Thursday, September 11, 2008
The Day the World Stood Still
Seven years ago today, 19 hijackers in four airplanes wreaked havoc on our country and set in motion a chain of events that still defy understanding. I was living in California at the time. It was a beautiful day on the West Coast. Fall was in the air. I was getting ready for work when a friend called and said, "NPR is saying a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center." I had visions of a small plane, but when I turned on the news my interest at this oddity turned to shock. I remember standing in front of the television and watching in horror as the second plane banked and flew into the second tower. Then I listened as it was reported that Washington was being attacked. I called my family to make sure they were okay.
I remained riveted to the t.v. as I watched the first tower fall. Reeling in disbelief, I did the only thing I knew to do. I got in my car and headed to work. On the train into San Francisco, we all shared the same emotions and you could see them on our faces: uncertainty, fear, and unity. As we disembarked, the train operator said, "Whether you believe in God or not, may he bless us today and may God bless America." I don't think there was a soul among us who objected.
As I entered the office that morning, my colleagues were gathered in clusters, seeking solace from one another. Months later while on business in New York, our employees in our Manhattan office would show us where they had stood at the windows in their building with a direct line of site to the Trade Center towers and watched the entire event unfold before them. A few of them were unable to get to their homes in the New Jersey suburbs until the next morning. My friend, Adriana, who lives in Brooklyn, would later email me and some friends and tell us how she walked home across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Back at work they told us, if we wanted to stay, we could and if we wanted to go, that was an option as well. Many of us chose to go and be with friends and loved ones. I went down the peninsula and stayed with a friend who was working for a high tech firm. When she arrived at her company, she and her colleagues were turned away from the building because it lies directly beneath the flight path for San Jose International Airport. We watched t.v. until we couldn't anymore. Still uncertain about what was happening in our country, we decided, if we were going to die, we might as well be somewhere beautiful, so we went to the beach and sat in silence staring at the ocean, knowing things would never be the same. Later, I remember watching footage of the last flight to land at San Francisco International being escorted by a fighter jet, then the silence of no commercial flights for several days, but the roar of combat fighters the rest of that day.
I'll stop there, but in case you're wondering about the picture, this is the suit I was wearing that day. I will never forget.
Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 09/08