Tails – Where were you?

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You really gotta hand it to Barb over at Skittle’s Place for giving us all a chance to really think on these heads or tails challenge.  I know I am loving it…even though sometimes they are really HARD.

This weeks theme, where were you on 9/11/01 is definitely a hard one for everyone I think.  It’s emotional, gut wrenching, and was a day that touched all of our lives, in one way or another. 

That morning will always live in my mind like it was yesterday.  Add was 4 1/2 and I was working full time at The Natural Path in Fredericksburg. Addy went with me to work every day, I was very lucky.  We did a form of “unschooling” at the time, preparing him for kindergarten homeschooling which I planned to start the following fall.  We had a daily “work” that he had to do, while mommy did her work.  That day, being 9/11 is also national 911 day.  I had spent the morning on the computer printing coloring sheets from fire departments, educational sites, etc. on how to dial 911 in an emergency.  Add was plopped down in the floor having breakfast and watching the 1 millionth rerun of another arthur cartoon.  The tv and computer were both occupied with very specific things, and I missed the unfolding of events.

On our way to work, we passed the fire department, and got into a conversation about what his day’s work was.  We were about 2 blocks from my office when the conversation finally lagged, and I flipped on the radio.   What ensued was not at all what I had expected. 

A plane had struck the Pentagon.  “What?” I thought?? The man that was on the phone to the radio station was clearly upset, shouting about terrorist attacks, the plane, people in meelee on the streets, the fire, I won’t go into details.  Just as I begin to understand what he is saying, the line goes dead. and there is silence on the radio.  Announcer, clearly shaken, comes on and recaps the morning’s events.  I was dumbfounded.  I had arrived at work, snatched up addam and ran inside.  Barb NEVER missed the news, she could tell me what was going on.  As I ran thru the door, told her what I had heard about world trade center, I got “the look”.  Barb is not one to dole out “the look” casually, and I was confused.  She said “NO, that is not right.  I saw it on Good Morning America right before I came to work.  It was one plane, and it was an accident. You are getting it all mixed up.  It’s not terrorists.”  Barb, I said, you need to turn on the radio.  She seemed nonplussed, and did.  And there, in our very peaceful store, the entire story unfolded before our ears.  We sat in stony silence for a very long time, tears could not be stopped.  The shop opened late, just because neither of us could believe what was happening.  An automated call from my Daughter’s school told me that they were in lockdown, and parent pick-up would NOT be allowed.  It was an eerie, frightening time.  We had many clients who worked in DC, and several in the pentagon.  Were they safe?  How would we know.  What could we do. 

The first call we received was from her son.  He had been working on a roof in Alexandria.  They watched the entire thing happen.  Unprepared, uninformed, just mesmerized by a low flying plane directly over their heads that they watched crash moments later. They had heard about the first plane at World Trade Center as well, just before turning off the radio at work.  Realizing what was happening, they looked at one another, jumped in their car, and headed home.  It was the best move they could have made.  Within seemingly minutes, highways leaving the city were closed, blocked and impassable.

We later heard from a client who worked at a major government facility only moments from the site, that they were told it there was to be a test fire drill.  No, don’t bring your things, just move outside.  We’ll be back inside in moments.  After moving to the street, the doors to the facility were locked.  They were not allowed back in.  Other government offices did the same thing, as did other businesses.  The were on the streets of Washington, less than a mile from the crash site, locked out without keys, money, purses, jackets, nothing.  Police passed thru and informed them that no one was to be on the streets, they would have to move.  They began the long walk home.  Our client walked from DC to springfield (no small feat) down the side of I-95 before someone finally picked her up.  Traffic was at a standstill.  She didn’t make it home until after 8pm that night…her family with no knowledge of her whereabouts.  Telephone lines were turned off…or overwhelmed. 

Barb’s husband called.  He worked for a major power plant in the area and he was on lockdown as well.  But he was safe.  Her other son, working from home that day, also safe.  Her daughter was working not far from us, was fine as well.  Her friend, who worked at the pentagon, there was no news yet.  We later found out that she had taken the day off, and was fine.

At my daughter’s school, they were told there was a national emergency, and that the school would be in lockdown for the day.  TV’s were rolled out, and movies were shown.  Children who’s parents worked at any of the sites were called into the office and informed of the situation, and were released to parents who could get them to be with their families.  If the parents were not available, they were kept until a family member could pick them up.  Around eleven or so, they told the remainder of the children what was happening, and allowed them, if they chose to come to the auditorium to watch the news. She was 12, and watched it all unfold, surrounded by friend with which she could cry, and worry for the friends she knew had parents who worked at World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

I spent the day terrified, in shock, and just wanting to hold my children.  I knew my daughter was relatively safe where she was, and thankfully my son was with me.  I know a lot of people were not that lucky that day.  Too many people lost lives, and loved ones, on that sad day.

Although the situation did touch my life, I know how blessed I am not to have lost anyone in these heinous acts.  While in High School, I worked in one of the offices that was hit by the plane at the Pentagon.  One of my clients husband also had an office in that same corridor/ring.  He had TDY at another location that day.  Another friend worked in the basement level just below the carnage.  She was running late, and hadn’t gotten to work by the time it happened.  It amazes me the people who were running late, missed a bus, decided to take the day off, etc. and because of it, their lives were spared. 

It was over a year before I would watch any of the video footage from that day.  I simply couldn’t do it.  Because i had to be in DC the following weekend (it was less than 40 miles from where we lived) I did see the Pentagon.  I remember being in the car, crying, wanting not to look, not to know, and unable to erase the memory of what I had heard, had seen, on that day. 

Two years ago, I took the kids to visit ground zero.  It was my daughter’s 16th birthday, and our very first visit to NY.  This, next to Tiffany’s, was one of the things she wanted to see.  As we trudged in the fading daylight down wall street, I watched others walking, not talking, moving toward the fence that surrounds the site.  We stood together, arms around each other, we could only thank God that we were safe, and together. 

For those of you who have lost someone in this tragedy, my heart goes out to you.  And today, all of America is thinking of you, praying for you, and mourning for your loss.

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6 Comments

Filed under Heads or Tails

6 responses to “Tails – Where were you?

  1. I am reading these posts and am filled with such sadness as we all tell our memories. You and your boss knew people who could have been killed. And yes, the stories of those who called in sick, or were late to work are amazing.

    Let us never forget.

  2. What a beautiful, beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your memories. It’s so important for us to not forget them.

  3. what a great post. Thank you so much for sharing with us what you remembered on that day. It’s still difficult for me to watch footage too.

  4. What an amazing post. Thank you for sharing your experience. This is a day in history that no person will ever be able to forget.

  5. You write so well that I could easily understand what it was like to be in the middle of that on that day. The Washington area is actually so small, even when you include the Virginia suburbs. I know the roads had to be closed, but for me, that was the scariest thing. If I had to get my son, I would have been helpless, and that made me crazy. Thank you for writing.

  6. I’m tagging you with Eight Things About Me Meme.

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