My Day – 9/11/01

My day 9/11/01

It was three years ago, and I was an Information Technology Manager for a good company. My wife, Julie, was also working there at the time, as she was between jobs and had agreed to help out the company by filling in for the pregnant receptionist.

Four or five of us went outside for a smoke break in the morning. At this point, it was just like every other day, nothing remarkable. As was the custom, we either bitched about our jobs while hitting the cancer sticks, or making jokes about other people. Occasionally, we would get into politics, but I don’t remember now what the topic of conversation was that morning.

After riding the elevator back up to our floor to get back to work, reeking of cigarettes I am sure, another co-worker, Stan, approached me and asked if I could watch news on one of the many computers in my large cubicle. Sure, I said, no problem. QuickTime had video channels built-in, one of which was live BBC. I asked him why, and he said, “My wife just called, said there was an accident, and some plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.”

So it was in my office, with ten people clustered around my desk, that we watched the burning building pour smoke over the New York skyline. At this point, only one plane had hit, and the announcers were speaking as if it were an accident. I remember saying that there was no way a small Cessna aircraft could have caused that much damage, and that it could only have been a large 747-type of plane. The BBC news people did not have any answers yet, but the drama was contagious.

Then we all watched as the second plane hit, and we knew. This was no accident; this was an act of war. This was a terrorist strike.

We quickly set up the television up front, by the front door, so we all had a better view. The only channel we could get via the antenna was the local ABC affiliate, which by now was live on the air, the horrible events of the day unfolding before us. It was not long before every one in the office was standing there, watching the television. No work was being done.

It was hypnotic, and everyone was glued to the images. Someone decided they needed another smoke, so a few of us moved away from the burning images on the television to get a quick nicotine fix and try to make sense of what was going on.

On the elevator coming back up, we learned that the Pentagon had also been hit, as well as a rumor that the Department of Justice in Washington was also on fire.

Back in front of the television, the events unfolded, as it did for everyone in America, and the world, that day.

I remember someone saying how strong those buildings must be to have stood up to an aircraft. I was thinking along the line of how the would repair those buildings, what an enormous task it would be. I remember wondering how the NY Fire Department could possibly put out the fires that high up, and how the people in the top floors had to be trapped there. How long would they be trapped? Would they evacuate via helicopter? And was that a person, the shape that just jumped out one of the top windows? Oh my god! How bad must it be for people to jump from that height, certain death? What must it be like up there? And how could it get any worse?

Then the first of the buildings fell, to the stunned silence of all my co-workers. Silence. I don’t think anyone heard a word coming from the television at that point. I was stunned, shaky, and confused. There were tears on many a face, as people looked around at each other, though no one spoke.

When the second building came down, it was painful, though not unexpected. How many lives had we just watched prematurely extinguished? We would not imagine.

It was the first time I actually felt my soul hurt.

It was decided by the smokers a few hours later that we were indeed at war, and someone would pay. Someone would pay dearly for this. Revenge had overtaken grief, then the emotions swung the other way, and the grief would return. How many children, like ours, were waiting at home for their parents to return, never to see them again? My wife and I wondered how we would explain this to our children, only two then, six and seven years old?

Like the rest of the nation and world, we were glued to the television that night, and the next day. After three days, however, we had decided to turn off the news, take the kids out and try and have some fun. Life, of course, had to go on. And no one who wants to remain even slightly sane can grieve for too long.

And life went on.

Three years later, today, we remember the tragic events of 9/11/01. We remember the lives lost, the great sadness, and the way the world changed for all time in one day.

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