Saturday, September 10, 2011

Memories of 9/11

I don't talk about my 9/11 experience all that much.  It was very traumatic for me.  But as the story starts for most people, it was a beautiful clear morning in DC.  I happened to have a doctor's appointment that morning and was going to work late.  As my usual practice in the mornings, I was listening to a book on tape while I was driving down the road. 

I left the house before the first plane hit The World Trade Center.  I had no idea what was going on around me that morning.  I stopped at a store and was in and out so fast that I didn't really pay attention to the group of people that seemed to be in big circle.  I don't know what I thought they were doing, but looking back at it, they must have been listening to the radio reports. 

I got onto the beltway and made my way to 395 and headed into DC for my appointment.  For those that don't live around here, the beltway does not actually pass through DC.  If you want to get into The District you need to take another roadway that will bring you into the city.  395 is the roadway that runs parallel alongside The Pentagon. 

I started to notice this huge shadow for a lack of a better word.  I also heard this really loud sound.  I started looking up and realized a plane was heading towards me.  Now, planes flying over The Pentagon was not an unusual site as National Airport is only a few miles down the road.  Planes would fly in at strange angles and make a sharp turn and head out towards the river to land a few miles away.  Matter of fact, you still see that today. 

But this plane was going way too fast and it was obvious it was going to crash.  I am not sure that I realized it at the time, but the plane was not in distress.  It had a target.  That target was The Pentagon.  It was a very scary few minutes because I honestly thought that it was going to crash onto the roadway and I was going to die.  Within seconds the plane hit the building and went up into a fireball.  The ground was shaking from the impact and the smoke was thick and so black, I had never seen anything like that before.  I hope to never experience that sight again, either. 

The people who were also driving down the road just stopped.  Some got out of the cars, while others did not, because you could feel the heat.  I personally was crying hysterically by this point because I just watched people die.  It wasn't until a few days later that I found out that I knew someone on that plane.  I can't say we were really friends, but social events brought us together on occasion.  She was a very nice lady who I had really admired. 

It didn't take long before there were police, military personnel, fire fighters, and every other imaginable emergency people on the scene.  We couldn't go anywhere, we were just stuck on the roadway.  I am not sure how long it took before the building collapsed in one section and even more smoke started pouring out of the building.  I was thinking about a woman I worked with at the time because her husband was retired military and worked in that building.  I was on my knees and praying that they get everyone out. 

I finally made my way over to a nearby mall.  I still was relatively unaware of what was happening in New York until I got to the Best Buy and the TV's were on CNN and by this point the towers had collapsed.  There were military tanks surrounding the roadways by the Pentagon, all the bridges were closed, the metro system was closed down in that area, and people had no way to get home but to walk.  You just saw streams of people walking over the bridges to try and get to a bus or a taxi to get home.  You heard military planes and helicopters in the sky.  People were in shock and many were in tears. 

It took me five hours to get home after that.  The road that ran alongside of the military base was already closed, and has yet to reopen.  Once I got home I heard that the airspace in the country had been closed down.  But, I lived near the army base Fort Belvoir at the time, they had planes flying which scared the crap out of me, because I didn't know if they were military or not.  I couldn't sleep that night.  I was glued to CNN and fielding phone calls from relatives and friends who were worried about me.  I am not sure why, since I didn't work in The Pentagon, but I guess with all the confusion and upset of the day, they just wanted the reassurance that I was fine.  But, I wasn't fine.  I have never looked at the world the same way since. 

I finally decided that I needed to get some food to the people who were working at The Pentagon.  It took me two hours to find an open store and I went home and baked some brownies, made some sandwiches, and got two cases of water.  They were not letting anyone near the Pentagon, I got stopped along the way and gave the things to a police officer.  I don't know if they ever made to the rescue workers or not.  But I had to do something.  I then went back home and was glued to CNN until it was time to go to work the next morning.  Luckily, my co-worker's husband was fine.  He was in another part of building.  But, sadly a college roommate of another co-worker wasn't so lucky.  He didn't make it out that day.  I talked to my friend Martha to find out about her brother in law who worked on Wall Street at the time, and he made it home to his wife and kids in one piece.  Someone that I sorta kinda knew in CT was missing from what I heard.  He never did make it home, nor was he ever found.  He worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, I think. 

It was an awful time in this country.  One of the worst of my lifetime.  I get a real laugh from the people who say we need to move on.  I also get incensed when I hear that we should turn into a national holiday.  Why, so we can end up at the sales at the mall in a few years?  This is a day that we should mark in our own ways.  We all have our memories of what we lost that day.  For some it is a simple as the innocence that the oceans kept us safe, but for others, it was a loved one.  Many of the families that lost someone that day, never got a body to bury.  Never got to have a final viewing which is part of the healing process for most families in this country. 

That is my memory of 9-11.  A day that I will never forget. 

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