On that day, I was late to work. I heard someone on the bus mention “plane” and “building”, but I didn’t think anything more about it, figuring that I’d hear about what happened on the evening news.
I got to work, and was immediately confronted by a friend who exclaimed, “Did you hear what happened??” One of the attorneys in the office had recently had a stroke, so I assumed my friend was about to tell me that this attorney had died. She told me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.
I went back to my computer and tried to access CNN, but couldn’t due to all the net traffic. I then logged into the old FSW and started following the conversation that had already started on the Off-Topic board. I could hear others in the office talking about it, and then I realized someone had the TV on in the conference room. I went into the conference room and started watching the coverage with a number of my co-workers, including the two bosses.
Before this, I didn’t realize what the World Trade Center was. I knew of its existence, but couldn’t identify it in a picture if you’d showed me. I also got mixed up and thought the plane hit the United Nations building. So when I started watching coverage, my boss said, “The tower fell”. I thought ‘tower’ meant the upper part of the building, not the entire building. Anyway, I said, “but it’s right there – the tower’s right there”. He turned to me and said, “There are two of them.” I then realized fully what was going on, and said, “God help us.”
I watched for a few more minutes, and then returned to my desk to log back into FSW. I heard people in the office talking about the Sears Tower here in Chicago being evacuated. Being that my office building is across from City Hall, I knew we’d be evacuated too. One of my co-workers then walked by and said in a dull voice, “the second tower just fell.” We then got the word to evacuate the building. I had been contributing to the conversation on FSW, so I logged in again to let folks know I was being evacuated.
We left the office and walked to the train station. Major kudos to Metra for emptying out the Chicago downtown area after their morning rush trains had already been sent back to the train yards. They brought trains in one at a time, loaded them to capacity, then sent it on and brought in the next train. My ride home was quick considering the circumstances.
When I got home, I turned on the TV. I also logged into FSW and saw that someone had told me on the thread to check in when I got home to let everyone know I was okay. I received an email from a skating buddy’s mom who said he asked her to email his friends in Chicago to be sure we were okay. I found out later that among the tons of incorrect reports going on during those first few frantic hours, there were reports that a plane was headed to Chicago.
I received a call from a friend from church, who advised me that the pastor was holding a special service that evening. She asked me to call members of our ministry team to let them know of this service. One girl I talked to was in tears – her uncle was at the Pentagon and was missing. (He was injured, but alive, thankfully – yet his family didn’t know for weeks that he was alive because of security issues…) We had church that night, the following night (Wednesday, our usual mid-week service time), Thursday night, and Friday night.
For many years I kept the original thread from FSW on my home computer. Every once in awhile I would read it to remember the emotions and situations that went on that day, as they were related post-by-post from people all over the world who contributed to the message board.
As I watched the ceremonies this past Sunday, I cried a lot as family members and friends read the names of those who died, as they caressed names in cold stone instead of being able to touch and hold those the names represented. I pray peace and healing to all those who went through this horror, to those who lost loved ones, and to all those who still experience the aftermath of these events. Words seem so shallow sometimes, but they are heartfelt.