September 11, 2007

Uh-Oh!

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Last year, I maintained "Silent Respect" for this day. Today, I do some therapy.

UH-OH! That was my first reaction six years ago as I saw smoke billowing from one of the World Trade Towers. The time was 7:55 AM CST.

I didn't realize how much of an understatement that "Uh-Oh" would turn out to be.

The day started as many do, without much going on, nice day, the mornings were starting to get a little cooler, which I would enjoy for my morning runs. I headed out to drive to work at around 6:45 AM to get to there by seven.

At 7 AM I was checking e-mails, surfing the news sites, and doing a few of the morning tasks I accomplish everyday. Work has been slowing down, as the project I was working on had been "restructured" and I was one of few that had survived the downsizing, the mornings were much quieter than a week ago. I was enjoying the lull in my usual hectic day.

At 7:30 AM, Sheila, the other programmer from my team who had survived the cuts, arrived. I quickly went over what I was planning to do that day, mainly trying to save and backup the work that had already been done, just in case the pointy-hair guys change their minds again.

About 7:50 we headed down to the second floor cafeteria to get some coffee and breakfast. I only got coffee and was at the cashier when I looked up and saw a crowd around the TV in the dining area. I said "Uh-Oh!" The cashier looked and shrugged her shoulders and made a face one makes when they don't know what's going on. I could barely see the TV, and I said something about a building on fire. I walk over to the crowd and see that it is one of the WTC towers.

My first thought was that another terrorist attack had taken place at the WTC, but I was thinking a bomb had gone off. I remember hearing past warnings from intelligence analysts and news opinionators that the towers would be a target again. As I got closer to the TV and had a clearer view of the picture I heard that a plane had crashed into the building. Now I thought it was a tragic random accident. I looked at my watch, it was almost 8:00 AM. I wanted to get to my desk so I could read the news about this "accident" on the Internet news sites, but I was waiting for Sheila who was probably getting some breakfast with her coffee.

Sheila walked up a few minutes later and she had said someone had told her about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. We watched the live news coverage from the helicopter cameras that were covering this news. I had also thought at the time that it had just been a small private plane that hit the tower, even though the smoke billowing from the damage should have told me that it was not.

Then the TV news camera started following another plane near the WTC. Again, I didn't think the worse, I was thinking that it was some pilot trying to get a closer look at burning tower.

Then we saw the second plane hit the tower. We saw it live and were stunned, waiting for the news to say something, but there was silence. I couldn't believe what I just saw, it was clearly a passenger airline. Everyone was quiet for what seemed like many minutes. The news finally came back and said something along the lines of "Did we just see what I think we saw....." . They were just as shocked as everyone else. I turned to Sheila and I clearly remember saying "That was the most disturbing thing I have ever witnessed". We all realized then, this was no accident.

Little did we know then the level of horror the next hours would bring, how much more disturbing that day would become.

Sheila was taking it well, I thought. Then, even before she had her breakfast, she told our manager exactly everything she thought was wrong with our project, how incompetent he is, and what he needed to do to fix it. Within an hour, she would be let go, leaving me as the sole person responsible for this portion of our project. I wanted to run.

THEN

The Pentagon was hit. I knew people there. I worked there from 1993-1996. Now it was getting personal. Oh, Shit.

My manager came by to see me and wanted to talk about having to let Sheila go, I didn't want to talk now, maybe tomorrow, I can't think right now. He didn't even know what was going on, and when I told him, it was like he didn't believe me, like I was passing on exaggerated gossip. I can't blame him, I would have had the same reaction if someone had told me all this shit was happening. He needed me to focus on the project not jump the ship because all the other programmers were gone, blah, blah, blah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I'm not running (yet).

I ran down to the cafeteria, where a packed crowd had made it standing room only in front of the TV, I could barely see. Someone had told me that one of the towers had completely collapsed, and a section of the Pentagon, also. OKay, I'm going home!

I should have just left without telling anyone. When I told the secretary, she had said that our managers called a mandatory meeting to develop project goals. I knew what they were doing, trying to keep people at work and get their minds off of the events in New York and DC. They opened the meeting and told us how important our work was to our customers and that we were needed at work to keep things going, after all, we were the phone company (I was working at BellSouth). I couldn't focus on what they were saying at the meeting, I just wanted to leave.

I ended up going home at the regular time. The gas stations and stores I passed on the way home were packed. I just wanted to get somewhere quiet, to talk to my family. It seems nothing had been going right in my life for the past year and a half. Everything was turning to shit, and it felt like it was my fault. I left the military, left my family, and this is what happens, the whole world turns goes crazy. I'm a very modest man, I know I don't have much effect in the world, these thoughts were very unusual for me.

.

6 comments:

Nancybee said...

I have no words...
Hugs...
XOXOXOXOX

angry ballerina said...

Nick, thanks for sharing your personal experiences with 9/11.. . . God that was fucking lame of me to write...whatever....I'm gonna go break something now.

mad said...

Someone in my company was supposed to be on one of the 9/11 planes out of Boston. But she forgot to set the alarm and missed her flight. She's haunted by it to this day.

azgoddess said...

wow - thanks for sharing - i happened to have a dentist appt and was in the chair when they turned the normal music channel to news...and i listened to the happenings....not believing that we could do this to ourselves...

so much has happened since then...out eyes have been opened to the horrors we perpetuate overseas...hugs!!

Evil Spock said...

You don't want to know what I did on 9/11, perhaps I'll write about it next year . . .

Mauigirl said...

Thanks for sharing your experience of 9/11. We spent this evening remembering what we were doing on 9/11 with another friend of ours. My husband was affected the most by 9/11 since he worked not far from the World Trade Center and saw the second plane hit, live, in person. Since then he has gotten transferred to his company's other office; going into NYC every day was depressing him after what he saw.

I wasn't at my usual place of work, but in another office that day, so it was strange being around a lot of people I didn't know well, during such a traumatic experience.