Thursday, September 11, 2008

Never Forget...

Over the course of the last seven years, I have told this story countless times, but I have never recorded it anywhere. Perhaps it is due to the strength of the emotions I feel about this day that I've never written it before. Perhaps it's due to the failure of this limited English language that cannot capture just how deep the events of this day struck me. But today, for the first time, I record my story of September 11, 2001, the day when evil cowards struck a civilian target and inadvertently rallied a nation.

I was sleeping soundly at home on a warm Tuesday morning in Arlington, Texas. Amy was in the bathroom getting ready to leave for school when my radio alarm clock awoke me from a perfectly good state of sleep. I slowly opened my eyes and laid in bed as the radio played a song. I have to admit, I was listening to Kidd Kraddick and I think they had a guest in the studio playing some song that I don't remember at all.

After the song finished Kidd came on the radio and said, "We didn't want to interrupt the song, but there's news that an airplane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York."

I jumped out of my half-sleep/half-awake state and yelled into the bathroom, "Amy! Come out! Turn on the TV! An airplane crashed into a building in New York."

In hindsight her reply was more poignant that I could have ever imagined. She asked, "Was it an accident?"

"Of course it was an accident!" I replied. "Why would someone do that on purpose?"

We turned on the TV and saw a building a cloud of black smoke coming out of the top of it. This is similar to what was on the screen.

I thought it was a tape of the crash and since I could only see one building on the screen, my first thought was, "That building's already on fire. What's going on?"

Then the commentator said, "Oh my God! A second plane has just hit the other tower."

Then I, along with the rest of the country thought, "We're at war."

Amy and I sat and watched in horror as the time clicked closer for us to go to class. Then there was a report of an explosion at the Pentagon. When that news broke, I new the world had changed. This would be a day that none of us would ever or could ever forget.

Amy and I just kept asking each other, "What about all of those people? How are they going to get them down?" The most terrible thing I have ever seen came across the screen.


How bad must it have been up there for people to make the decision that it's better to die falling from 90+ stories in the air?

I called my mom, who was already teaching her third grade class. I asked the front desk to put me through to her. She picked up the phone and said, "Hello?"

I said, "Are you watching TV?"

"No," she replied. "I'm teaching."

Tears began to blur my vision and weeping cracked my voice. "Turn on a TV. Someone has attacked us. They flew 2 planes into the World Trade Center and we just heard they've hit the Pentagon."


"Yeah... someone... terrorists... something. We're under attack."

After hanging up with her, it was time to go to class. I'm still not sure why Amy and I went to class that day. On the way there, we heard on the radio that the second tower to be struck had collapsed.

At this point it was impossible to comprehend the devestation of what we saw and heard that day. We thought it couldn't get any worse.

Until the other tower fell too. I sat in class listening to the radio, not paying a whole lot of attention to the teacher who was trying to lead a class discussion, but nobody wanted to discuss anything.

He released class early and I raced back home to see what else had happened and to call my boss to see if I needed to come in.

I was working at a hotel in the middle of DFW Airport at the time and, to be honest, I didn't want to go anywhere that had planes flying nearby constantly. He said to come on in, so I prepared to leave for work.

All of the flights in the US were grounded. This is what the traffic around DFW airport looks like most of the time.


Imagine looking up and seeing no airplanes at all. It's as if the sky has actually fallen. The air traffic is as regular as the sun and stars.

Driving into the airport was surreal. There was very little traffic. No planes were taking off or landing. When I got to the hotel, however, things were very different.

There were people EVERYWHERE! Thousands of people were stranded in Dallas since their plane had been diverted to the nearest airport. We had televisions set up all over the hotel and clumps of people gathered around them to see what was happening.

I went about my job, removing the AV equipment from meeting rooms and setting it up in other rooms. One of the meetings had just let out about 4:30 and I heard a couple of the gentlemen talking.

One guy said to the other, "Well I need to run before I miss my flight."

I inturrupted, "Excuse me, sir. I don't think your flight is going to be leaving today."

He said, "What?"

I explained, "Well..." choking back a tear, "all air traffic has been suspended in the country."

"What? What happened?"

I couldn't believe nobody had told the people in this meeting, so I said, "I think you need to go to the lobby and watch the TV's up there."

It was a long night working until 10:00. I made my way home and gave Amy a hug as we sat down to talk about the days events and watch the search and rescue people in action on the pile of rubble from the disasterous morning. Early estimates were that it would take months to clean up the mess and there was little hope of finding anyone alive.

What a terrible day. We must never forget.

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