A Moment of Shared Time

The morning of 9/11/2001, I was running late and rushing out of my condo in Alexandria, VA, which was a little over one mile from the Pentagon. I was thankful to see my fellow commuter, Sandra Taylor, in the elevator because it meant my shuttle to the Pentagon Metro had not arrived. I commuted out of the Pentagon and arrived at my office on 17th street, NW, which is about three blocks from the White House. As other office mates arrived, there was chatter about some idiot hitting the World Trade Center in New York. It wasn’t until the second plane hit the second tower that we knew we were under attack. Soon there after, all the news websites wouldn’t load so we resorted to listening to the radio. We heard on the radio one of the towers collapsed. Their were rumors that the Capitol had been hit and eventually it was confirmed that the Pentagon also had been hit.

We were told to go home. All the Metro lines into Virginia had been shut down and bridges were partially closed. I decided to find my sister at American University instead of trying to make it home. I sat on a bus for an hour in heavy traffic, only making it a few blocks in DC. Very few cell phones were working because everyone was trying to communicate with loved ones, overburdening the system. I remember when someone on the bus received a cellphone call. Upon request from other bus passengers, the phone was passed around. People on the bus made requests of the stranger to contact their family members to let them know they were safe.

After an hour, I got off the bus and tried my luck on the Metro. It was nearly empty. Most people were concerned about a biological or chemical attack on a subway system. I made it easily to Tenleytown, and took a shuttle to campus. I found my sister, and we met up with friends who had an apartment in Northwest, DC, close to the Naval Observatory. From the apartment window we could see the smoke bellowing from the Pentagon. We watched the news coverage for hours. This is when I heard the name Al Qaeda for the first time.

The next day, I went back to work. On nearly every street corner, military personnel and police wore full protective gear with machine guns draped across their bodies. A couple of days later, I found out that Sandra Taylor, my commuting friend, died in the Pentagon the morning of September 11th.

It’s been 20 years, and any time I hear this question, I am brought back to that day with clear vision.

My thoughts today are with the families of those who were lost, frontline workers who responded, the leaders who needed to make hard decisions, and the military personnel who were called up or signed up to protect our country.

Thank you to all who sacrificed for us.

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