9-11 Memories

Posted: September 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

I called in sick on that Monday night. It wasn’t that I was feeling bad. I was pursuing a trainer position at my company. The interviewer wanted me to create a mock training session to be presented on September 13 of that week. I was overwhelmed so I decided to take that Tuesday off. I slept well, probably better than I have in a long time. I got up around 9:30 a.m. It was a gorgeous early September morning. I sauntered down to breakfast thinking about how I was going to tackle this mock training assignment. As I ate, I started on my work. I didn’t need any distractions. The phone rang. I didn’t have caller ID at the time so I let the old-fashioned answering machine pick-up. In those days, I was able to hear the message as it was being recorded. A frantic relative was on her phone screaming that a plane hit New York City’s World Trade Center complex. I went over to the TV. I didn’t have cable at the time so I turned on The Today Show. They were locked down on a shot of the building with what I thought was a minor puncture in the mammoth structure.

“It looks like a prop plane went into the building,” I said to myself.

Something told me to leave the TV on while working on my “homework.” I glanced up at the TV every other minute. I turned my back for a few more minutes and I would learn the truth along with the rest of the world. This was no prop plane that went into the building. Within minutes another plane ripped through the near top of the other twin tower. This was no accident. This was war. My mock-up session work was officially over. I was glued to the set.

At that point, the analyses were happening. The network’s Pentagon correspondent was chatting with The Today Show folks. All of a sudden during the discussion, he said that he didn’t want to alarm anyone, but he felt the building shake. I thought the reporter was cracking under pressure, but I was wrong. An outside shot revealed that yet another plane hit a section of the Pentagon. Another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.

Yes, now this was really war on our soil. A complete coordinated attack that none of us saw coming. We knew that there were four hijacked planes, but were there others? A sense of national chaos came to me as planes were grounded. What was next? Some correspondents were talking about sirens going off at the State Department.

“Should I get my daughter from daycare?” I asked myself.

I felt helpless as I watched the towers fall. It didn’t hit me until minutes later that there were human beings in those collapsed structures. I fell to the couch, horrified.

“This has to be worse than Pearl Harbor Day because we’re all seeing this unfold live,” I said to no one.

As morning led to afternoon into evening, I spoke with relatives and neighbors with a mixture of horror, sadness and anger. I would later write in an Atlanta Journal letter that the thousands who perished on that beautiful Tuesday morning were people like us, our neighbors, and our families.” The term 9-11 suddenly changed meaning and hit way beyond home. For those of us who were around to witness it, 9-11 is etched in our collective memories.

I didn’t sleep well that night. I thought I heard a fighter jet in the sky. My heart was pounding in bed. Perhaps it was a Dobbins aircraft patrolling the skies, I reasoned to myself. I had nightmares that night –of people jumping from the New York twin towers live as Peter Jennings pleaded with them not to jump. The nightmares seemed so real, so vivid.

An end to the innocence of the 90s officially happened on that sunny Tuesday morning in New York City, Washington and Shanksville, PA. I will never forget. We will never forget.

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