How many of us woke up this morning, got ready for work, had breakfast and went into the office, school or on to our daily activities? At what point did you realize what today is? How did you feel at that moment?
For me I woke up immediately knowing what today is and what it was. As soon as I was conscious and able to move around, I’m not a morning person, the images, feelings and thoughts all came flooding back.
I haven’t posted a blog on this day for many reason but today my heart just won’t let it pass without sharing my experience, my thoughts and my hopes.
September 11th, 2001 had me living in Crofton MD and commuting to Silver Spring MD where I worked for an ISP. The day started out like every other day and my commute was like every other commute. Lots of cars, lots of traffic and lots of frustration because yet again traffic was going to put me in the office later than I wanted to be.
The radio was playing some song, or maybe some silly skit the DJ’s made up in their vain attempt to entertain us. Then there was a break in as the DJ reported that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York. Initial news was telling me that it was a commuter plane, maybe a student pilot or something.
I remember sitting in my car at the exit for Silver Springs and thinking. How does someone crash a tiny plane into such a huge building? Must have been a student pilot who got caught in an updraft or something. I thought about how the instructors were idiots for letting a new pilot fly in and around those buildings especially so close.News kept coming in, talking about the fire and how emergency crews were being dispatched to the scene. I parked in the garage near my office and headed in to start my day.
I walked into the office and it was buzzing. I worked in the sales department so this wasn’t really anything new but today seemed different. Everyone was trying to get onto one of the major news sites for more details. Some had heard is was a large plane, that it was a 747 type plane, big and full or people. Many of us laughed this off thinking that was a crazy thought.
Next news report came in that a helicopter had landed on top of the pentagon and had exploded. We all looked at each other and one guy says, Lets go to the roof. So like idiots 6 of us bound to the elevators to the top floor and then to the roof access stairs. We come out of the dimly lit stairwell to a bright sun with clear skies. I can still hear the pebbles on the roof crackle under my feet. I feel the sun on my face and my heart still races as I remember turning the corner to face the direction of the Pentagon and see black smoke.
It was thick and very dark smoke. We were a good dozen or so miles but it was clear as day. I had my camera and snapped off some pics, which sadly I cannot find. We all sat there in awe as the reality hit us of what was happening.
This was not a coincidence.
One of the guys on the roof said it best…”oh shit”. We all replied with simple yea’s. I don’t know if it was me or someone else in the group but someone said “this isn’t right, this is an attack a terrorist thing or something”. At that we all looked at each other, some of us had fear, some had wonderment, others were just blank. We headed back downstairs to see what news we could pull off the news sites.
The office was chaos. No one could get online and most phone calls were not going out. Things were getting worse. We were “the Internet” so we knew this was bad. One guy left to go get us a TV, the rest of us kept trying to access websites, make calls to clients in the area or to family back home.
My first call was to my dad. He’s retired army and spent some time in the pentagon and still worked for the Army.
Me: Dad did you hear about the Pentagon?
Dad: Yea we’ve heard. The base is on lock down. I cannot leave and they aren’t letting anyone on. Not a lot of communication is coming in.
Me: Where did it happen? Is that “our” part of the pentagon?
Dad: Yes it was the E Wedge I think. That’s where I spent many days and we know people in that area. The good news is everyone we know is either TDY or was moved to another section because of renovations going on there.
Me: That is good news. OK I need to run and check on some clients. Let me know if you hear anything.
Dad: Will do
It was a simple conversation but having spent 15 years living in MD we had LOTS of connections.
10 min later the TV arrived. We plugged it in, found a cable outlet and started to head over to one of the major news networks. We switched to CNN and saw one of the towers smoking from the middle.
Then we saw one of the most horrific things ever. A plane, a very large plane flew straight into the second tower. We watched as it hit the building and then disappeared. I half expected it to fly out the other side like in the movies or something but nothing.
I was numb.
No one said a word. We all were in shock. Those of us who had chairs sat down, the rest of us just grabbed onto the closest object to keep us from crashing to the floor.
We watched the news. We gave up on the Internet and the phones at this point were useless. The TV was our only connection to the outside world. Some wanted to leave but we all decided it was better to stay put. We talked about what was going on. We all had our theories and not a person there thought this was a mistake. We watched the towers burning, the emergency crews rushing to the scene, the smoke and more. We heard of the PA plan crash and started to wonder when would it all end.
Then it ended.
The first tower started to come down, quickly followed by the second tower. We had just commented on how it must be bad because we could actually see people jumping from the towers in hopes to escape.
They were jumping from points above the crash and there was no hope for them.
I don’t recall much after that moment. The moment when the towers came down. I was a volunteer Fire Fighter at the time, so after work I headed to the station where we were told to do nothing, go nowhere and wait for NY to ask for help.
We were all helpless so we did what everyone else did. We just sat there and watch the news, listened to the commentary and hoped for the best.
I still hope for the best. There aren’t any big parades anymore. No speeches which we all want to hear. The flags are not as numerous. The solidarity the nation felt afterwards has weened. But I still have hope. Every year I see the country join together if nothing else but to share their story of where they were. It’s our stories which still bind us together if nothing else.
We are one nation, under God. God got us through this and He’s allowed us to move on. I just pray that over time we can come together again but by choice and not because of the horrible actions of others.
Psalm 121:1-2 – “I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”