Wow, it’s now been 8 years since that horrible day back on Sept 11, 2001. So many thoughts and memories —
I remember being in my office at AOL at around 8:30 am on Tues, Sept 11. I remember when I drove to work that day that it was simply a gorgeous and beautiful day … a perfect Fall day … sunny and clear with mild temps.
I was checking out the site of one of my partners, CNN.com, at around 8:45 am. I shouted out to a co-worker that I loved that they had a photo caption of Michael Jordan on the front page. Then, 5 minutes later, one of my co-workers mentioned a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. They reported it was a small plane so I thought it was an accident.
Then, over the next hour, the horrific news rolled out as not just one, but two planes crashed into the World Trade Centers. I remember watching with dread as the towers came crashing down. We all had the same reaction … “no f’ing way!”
Then, the news came out about a plane possibly targeting Washington, DC. Man, was I mad!
People couldn’t get through to each other on land line or cell phone, so people started emailing and instant messaging to find out about their loved ones in NY. AOL management realized that we might be a potential target for the terrorists since we were the largest service in terms of instant messaging and email. So, they sent the employees home for our safety (essential employees who were manning the tech centers courageously stayed there to keep the systems working).
A group of us went to a nearby co-worker’s home … we gathered to watch the news … and we continue to remain stunned. After doing a quick lunch on the way home, I headed back to Arlington. I live 1/4 mile outside of DC – next to Key Bridge. When I got within about 1.5 miles from my house, the roads were blocked and barricaded. I had to leave my car in a strip mall on Lee Highway and I walked towards my house with my laptop in tow.
The Pentagon, which was the third building hit by the terrorists, is about a 5-minute drive from my house. I could see the black smoke billowing in the sky as I trudged home. It was simply a surreal scene — I encountered dozens and dozens of people walking out of DC into Virginia. They had concerned and worried looks on their faces. I couldn’t blame them. We had no idea what was next — were the terrorists going to attack the White House? The US Capitol? The Lincoln Memorial?
After getting home in the early afternoon, I watched the news for hours — then I got on my bike and trekked over to the Pentagon. It’s a sight I will never forget. Yellow police tape everywhere … black and gray smoke blasting into the sky … sirens from police cars, fire trucks and ambulances. Was this really going on? Or, was I dreaming this? Or, were they shooting a movie scene? Just incredulous.
I then rode my bike into the city – near the Jefferson Memorial at around 6:00 pm. Again, yellow police tape everywhere but there was total silence. I saw very few people — most people had scurried home. Normally at 6:00 pm, the 14 St Bridge is filled with commuter traffic but not on this day.
I had just purchased a townhouse in Rosslyn the month before the terrorists attack. The townhouse is right next to Key Bridge, overlooks the Potomac River and is directly across from Georgetown University. I love hanging out on my deck. But, in the first month there, I noticed that the planes flying over the river towards Reagan National Airport were quite loud. But, on that evening of 9/11, it was eerily quiet as the airport was shut down.
There were helicopters constantly flying over the Potomac River at all hours of the night. The bright search lights illuminated throughout the night — probably in search of other potential terrorists. And, one could hear the military jets that were high above in the sky and patrolling the Nation’s Capital.
The following morning I took an early morning bike ride to the Pentagon so I could pray and pay respects to the victims and their families. Again, it was eerily quite and the smoke continued to billow into the beautiful sky.
I also noticed when I was sitting on my deck how quiet it now without the planes constantly flying over the river towards the airport. It was during that week that I vowed to never complain to myself about the loud noise of the planes — the airport was shut down for the rest of September. Because, I knew, once I saw and heard the planes again, it meant life was going to be to normal (almost). It’s 8 years later and I’m sticking to that vow.
I will continue to pray for strength for the victims, families and friends of 9/11. It was a day we will never forget. Whenever I go to Arlington National Cemetery to pay respects to my father, Uncle Art, General and Mrs Guthrie, I also pay my respects to the the many military soldiers that have given their life to protect our country. God Bless.