I wasn't going to write anything about today. I don't have any extraordinary memories of that day 10 years ago. I wasn't in New York or Washington at the time. No one I knew was involved in the tragedy. I didn't figure I really had anything to add to the national discussion.
And yet, as the day has gone on, I find myself choking up. I remember where I was, what I was doing, the thoughts I had. I may not have any special insight to offer, but I thought I'd share my story.
It was an average Tuesday morning. I was driving along the Kennedy Expressway headed to work. I had on the radio and the hosts were talking about a news report I'd just missed that said a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. Only half listening as I battled the morning rush, I figured I must have heard wrong. Maybe they meant a small private plane had somehow gone off course and clipped an antenna or something. Just then, they broke into the chatter to report that a second plane had hit the second tower. A cold chill went down my spine. One plane was likely an accident. Two planes had to have been planned.
I got to the office and found everybody clustered around the TV in the break room. I watched a replay of the crashes. And another. And another. After a dozen times or more, I went to my desk and switched on my computer. I couldn't watch it again just then.
Sometime after I'd cleared out my e-mail inbox, my boss walked past carrying the TV into his office. He came back out and announced that anybody who wanted to watch was welcome to come in and do so. I went in a while later. I was just in time to see the first tower collapse. I sat with several of my coworkers watching more replays of the planes crashing into the towers and the Pentagon that morning.
Interspersed were scenes of people on the streets of New York stumbling and running through the confusion and the rubble, some with injuries, many with cloths tied over their mouths and noses to keep out the dust. I couldn't believe I was watching live footage of New York, of anywhere in the US. I thought it looked like news reports from the Middle East--all dusty and messy and war-torn.
After the second tower fell, my boss announced that anyone who wanted to go home and be with their families was free to do so. I thought about leaving, but wasn't sure where to go. I lived alone. I had some family in the area, but nobody I felt a pressing need to see.
I thought about leaving and just going home or driving around, but decided I really didn't want to be on my own. I stayed for a while, continuing to watch the news, listening to other people talk about what had happened, not knowing what to say myself.
I thought about the previous attempt to knock down the towers. I was in high school at the time, living in New York, just an hour north of midtown. I had a friend from church who worked in the South Tower. I remember watching the news in my living room that afternoon, wondering if he was all right.
I thought about how that attack was scary, but hadn't been terribly successful. I considered with wry irony that the second attempt had gone so much better for those who'd planned it.
Eventually, I went to my aunt's house. I spent the night there and we did silly normal things like make popcorn and watch old movies. Then we went to bed and pretended that so much hadn't changed.