The Pentagon, the State Department, and USA Today have been bombed
September 11th, 2001 started off as a beautiful day - a sunny, sparkling morning with a touch of fall in the air. I hurried into Washington, D.C. early from my home in suburban Virginia because my boss and I were participating in large business coalition meeting that morning. The coalition was seeking to insert stronger math and science standards into the “No Child Left Behind” education reform legislation and this was an important strategy meeting.
As we left our office building for the meeting, someone in the lobby said: “A plane has hit one of Twin Towers in New York.” I looked at my boss and said: “plane accident?” and he looked back at me and said, “terrorist attack?” Neither of us knew what was happening but as we went to the meeting in a cab, the driver was listening to a radio station feed from New York.
People were late to the coalition meeting but we decided to get started and just as we began, someone’s pager went off and a man stepped out of the room. He soon returned and announced very dramatically: “We must stop this meeting, the Pentagon, the State Department, and USA Today have all been bombed.” We were in shock. I remember being so frightened that I refused to take the elevator and insisted we walk down the stairs down to the street.
When we arrived back to our office – a few blocks from the White House, I called my dad, the retired Chief of Air Space for the Federal Aviation Administration and asked him what happened. He said he didn’t know. We still thought a small plane had hit the tower. Next, I called my husband who said, “I talked to Jeff and he’s okay.” I asked, “why did you call Jeff?” and he told me a commercial airliner had hit the Pentagon. Our friend Jeff was working in a construction trailer located on the side of the Pentagon where the plane hit. So as I was trying to process all of this information, my husband then said, “there is another plane headed toward Washington.” I immediately replied: “Well, they know about this now so they will shoot it down.”
I remember telling myself to stay calm and thinking that I had never given any thought to what I would do if D.C. was being attacked – being a child of the 1960’s, I had always assumed an attack on our country would be nuclear. Outside we could see hundreds of people streaming north up Connecticut Avenue away from the White House. My boss and his wife – co-owners of the company – decided we should evacuate from the city center and kindly offered their home as refuge. It was rumored that all bridges connecting Virginia with D.C., as well as the metro, were closed so many of us had no way to get home. They arranged carpools and we went to their house. We spent the next few hours sharing a steak my boss grilled for us and drinking a beer. Senator Biden was on the television trying to calm a scared nation.
Later that afternoon when we heard the metro was running, a colleague and I headed to the Tenleytown metro station to make our way back to Virginia – commercial flights now banned and F16’s circling above us. There was no one else on the street. As we descended down the escalator, someone called out my name and I turned to see my nephew Evan – a Capitol Hill staffer who had also fled uptown and was returning back to Virginia. Jeff, Evan, and I traveled back on the metro and joined the rest of the nation to watch the shock and horror that was September 11, 2001.