If you’re of a certain age in the United States and beyond, you likely have a “Where were you when…” story regarding September 11, 2001.
I was living in Los Angeles, still in my parent’s house. My youngest brother opened my room door and said something like “Guess what? A plane crashed into the World Trade Center!”
Heh. I brushed that off, and likely expressed my disbelief, too. That jokester boy woke me up to tell me some nonsense. Sheesh.
I turned over to get back to sleep. His words were so easy to disbelieve because not only is he a jokester with an ever-present sense of humor, but he has such a natural smile. He was telling me, but I saw so many of his smiling teeth, it was hard to believe.
Besides, a plane crashed into the Trade Center before—a small Cessna-type thing.
But did he say commercial jets? Did he say two? This part I can’t recall. But something was different about the information he gave.
I thought about it. He’s a jokester, yes. He has an easy smile, yes. But even he wouldn’t joke about something like this!
So I turned on the TV…
Both towers, smoldering. Uncertainty over missing flights that might be headed to the White House and the Capitol.
Then word a plane slammed into the Pentagon.
Glued. To. The. TV. Who, when, what, how, WHY, WHY, WHY? Were the questions running through my mind.
Underneath my covers, watching…one network anchor was saying/wondering about something new happening at one of the towers… While he was talking, MY eyes and brain asked me “Is it falling down?” Then TOLD me “It’s falling down!!!!” First one tower, then the other.
Swirling about was the uncertainty about a flight somewhere…headed someplace. We didn’t know if a plane would try to do harm to Los Angeles, no one knew much.
I can’t recall when I found out about United 93 crashing into a field in Shanksville, Pa., but I do remember getting a call from a longtime friend from childhood.
Recalling everything she said is difficult, but it went something like this: “I was on my way to San Francisco, but we got stuck on the tarmac. We’re not going anywhere and I need you to pick me up from the airport.”
National airspace shut DOWN.
The rest of the conversation, I can’t recall. Can’t recall if she called from a cell phone, from an airplane phone, or if she called from a pay phone…but she called. So I got dressed, told my mom “I don’t know everything that’s going on, but I’m going to get Ivette from the airport.”
Crowded, LAX was. That’s not unusual, though. But it was weird. Surreal. Strange. Unbelievable.
I got Ivette and drove her home.
And the news kept rolling in…
Fast forward to 2021… I’m living in the DMV now, and working for a startup TV network.
Like all outlets, we were preparing to commemorate 20 years since 9/11. During this prep, I’ve had the honor of speaking to folks who are directly impacted by loss on that day as part of the pre-interview process. The loss is unimaginable, even after all these years. Got the opportunity to speak to someone who lost their sister in the Pentagon. A different member of this same family has another twist to the story:
Imagine learning that your mother died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon…only to find out that your friend was on board that plane.
Unbelievable. But true.
I’ve kept a series of consistently inconsistent handwritten journals since the 1990s, and I wondered if I wrote anything on 9-11. I looked. Turned pages. Checked a few different books.
Not one peep written on 9-11. But I did find an entry made about two weeks later. That entry started like this:
“September 11th turned out to be a rotten day…”