That day has been implanted in my soul

Young man in army uniform with a desert military base in background

I remember arriving at my office in downtown DC a little after 0900, and the suite was empty. Everyone had gathered around a television set, so I went to see what all the commotion was about. One of my co-workers—I can still see her face but can’t remember her name—said that a small plane had accidentally flown into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in NYC. I could see smoke coming out of the building. Then, as we watched, we saw another plane fly directly into the second tower. I was shocked. It couldn’t have been an accident, I thought. But the word “terrorism” took awhile to enter my lexicon.

I immediately tried to call my son, who was attending Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus. I remember him saying something about wanting to see the restaurant Windows on the World, which was atop the World Trade Center. I couldn’t reach him. All circuits into Manhattan were understandably busy.

We were still transfixed on the TV when the third plane hit the Pentagon. I can’t remember which channel we were watching, but the commentator paused, touched his earpiece, and said something like “Wait, we’re getting reports that another plane hit the Pentagon!” That’s when we all screamed, and ran back to our desks, petrified. We kept hearing reports that another plane was on the way to DC, but we weren’t sure if the White House or the Capitol was the target. Our office was only a few blocks from the White House. Our CEO—who was working from home at the time—called and told us to evacuate because “fire truck ladders can’t reach the 7th floor of a building!”

I continued to try to reach my son. Because I couldn’t get through, I called his older brother, who was in the Navy and stationed in Hawaii. It must’ve been 4:00 in the morning there. I woke him up and told him to turn on the TV. He just kept saying “Oh my God; oh my God!” Then, I heard another phone ring, and he told me that it was work calling him to report in at once.

I called my husband to come pick me up because I wasn’t sure the subway was running. As I waited for him outside, another co-worker told me that the towers had collapsed. On our drive home (which was a crawl) we passed by several people who were walking. We stopped to pick up one guy who said he was walking to Maryland (but I can’t remember if we asked people if they wanted a ride to Montgomery County). No one spoke. On the way home, I got a call from my son’s friend to say that he was able to reach him, and that he was okay.

When we got home, I turned on the TV in the bedroom and just sat there, with the blankets pulled up around me.

That’s all I remember of the entire day. I don’t remember eating lunch or dinner. I’m pretty sure I heard from my sister, whose husband works at the Pentagon, but I can’t remember if it was on the same day. Cell phones were still pretty rudimentary. No texting; no scrolling; no social media sites.

The next day, I saw soldiers and armored vehicles on the streets of DC.

A few weeks later, my eldest son was deployed.

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