I went to work early that day, and was in such a happy mood that morning...it was such a nice day. I just remember I kept looking up at the sky.....cause it was so blue. I saw the old men in the park outside my building sitting in their regular spots, some playing checkers...others just conversing. I said hello to the ones who's faces were familiar and walked to the Metro. I got to work early that day about 8:30 to discuss some work concerns with my supervisor. At the time I was working in the small market radio sales department of the Associated Press Broadcast News Center in Washington, DC. I remember sitting at my boss' desk and coming up with some sort of strategy to move forward in my position. Shortly after our meeting started, a co-worker rushed into the office saying that a plane just flew into the Twin Towers. Of course, being a news organization, we stopped everything we're doing, we were THEE news so, quite naturally, we had to check this story out.
We rushed out to our company lobby to watch the commotion on the big screen tv's. I remember it was a little before 9:00 and the tower was on fire.....there was smoke billowing out and I heard myself say, "That building is going to fall." Someone responded to my comment, very dismissively saying, "Ah, that building can't fall....it's designed NOT to fall." Regardless, I was sure people were dead, I was sure that it was an accident and while it was a sad event, I remember thinking I needed to get my day started. So, I began walking back to my desk, glanced over my shoulder at the person who waived off my comment about the building falling and said again, "That building is going to fall."
I couldn't have taken 10 steps when I heard a sea of gasps and screams......I turned back to look and the second tower was hit. That's when I knew, something was wrong. I went back to the TV and watched like everyone else in horror.
My stomach sank and I rushed to my desk to check on my mother in Connecticut and other family members and friends who lived and worked in New York City.....but I couldn't get through. I tried my mother again.....NO LUCK. Then I was able to reach my close friend who, was working at the Department of Treasury which is located directly next to The White House...this was a little bit after 9:30....and as she's telling me that they're evacuating the Executive Corridor she says, 'Oh, sh*t....Oh sh*t. A plane just flew over.....it's too low....that plane is too low. I have to go, I'll call you back.' If anyone knows anything about airspace and Washington, DC, specifically the area around The White House, they know, that NO planes are allowed to fly in that air space.
My heart nearly dropped into my gut......our building was literally located a few short 4-5 blocks from the White House....what did that mean? A PLANE FLYING OVER THE WHITE HOUSE? I picked up the phone and tried my mother again....by now she should be at work. "HELLO?" Thank you GOD, I thought to myself. As we are discussing all that was happening in New York, a coworker walked past me with the most shocked look on her face and said....'The Pentagon is on fire, it's on fire, a bomb hit the Pentagon or something.' she kept walking in a hurry. I told my mother what happened and she tells me to get out of there and go home. But what do I do? Where do I go? My best friend works in the area of the The Pentagon and was pregnant, was she okay? The Pentagon is just across the river from DC and a sudden sense of panic came over me.
I immediately went back to my friend saying that there was a plane flying over The White House....was that the plane she saw? Did that plane just fly into the Pentagon? I put the pieces together....planes are being used like bombs. Where was the next plane going to land? I took my mother's advice, grabbed my belongings to go home....rushed down the stairs, out of the building only to see the city was in chaos. People were in a panic, in shock, crying, traffic on 18th street was at a crawl, at best. I knew from the looks of everything it would take an eternity to get home....which was only just a few stops away....and wondered if was it safe to take the Metro without knowing what could happen next? Thinking, maybe I should just walk. I was so confused.....fear set in and I just wanted to cry.
A friend standing outside came up to me and said....'Just go back inside....there's no reason to get upset. If you said your prayers this morning, you have nothing to worry about.' I knew deep down, he was right. I still, however, couldn't shake the feeling of fear, panic and anxiety. I went back inside and sat down at my desk. All of a sudden, the General Manager for our division announced that no one will be going home. We were 'ordered' to stay in the building and stay safe. He commanded that we were a news organization and we had a job to do. Now, while that sounds all heroic and whatnot...all I could think about was people being in the Pentagon and the Twin Towers and how 'safe' were we really? But, I stayed, I answered phones, spoke with our members and helped get the latest updates to reporters in our news center. When my day was done, I gathered my belongings, prepared myself to go home and prayed that I would get their safely.
When I got outside, there was still a sense of fear, panic and sadness in the air. By now, we saw what else happened, we kind of knew what was going on - how it happened, there was a collective consciousness that we knew our lives were going to be VERY different. As I walked down the street towards the metro, I felt like we were living in a police or military state. There were tanks and armed soldiers on the corners of almost every block in downtown DC. That made me feel a bit more safe....but I knew it was just a facade.
I don't remember my train ride back home.....but what I do remember is walking towards my apartment, past the park and seeing the same old men in the same place still doing to the same thing they were doing earlier that morning. I remember thinking.....they're so unaffected by all of it....Do they even know what happened today? One of the friendly faces I greeted each morning stopped what he was doing and said, "Baby girl, everything will be alright. They just want us to be scared, that's all." I don't know if he noticed the look on my face or if God was speaking through him, maybe both, but, I still remember being scared to death.
Back in my apartment I immediately went to look out my bedroom window. I was fortunate to have a top floor apartment that was situated at the top of a hill in DC. It overlooked all of NW Washington DC and across the Potomac into VA and MD - I had a GREAT view of the city. I knew what to expect when I looked out the window....I knew I'd be able to see the Pentagon. It was ablaze. That's when it hit me. I was immediately overcome.....I held it all in the whole day and I fell apart in that moment. I cried the entire night.
It wouldn't be until years later that I would understand that my reaction that night was complete and unbearable grief of the whole experience of living in that exact moment in time. No one I knew died. No one I knew was hurt. By the grace of God all of my family and friends were safe. I remember that day with such clarity and better than I can remember what happened just five minutes ago. It is a day that I will NEVER forget.....ever.....ever....EVER.
How do you remember 9/11? Share your story in the comments.
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