Monday, September 11, 2006

So Many Stories

On September 10th, 2001, my son and I played hooky. Instead of going to work and to school, we went to the National Zoo. We had lunch. And then we spent the afternoon in a part of Haines Point Park in Washington that lies in the flight path of jets landing at National Airport. We fed geese and waved at the pilots flying planes to their destination, at what seemed like mere feet above our heads. Don't worry - the pilots were concentrating. Although I'm sure they could see us,they did not wave back.

The next morning, we went back to real life. I was commuting from Maryland to Virginia, to an office in Tyson's Corner. The commute was, simply, long. That morning I had both Dave Koz and Bruce Hornsby in the CD deck, and I flipped back and forth between Together Again and The Way It Is the entire drive. I never turned on the news.

When I got to work, my coworker in the next door office called over. "Did you hear all the stuff that's happening?"

I hadn't.

"A plane crashed into the World Trade Center. And there's been a bomb at the Pentagon."

This was still before everyone knew. It was bad news, but not bad enough to stop me in my tracks. I went and got my morning Diet Pepsi. I logged on to email and answered a few. And then I noticed that the normal hustle and bustle office I worked in was silent.

So I got up. I went next door to find my coworker, a man who never showed any emotion, crying at his desk. He just looked at me. I continued down the hall to find the rest of my department crammed into another coworker's office. She had a television.

I walked in at the exact moment the first tower fell.

I remember asking what that was, what was going on. Someone told me it was one of the World Trade Center towers. And by the way, that bomb at the Pentagon? Was not a bomb. It was a plane. We were being attacked.

I remember shaking, telling my boss I thought I needed to leave so I could go get my son. I asked her if I was overreacting.

"No. You aren't overreacting. Everyone, go home."

The roads were clogged. You couldn't drive into DC, so the beltway was a mess. Everyone was in their car doing the same thing: inching forward, and pressing redial on the cell phones. Every so often you could actually get through. I was calling everyone, trying to see who could get to my son's school first. I either wasn't connecting or when I did, not getting an answer. Finally, I reached my father. I told him we were being attacked; he said he knew. I told him I was scared.

As it turned out, seven people, including my father, steered themselves toward my son's school that morning. By the time I reached a drive-able road, I was getting calls that he was fine.

I went home, and spent the rest of the afternoon watching the news and calling friends. Thankfully, everyone I knew or knew of, was fine.

Over the past five years, I've sat and listened to so many stories. I always cry.

There was the best man at our wedding, who was driving into DC to work, when he saw a commercial airliner cruise down the street and over his head, as if it were going to land on his car. Instinctively, he ducked. "I remember saying, 'what the hell?'"

There was my coworker, who sat at her desk pressing redial, trying to reach her mother, who worked in the Pentagon. Her mother survived, and had to go into therapy.

There was my client, who's father worked for the CIA, and had always cautioned her to keep a roll of quarters in her desk at work in Manhatten. She recalls grabbing those quarters, and walking home with hundreds of people in total silence. "Some people didn't have on the right shoes for walking," she remembers. "So stores on the way were handing out sneakers, for free."

There was my husband, at work on the campus of George Washington University, stuck in his building and calming people down.

There was a friend, at work in a downtown DC law firm. When I asked him how he got back to his home in Prince George's County, Maryland, he said, "I walked."

And there is me. Driving to work one morning, the weather beautiful, the music blaring. Not knowing that it would be the last morning for a long time that I would be able to bring myself to listen to a CD all the way to work again.

There is me. And my son. Playing with planes in Washington, DC., less than twenty four hours before the world as we know it would change, because of planes.

And that's my story.


kerry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Champagne on Tuesdays said...

Thanks for the compliment! I edited your comment only because it contained my name. :)

kerry said...

oops sorry Mz Mannerz :)