had just gotten out of our Tuesday new release meeting and were trying to guess which of the two major new releases that day would sell more.
One was the new Mariah Carey offering “Glitter” which, if you didn’t know what it said, kind of looked like it was titled “Gutter.” We all agreed that it was a downright noxious album of horrible songs that would accompany her equally horrible movie of the same name (“Glitter,” not “Gutter”).
The other was the new album by venerable metal band Slayer. The album was called “God Hates Us All” and featured two different album covers since the first one that featured a bible, nailed shut and bleeding, was deemed a bit too “offensive” for some markets. I predicted Slayer’s album would sell more. I bought three copies of it myself. The Japanese import, the Canadian release with the censored cover and the blood-red vinyl.
When we got out of the meeting, staff on the main floor were all a bit worked up over a movie playing on the screens throughout the store. It looked like a bad Michael Bay movie. Before long, the chatter filtered up to us that this was NOT, in fact, a movie but live footage of the World Trade Center in New York where “someone” had “flown a plane into one of the towers.”
We all just assumed “some drunk billionaire in his Cessna” or something along those lines.
We crowded around the VJ booth at the back of the store where the music and video were played so we could watch it on the screen live. We had started to become a bit flippant about it and said “Hope the money wasn’t seriously hurt.”
We then all watched while the second plane hit and in one moment realized exactly how far off we were from that first assumption that this was a minor, random accident.
Without much news or information available… speculation started. Then panic. Confusion. Complete bewilderment at what was going on. A few minutes later I sat on the floor of my office listening to the radio and trying to absorb it all. Before long, reports of a third plane in Washington DC and possibly a fourth “near Pittsburgh” came in. Reports of “taking out radio communication in New York” and “gunfire in the streets” and “terrorist groups attacking in Chicago” had started. Of course most of that was bullshit but by that point it was hard to not believe anything.
Not unlike the movies you see of people crowding around the TVs in store windows to watch news about the Kennedy Assassination, people stood around in the front area of the store watching the video on the screens. Some would blankly say “my son is in New York right now” and I remember taking a mother in my arms telling her not to panic. One man told us that most of the tall buildings in downtown Toronto had been evacuated just in case…
Of course we were only in shock and disbelief for so long. Canadians were just separated and isolated enough from it all that we still remember it like a movie. We may have known people there but it all still seemed unreal. Of course Canadian conservatives and anyone desperate enough to paint Canada as “important” on the world’s stage would warn us about the “terrorists coming for us in Toronto” and tell us to “imagine the CN Tower smoking like that.”
Most of us rolled our eyes at the absurdity of a spindly concrete tower “smoking” and the catty answers we’d throw back were “the terrorists won’t attack Toronto, their mothers all live here” or “let’s hang a target on the east side of the tower and see if we can get them to knock it into the Skydome and take out TWO eyesores at once!”
Canadians have always had belligerent senses of humor and even something as horrific as the September 11th attacks wasn’t going to take that away.
One of my most chilling souvenirs was the poster advertising the new Slayer album. It featured the bloody bible, nailed shut with “Slayer: God Hates Us All – September 11th, 2001.” How’s that for a bit fucked up?
So… that’s my ritual. I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I don’t believe in “god” so it’s not like I take much from that message. But when the news hits every year… I go right to my vinyl wall and haul out my copy. It’s spinning on my turntable right now.
Kinda freaky, really.