Where Were You?

We just marked the 19th anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. To me it seems like just yesterday. I see the images and the feeling is still just so raw.

Where were you when the first plane hit?

My husband and I live in North Carolina now, but back in 2001 we were both living in New England. He was living in Rhode Island and I was living in Connecticut. I was 34 years old and single. I lived in a little place called Rowayton, CT, which is actually part of Norwalk. At one time it was a fishing village, before the money moved in. I was working in Greenwich, CT, right on the NY state border. Greenwich is the last CT exit on the highway before you hit NY. I was working as a project manager with a construction consulting business. One of my clients had their offices down on 43rd and 5th. My boss had another client in midtown, though now I can’t remember exactly where.

September 11th, 2001 I was already in our office by 8:30. It was a nice office, in an outbuilding on the boss’ estate in Greenwich. There was a nice little fireplace for chilly days and a flat screen TV mounted over it. I had the TV on most mornings and would watch the morning news and talk shows while I got my day started. On that morning I had the TV on and the boss was just packing up his briefcase with drawings and reports, getting ready to head out to Manhattan for a meeting. And then it happened.

I called over to him that maybe he should not go to the city because some fool had crashed a plane into one of the towers. It looked terrible but I think we all figured that those towers were indestructible. Years ago someone hit the Empire State Building with a plane and nothing really happened. Of course it was a much smaller plane, not full of fuel, etc. But still, as an American I thought we were untouchable on our own soil and thought it was some kind of accident. My boss glanced at the TV, agreed it looked like this was something that might cause a heck of a traffic issue but he wasn’t going to the financial district, so he kept packing. And then it happened.

While I sat there watching a second plane hit. I yelled over to him to stop packing. My mind was spinning – this was no accident. And then the Pentagon. And the other flight that crashed. It was like it was never going to stop. We just sat there the whole day glued to the TV wondering what was going to happen next. Where was it going to stop? Would they hit something even closer to home? Nuclear power plant? Oil tanks in New Haven? I wanted to go home. I just wanted to go home. When the towers came down it was like someone punched me right in the stomach. The whole world changed.

I don’t think I was there a full day. I think I left before 5:00 and drove home, hands shaking on the steering wheel, bursting out in tears from time to time. When I got home my roommate and I walked from the house down to the beach which was around the corner and we looked out across Long Island Sound. It was a clear day and we could see the smoke. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I sat watching TV, rewatching every moment of the horror over and over again. The people jumping from the towers, the blood-stained highway below, the buildings coming down over and over and over.

It was a half hour train ride from home to Grand Central. Our neighborhood was full of commuters. I don’t think any of them came home that night. Some of them got home a day or two later. Some of them never came home at all. Nineteen years later I can still feel the violence of that day. It’s like PTSD. There were years in between when I just couldn’t watch TV at all during the week of 9/11, I couldn’t watch those images anymore. It just hurt too much. But I also remember the feeling of unity that came from the tragedy. For a little while the whole world mourned with us. We were all New Yorkers for a while. People were a little kinder to each other. I think about that a lot this year because it seems like this year we’re more divided as a country than ever. Satan has played the Divide and Conquer card like never before. How many ways can we find to separate ourselves from others? By race, color, shade of color, religion, political affiliation, sexual preference, gender (and how many genders do there have to BE now, anyway?).

For just a little while we all seemed to be at peace with one another.

Where were you when the world changed?

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