A day like no other

I was working at an international organization on September 11, 2001 in Washington, D.C. as one of just a few Americans in the office. I was at my desk, working on my computer, when the head of the office, a man from Jamaica, came in to tell me that there had been an incident in New York City.

He told me to go to CNN which I did and we watched together in horror as the second plane hit the Twin Towers. He immediately left my office to find out what instructions he should be giving to employees about leaving the building and returning home. Several other staff members came in to my office to express their horror at what we were seeing and then quickly we realized we needed to leave the building. Several of us hugged and said goodbye, not knowing when we would be back in the office again. Everyone had the same expression of fright and horror on their faces - I remember thinking I had never experienced something that everyone I saw was also experiencing, that fear and horror, and the feeling was only reinforced when I left the building and began walking up Connecticut Avenue towards my home. Cars were jamming the streets but no one was honking or expressing impatience but rather all were silently in their cars, most likely listening to the radio and thinking about how they were going to get home.

The Pentagon was then hit and I could see in the distance the smoke from the fire there. I realized that for the first time in my life I was experiencing an attack on the United States and that we were effectively at war. I thought of Pearl Harbor and how the people experiencing that attack must have had the same feelings I had at that moment. I made my way home through a combination of metro and walking, all the while seeing people with the same expressions of fear and horror on their face. When I got home I took calls from family members from out of town asking if I was okay. I realized that I did not want to be alone so I called several neighbors who I knew were also home alone and together we decided to gather at one friend's house to watch the news.

As three of us walked to her house we passed a home where cars were pulling up and people were rushing out to enter the front door where a clearly distressed person was leading people inside. Later we learned that one of the people on the plane that had hit the Pentagon had lived in that house and had died in the explosion. I will never forget the feeling that everyone I saw was experiencing the same fear, horror and grief that I was as the reality of the situation sunk in and I will be forever grateful that I was able to join with friends to watch the events continue to unfold on that awful day.


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