"Never forget." Almost immediately after the attacks, those became the words of a generation. Much like many of our parents have the Kennedy assassination, we have 9/11/01.
I've always believed in the power of telling your story to heal, that's a huge part of why I write. I think on this day each year, we all feel the same way we did that day 12 years ago, so I thought we should share.
I had been living in Florida for about 4 years and was finally finding myself comfortable there. I had a doctor appointment that morning, so I went into work late. As I left the appointment, I had the radio on in the car, and I heard the DJ's talking about the World Trade Center and an explosion. Being just 26 at the time, I figured it was just the anniversary of the bombing that had happened in 1993, although I thought that was strange because I could have sworn it was cold out when that happened.
I got to the office, bounced in and without a glance, said hello to the two ladies who worked in the front office as I always did, but as I turned around from the time clock after I punched in (9:48 am), I realized something was different.
There was a TV in the office (that was new?) and the two owners of the company along with about five other people were quietly staring at this little 13" TV with blank stares. Someone was crying in the corner. I asked what was going on, and got "shh". I started watching the TV with them and it started coming together in pieces. I immediately thought of two friends I had who were living in the city and started crying not having any idea of the geography of where I knew they were living to where all of this was happening. I tried to call their cell phones, but of course, all I could get was a busy signal or the "Your call can not be completed as dialed" messages.
Then the news reported a plane down South of Pittsburgh. No details, just a rural area south of Pittsburgh. I realize that could be just about anywhere, well, south of Pittsburgh, but my heart sank and I ran to my desk to call my mom, who lived South of Pittsburgh. A lot of my family did. She was fine, and said she would let me know when we knew more, and she would try to reach my friend's moms. Of course, she was a mess and told me to be careful. My mom is a worrier anyway, and for something like this to be happening with no idea what was coming next, and 1000 miles in between us, she was a total wreck. Neither of us handle the unknown well.
The bosses decided to shut it down for the day and I think also the next day, I don't remember exactly how long, but it felt like I was on my couch glued to CNN for days, and every bit of comfort I was gaining in FL was fleeting and I wanted nothing more than to be back in WV with my family. Anxiety had a whole new meaning, having no idea what might happen next.
My job was at a handmade metal wall art/hand-carved wood manufacturer as inside sales/designer assistant/trade show sales hybrid. We had a show coming up in Atlanta that weekend, and the plan had been that I would be going alone to this one. The whole week, I was hoping they would keep the airports closed and that the show would be cancelled, but it didn't happen, and I had to get on a plane that same week. I begged my boss to let me drive, I really didn't want to fly on September 15, just two days after commercial flights had resumed in the US, but he said "It will be the safest flight you'll ever have, safer than driving." And he was right.
Flights from West Palm Beach to Atlanta are only about a two hours, more time is spent in the airports and on runways than in the air, but it was going to be the longest 2 hours I had ever had. Flying in general was still fairly new to me, I think I had flown maybe only a handful of times in my entire life at that point. It was so eerie to walk the concourses of PBI with armed men in fatigues and German Shepard dogs everywhere. But, it was indeed very secure, though alarming, and it was that day that the anxiety of flying really started to diminish for me.
Here's to the men and women who protect and serve the rest of us whether they're FD, PD, Armed Forces, nurses, doctors, 911 operators, or just civilians helping each other out.
Where were you that day?