Remembering 9/11

I will never forget 9/11/01.

I was barely twenty five years old (my birthday just two weeks before this), working as a receptionist/legal intern/research assistant/whatever was needed at the City of Dayton Prosecutor’s Office, waiting for my bar exam results on that day, and still had another 6-8 weeks to wait to see if I had passed.

I remember hearing one of the secretaries call out that someone had crashed a plane into one of the two towers. I initially thought it was a joke.

She had a small portable television on her desk, and we all ran to see what she was talking about. Even watching it on the tiny screen, I still thought it was a joke, like some Orson Wells broadcast that the Martians were coming to take over New York. Yeah, I’ve always had a weird imagination.

It didn’t take long before I realized that what I was looking at was no publicity stunt or practical joke or weird video from YouTube using some form of Photoshop. I was horrified, but we were also still working that day. We weren’t very productive as we watched, sick, as the second plane hit the other tower, and watched the reports of the crash in Pennsylvania and the crash at the Pentagon building. I worried for friends living outside of Washington, hoping they hadn’t been near the site, or trying to drive on the nearby highway when it happened.

The phone kept ringing, and we got some of the strangest phone calls we’d ever gotten. In between the crazy calls, we got calls from family members and friends asking if government buildings were going to close. I remember calling my dad at his office periodically to tell him what was going on as the day went on. I remember that some of our lawyers were in court and had no idea that their families were frantically calling the office trying to see when we’d all go home.

We started hearing word that the federal building in Dayton was going to close that day. My office was in the Safety Building in downtown Dayton, just two buildings away from the federal building. Just an hour or so later, we got word that the county offices were going to close, but we hadn’t heard anything about city offices. We watched out the windows as police officers put up sawhorse barricades on Third Street, and we wondered if we’d be able to get to our cars and drive home.

I finally left the office and headed home that day, marveling at the lines at the gas stations and the grocery stores. When I got home (not far from Wright Patterson Air Force Base at the time) I called my grandmother to check on her. As I spoke with her I heard the sonic boom of an airplane overheard. She heard it over the phone.

My sister, who was living in Fairborn at the time, decided to drive home. I stayed in Dayton, but spent a lot of time on the phone, checking on family and friends. I watched CNN all evening, wondering what would happen next.

Some years later, I got the opportunity to visit Ground Zero. I don’t care who you are, or what your politics are, it’s a moving site if you’re an American. I can’t even describe all the feelings as I stood there, and as Mom and I visited a nearby church where firefighters and first responders staged their rescue efforts. You could still feel the gouges in the wooden pews from their equipment, and feel awe-struck at their efforts and their bravery.

I am humbled by their sacrifice, and can say nothing more than thank you. And that seems inadequate for their sacrifices.

What do you remember from 9/11?