What follows is a short piece I wrote on September 12th, 2001. I wrote it to remind myself of my morning of September 11th and to help heal some of the pain I was feeling at the time.
A horrible catastrophe. A national tragedy. A day of infamy. Terror in America. These are some of words that have been used to describe what happened on September 11th, 2001, but as we all know, there are no words that could ever begin to describe the events, the emotions, or the aftermath of this horrific day.
The first email I read on the morning of September 9th, 2001 when I got into work, was from a friend in NYC. It read: “Oh shit .. a plane just hit the top of the world trade center …I can see it from my window here .. it just exploded.. o jeez..”
Shortly thereafter more emails came flooding in. Another plane, another twin tower explosion. Another plane, a direct strike on the Pentagon. Another plane, another crash just outside of Pittsburgh. Both of the twin towers collapsed.
An overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and fear immediately set in. For the first time in my life, I stopped what I was doing and questioned whether or not I was dreaming. I literally questioned if I was stuck in a horrible nightmare. Of course it took less than a second to realize that I wasn’t sleeping and that no matter how surreal life had suddenly become, everything I was experiencing was quite real.
Immediately, I feared for the safety of my fiance, Jonna, who works next door to Boston’s World Trade Center. Were the attacks over? If not, what would be the next target? The phone lines were all down and the only way to communicate was via email. With my hands shaking I sent the following email then ran for the door.
Meet me in your lobby in 15 minutes. I’m not fucking around. I want you OUT of there NOW.
As I half walked, half ran to to Jonna’s office I passed hundreds of people on the streets. Not one smile. I saw anger, terror and shock, but not one smile. I saw a man crying on a bus stop bench. I saw people’s initial reactions as cell phones rang to spread the news. I saw a woman scoop up her two children and run from the train station. I looked up and saw planes in the air, flying directly over Jonna’s office building towards Logan airport. As each one passed, I walked faster and faster, praying to God that if He were going to let anything happen, to at least let me get there first.
A handful of people were walking in the same direction as I was and no matter how fast I was moving, we all remained in the same cluster. No matter how fast my pace, their pace was always just as fast.
Jonna was outside waiting for me when I got there. I couldn’t speak. We jumped in her car and joined the hundreds of other cars driving quickly out of the city. We listened to the radio as we drove. I was still unable to speak, still in shock, still fighting back tears.
I immediately turned on the TV when we got home. Until then I had seen a handful of pictures that my friends had sent via E-mail, and I had listened to everything unravel on the radio, but nothing could have prepared me for the video footage. The planes slicing through those mammoth towers, the explosions, the people fleeing in every direction, the blood, the fear, the tears. As Jonna called her family to let them know we were OK, I walked into the bathroom and began to cry.
On this day, a day that none of us will ever forget, the veil of innocence was ripped from my eyes and instantaneously forced me to I become a cynical old man. I feel like life has changed forever and true happiness seems like a distant and faded memory. Yes, time heals all wounds, but the scars will remain forever.