Sunday, September 11th, 2011

What Were You Doing on September 11, 2001?

Twin Towers being struck by a plane, September 11, 2001.Years ago, at family get-togethers, I used to hear my grandparent’s ask, “What were you doing when Kennedy was shot?”

I was born long after the event, so these questions and answers felt more like a parlor game than shared remembrances — or shared horrors.

Everyone had a different story, each unique, and each remembered with such exacting detail that you could almost imagine yourself there as the tale was told.

I never dreamed I’d have my own such question to ask.

What were you doing on 9/11?

I was working in a federal building just outside of Washington, D.C. I was de facto Webmaster for a USDA agency, and working on a Web site. I’d just finished a particularly taxing page and popped over to Yahoo for a news break.

Yahoo was reporting that an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Buildings. It was a one-line story, breaking news, and they had no further details. No photo accompanied the story.

I had the foresight to hit “print” and capture the page. I still have it. It reads:

Plane Crashes Into World Trade Center
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A plane crashed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center Tuesday, witnesses said.

I’m glad I printed the story, because I was unable to visit my other go-to news sites for more information. The Internet was tied up. In a ‘denial of service’ caused by people wanting more information, servers became quickly overloaded.

I tried phoning the Husband of Awesome™, but phone systems and cell towers in the D.C. area were also tied up.

We had a small black-and-white TV in the break room, which got poor reception on good days, but I remember watching President Bush, interrupted while reading to a group of second-graders, stop and make a statement.

After the second plane strike, and the hit on the Pentagon, fear began to percolate in our building. We were the tallest Federal Building for miles around. Could we be the next target?

Federal employees were eventually told to evacuate their buildings and go home. Those inside the beltway had trouble getting out. Streets were packed, people apparently walked for miles to get home. Just outside the Beltway, the roads were like a ghost town. I remember getting onto the highway and being amazed that mine was the only car there.

After a while, a few more cars came onto the road, but the eerie feeling didn’t leave, even with their presence.

I got home, turned on the TV, and sat glued there for the rest of the day. Images of the planes hitting the towers were replayed over and over again. It’s changed the way I see airplanes.

To this day, I can’t look at a plane in the sky and not remember 9/11.

What were you doing on 9/11?

2 comments to What Were You Doing on September 11, 2001?

  • I was working at a financial planing/retirement company that handled 401(k) plans in the call center. We had a massive server, so all of us could keep refreshing for new information between panicked phone calls from people about the attack and their future investments.

    We didn’t close; we were not near much of anything. However, some people were allowed to go home if they needed.

    My manager did make sure each of us had time to use one of the outgoing, non-recorded, lines to call our family and friends.

    My mom never watches TV during the day nor does she surf the web or listen to news radio. So, she was shocked to hear me call, mid-day, with the first words out of my mouth being, “Don’t worry, I’m ok.” She turned on the TV when I told her and we shared a little bit of silence, then I brought her up to speed on all I heard. She said she would call my brother, who was in the military at that time, and let me know more that night.

    My brother never had to go overseas; he was on domestic assignment in DC. We were all thankful to God for that.

    On a more lighthearted note, you so cannot trademark “Husband-of-Awesome.” :p Unless you’re differentiating the lack of hyphens.

    • Hi Trish!

      What an interesting facet of 9/11. I haven’t heard any stories like this, with everyone being focused on the towers and the pentagon. I can’t imagine manning a call center at such a time (think of those people working the 911 switchboard!) and having to work with panicked people. What was it like?

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