Just the other day, I was guessing Alex Shvartsman handle on #mtgwacky. Yesterday, I sent him a note saying I was glad he was alive.
I live in Manila, in the Philippines, twelve hours and a continent and an ocean away from New York City. By 10:00 p.m. last night, I began receiving messages on my cell phone saying something about planes crashing into the World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon. It took a while for all this to register, and I initially thought it was some sick hoax started by someone who just read Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor.
Then I tuned in to CNN and saw one of the towers collapse in on itself in a plume of smoke.
It was as if the world had just ground to a halt in stunned disbelief. My family and all my friends here in Manila dropped everything and sat in front of the television for the next few hours. In less than an hour, the spontaneous shock, horror, disbelief and grief at the sheer perversity of the attack had reached the opposite end of the globe.
I remember that my next thought was about relatives, friends and acquaintances in that big city. I turned on my connection but found the CNN site down. I opened my mIRC channels, and the spontaneous reactions mirrored my own thoughts.
I have a cousin who lives in Long Island but works in Wall Street. He just got married, and his wife just gave birth a few months ago. I almost leaped out of my chair when Becky Hiebert said that Wall Street was just blocks away from the World Trade Center. (About an hour later, I received a message from his sister saying he was unhurt, if stuck in Manhattan.)
I have an old roommate who studies there. (He e-mailed that he was just across the river, that people were in complete shock and that blood drives were beginning.)
Every message of reassurance brought a deep breath as the CNN footage replayed itself in the next room. Even Greg Smith’s string of curses directed at Afghanistan was a very welcome alternative to silence.
On mIRC, I scrolled down the list of aliases and paused with relief as I saw each familiar nickname. It felt eerie looking at that familiar screen. Just the other day, Alex and Eric“Danger” Taylor were”introducing” me to Hashim Bello. Just yesterday noon (midnight in New York), Paul Leicht and I were clowning around, and I actually pulled him away from his present article to have a few Type I games to show him the”Invincible Counter Troll” deck that is the laughingstock of the online Type I community. The channel was quite active, with messages like”Dave Price is okay” and”There’s Zvi now.” I myself was asking after Beyond Dominia regular and Neutral Grounder Matt D’Avanzo.
I hung around, and caught the holiest of”Holy Pikula” moments. I actually saved the log, and though it might seem lighthearted now, I think we were still too shocked to notice yesterday.
*** Sleepula has joined #mtgwacky
*** cathyBRB is now known as cathy_n
<Sleepula> HOLY F***ING SH*T
*** Sleepula is now known as Pikula
<Rakso> Was that Pikula?
<Rakso> Oh there
<Rakso> He’s alive.
<cbrangel> Cathy: no flights in or out for 48 hours but unless they were IN the WTC building they should be 100% ok
<Pikula> that was insane
<Rakso> What happened to you?
<Rakso> Where were you?
<Pikula> Dave is fine, he is in brooklyn
<Pikula> I was about 1.5 blocks away
<cathy_n> cbrangel: Yeah, they were in their hotel at the time, I believe. It was far too early for Victor to be awake, anyway 😉
<Pikula> my building shook and it was black as night
<Pikula> totally crazy
<Rakso> 1.5 BLOCKS AWAY???
<WakkoCAPS> pikula:At work?
<Booch> Pikula: HOLY SH*T!
<Pikula> i was standing outside like 5 minutes before the first tower totally collapsed
<Pikula> like a jackass
<Rakso> Did you see it?
<Pikula> i’m covered with ash!
<Booch> hehehe, all of a sudden it occured to you to run?
<WakkoCAPS> Pikula:But you’re ok?
<Rakso> You’re covered with ash
<Dave_Conn> dude thats scary sh*t
<cbrangel> Chris: any idea if the Financial Center building is OK?
<Rakso> And your first impulse is to log onto mIRC???
<Booch> Rakso: His friends are here, and it’s a good way to get the word out.
<Pikula> i seriously missed chance of greatest picture of all time
<Dave_Conn> btw : get off irc and go shower, good way of ash removal
<Pikula> and looked back at Trinity Church
<Pikula> and there was a firestorm behind it
<Pikula> it was like the end of the world
I’ve grown up seeing a number of senseless atrocities. I remember wondering if the Gulf War would break out into World War III. I remember the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. I remember Oklahoma and that magazine cover with a fireman cradling a dead infant. I remember the sarin attack in Japan. I even remember Tiananmen Square. The feeling of this tragedy, however, was very, very different. It wasn’t long before the figures thrown by CNN – like 50,000 – were replaced in my mind by the names and signature quotes of the various people I correspond with, especially the Neutral Grounders.
Some of these people were asking after me last year, when my own country was experiencing severe political turmoil that ended in the unseating of then president Estrada. Generals were speaking on TV and bombs exploded in Manila before New Year’s Day, one of them just a few blocks away from my house. It was comforting to receive warm messages from halfway across the world – and yesterday I found myself trying hard not to imagine that a plane had just crashed into any of them.
The Internet is a very beautiful technological development, and allows us to be more human in ways that were never before possible. It has contracted the world and has amplified joys. It amplifies grief as well.
We had to deal with some childishness, of course. Some people were cracking jokes about nuclear retaliation. One Negator, a.k.a., Yan Margolin logged onto #bdchat and began saying”I hate Sean McKeown (another New Yorker)” before he was promptly kicked. Some kid on #apprentice had to say it:”Let’s all have sex before it’s too late!” But by and large, other people I knew were reacting in exactly the same way I was. On #bdchat, people from Singapore, Australia, Sweden and Canada began asking after the more familiar New York Beyond Dominia regulars, and I soon put up a thread asking all of them to report in. A request for a headcount was also e-mailed to the Star City list. The headcount on #mtgwacky of players still in New York after the Pro Tour continued, and I had to pause when I saw the partial list of people confirmed unharmed on the Neutral Ground site the following day.
Certainly, my countrymen stand in spirit with the United States, just as we stood in front of the advancing Japanese army half a century ago. But, my personal sympathy has names and faces on it, not abstract numbers. I am glad that many of my Beyond Dominia regulars from New York, Long Island and New Jersey have replied to my inquiries, but I have also confirmed that some of them – some still in high school – are still unsure whether or not they have lost relatives. We are also waiting for word from our friend Matt, though we do know he does not have a computer at home.
As I write this, though, I continue to watch the best of America rise to meet the challenge, and continue to hear of cab companies ripping off seats from vans to help transport bodies, of optimistic rescue workers, and of young men ready to donate blood. Brian Davis-Marshall’s message on Neutral Ground’s site captured the spirit:”It is hard to imagine that yesterday all we cared about was the newest IBC tech and who cheated whom at PT: NY. Today we can only hope that everyone we know is safe at home with everyone they love.”
I sincerely hope that all this is resolved without further senseless bloodshed, and pray for the safety of my friends and acquaintances over there in New York.
Oscar Tan, a.k.a. Rakso
[email protected]; rakso on #BDChat on Newnet
Type I, Extended and Casual Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (http://www.bdominia.com/discus/messages/9/9.shtml)
Featured writer, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/archive.php?Article=Oscar Tan)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance (http://www.casualplayers.org)