Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th

It’s hard to believe it has been 8 years since the September 11th attacks. I look at all that has happened in my life since that day and I realize that it should seem like 8 years, maybe even longer, but when the anniversary hits, my memories of that day seem so vivid. Like it was just yesterday. I thought it was the appropriate time to share my story.

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. A beautiful Tuesday. The sun was shining, and there were only a few clouds in the bright blue sky. I rode to work on the bus as I did everyday. Got to work on time. I was 22 and only 11 days away from my wedding. I was on cloud nine. Nothing seemed odd that day, until my co-worker Mary came in and said that her husband just called and said that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. Mary’s husband was known for making prank calls to our office, so I said “is he joking? That couldn’t have happened.” She said “no, he said he’s not joking.” I asked my supervisor if we could watch her TV to check, and sure enough, we watched in horror as smoke billowed out of the buildings. How could something like this happen. Not long after, the Pentagon was hit. Panic started to spread as I realized how close this was to where I worked. Not a minute after the Pentagon report came in, another co-worker called in from travel. She was crying and yelling on the phone “Suzanne, what in the world is going on??!!?” I tried my best to calm her. Now that I am a mom, I can understand how hard it would be to away from your child at a time like this. I know she must have been worried sick for her son’s safety.

I can remember receiving very little instruction as to what we should do. I remember waiting for some guidance, guidance that never came. I got calls from friends making sure I was ok, I talked to my Mom trying to devise a plan to get out of the city, and of course I got a call from Matt, telling me to get the hell out of there no matter what it took. I finally told my boss that I wanted to leave. Here we were on the 6th floor of a federal building smack in the middle of DC only blocks from the White House and blocks from the Capitol. I went downstairs to where my Aunt worked and sat with her until I figured out a way to leave. At this point, it seemed like hours had gone by, I don’t remember ever looking at the clock. I’m sure only 30 minutes had passed. While I waited with my Aunt and a few other co-workers we watched TV. There were so many false reports that day. One said the State Department had been hit. Another said there were car bombs going off. And then there was the missing plane. The one headed for DC that no one could find. This would be the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. I had managed to stay relatively calm up until the point that they announced there was a missing plane. At that point, I completely lost my composure. I have never been so scared. I was scared to stay, scared to leave for fear that a bomb would go off as I was trying to escape. I had to do something. It was very hard getting a hold of anyone that day. The phone lines were jammed. I finally reached my mom and I decided to ride the Metro over to her building on the outskirts of town. As I left I remember the guard saying “what are you still doing here? This is the last place you want to be.” No kidding. He opened the huge metal doors to let me out, and sealed them back up the minute I was out. Complete lock down.

The streets were filled with distraught looking people. The road was complete gridlock. I knew the Metro wasn’t going to be any better, but I had to try. Eventually, I would get out of there. As I expected, the platform was packed. When I finally got close enough to get on a train, the car that ended up in front of me was packed. As the door opened, I just looked hopelessly at all of the people and knew there wasn’t enough room. A man said to me, “come on, we’ll get you on here.” Then he yelled, “ok, everybody, suck it up!” And they did. By some miracle, I fit. The same man then asked me if I was ok. I was far from ok, but then again, I was much better than the thousands of people that lost their lives. I was much better than all of those people who didn’t know if there family members were alive. People were so kind that day and the ones that followed. It was comforting to know, that in a time of darkness, the good in people still could shine through. I made it to my mom and we got in the car and sat in traffic for what seemed like a year. We listened to the radio in disbelief, mentally drained and in shock. When we got to the Navy Yard, we noticed that the military guards were standing in the street with machine guns. Not at their sides, holding them, ready to fire. Never in my life did I ever think that I would witness something so horrible. I pray that I never will again.

We eventually made it back to my Mom’s house. I have no clue what time. Time meant nothing that day. Matt picked me up later that evening. I don’t think he has ever hugged me so hard. I fully expected that the government would be closed the next day, but there I was the next morning, back on the bus heading to DC. I was scared, I was sad, I was exhausted. Everyone was so quite. All still stunned form the events the day before. I don’t think things have ever been quite the same.

My life went on. I got married, I bought a house, sold a house and built a new one, I changed jobs, I had two children. So much has changed for me, but this day, September 11th will always remind me of what happened 8 years ago. It will always be fresh. The emotion is still there. I will never forget.

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