My National Debut That Almost Didn’t Happen

Today is September 11, 2016. I am sitting here reading on Facebook all of the posts about what people were doing on the day the Twin Towers fell 15 years ago. I think back to that day and how my life changed. I think about all of the people from my generation and how their lives changed from that day forward.

The days leading up to September 11, 2001, were very exciting for me. After an interesting phone call, I realized that practicing martial arts was becoming more than just a hobby.

I was at my desk in the backroom of my parent’s house. I was already a freshman at my local college and I was attempting to do homework. More and likely I was popping the top on a Blue Pepsi and turning up the airflow to my customized computer so I could play Quake 3.  I answered the phone and on the other side of the phone, the lady said she was a producer with a nationally syndicated TV show. They had found an article written about me earlier in the year. The lady said my story had captivated her and the producers. She asked if I would be willing to make an appearance on the TV show to demonstrate my martial arts moves or at the most just simply talk about my life

This is the point where you visualize a memory bubble appearing over my head as I sit there contemplating my answer. I flashed back to the article that had been written about me. In early January 2001 my history teacher asked if she could share my name and phone number with a newspaper reporter. The newspaper reporter was looking to write “A Day in the Life of…” article for the local paper.  The teacher explained that I had a positive attitude about life and that I am an inspiration to many people and that’s why she wanted to tell the reporter about me. I agreed.

A few weeks later I received a call from the reporter asking if she could follow me around school for a day or two. Throughout the week she would call me and ask me questions. She watched me interact with my friends and would pull them to the side and ask questions about me. She found out that I did karate and asked if she could go to class with me and observe. A week later a two-page article about me appeared in the Sunday paper. Click here to read the article from the WV Gazette.

forest-gump-crooked-back-memeMany people from my area loved the article. I did find out that I had a few critics. I learned I needed to be careful about what I say to reporters. Apparently, I offended various politicians when I quoted Tom Hanks character Forrest Gump as I explained that my spine was crooked as a politician. At that time my parents worked very close to many local politicians. Oops!

Looking back now that I am older and after have worked for many politicians over the past 13 years; I do not think any of them are as crooked as my back.

So here it is months after this article was written I am getting a phone call from a producer of a syndicated television show. I am asked to make an appearance because they found my article to be inspirational. They wanted me to share my story and possibly demonstrate some of my karate moves.

I moved from having a flash-back to an internal conversation with myself. I asked the following questions:

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Photo by Mike Keller

“If I go on this show, am I exploiting myself?

 

Are people going to make fun of me on the show?

What are the risks factors involved?

If don’t go on the show, how else am I going to inspire people?”

I asked myself the most important question; “Is there a chance a movie producer will see this and have me co-star in a Jet Li movie?”  

“Hello…?” the voice on the other end of the phone line said. I answered her question. I said I would do the show. “Great!” she said loudly in my ear. She explained to me that the show was filmed in New York City. She went on to tell me that they would pay for my flight, the hotel, a car from the airport, any food I wanted to eat, and my return trip home. She looked at her calendar and asked “…would be available to fly out on Tuesday, September 11, 2001?” I told her the date would work for me. She hung up and I started jumping around the room. A few minutes later she called back and said there was an issue with the scheduling. She would have to fly me to New York City on Wednesday, September 12, 2001, instead.

I make my way to school, West Virginia State Community Technical College, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I was in an 8:00AM class – special topic course for the A+ Certification exam. I can only assume the professor is in front of the room lecturing about hardware components. I am sitting next to my brother in law (at the time) quietly whispering about the upcoming trip and discussing the latest Dragonball Z plot. Suddenly a faculty member bursts into the room and announces that an airplane had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. This particular faculty member was kind of a jokester and we could never tell if he was serious or not. We stared at him waiting for a punch line. After a few seconds, we realized he was not joking. We all sprang up from our seats and ran downstairs (I took the elevator) to the nearest TV. By the time we got there, another plane had crashed into the second tower.

Suddenly a faculty member bursts into the room and announces that an airplane had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. This particular faculty member was kind of a jokester and we could never tell if he was serious or not. We stared at him waiting for a punch line. After a few seconds, we realized he was not joking. We all sprang up from our seats and ran downstairs (I took the elevator) to the nearest TV. By the time we got there, another plane had crashed into the second tower.

I was saddened by what I saw on the television. My heart was broken for the people that were suffering, dying, and the ones that had lost their life instantly. I watched in disbelief as my world changed. After a few minutes of watching the horror unfold as the news replayed the scene of planes hitting the buildings and the people of New York City running for their lives; I pulled out my clunky cellphone and called mom at her office. I told her “We are not going to New York City tomorrow.” I didn’t care about being on a show.

This is my 9-11 story. This is what I remember of that day. If you want to read about my national television debut appearance then stay tuned for next month. The next article will be about the 15th anniversary of my appearance on television.

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