10:30: Before sleeping, President Bush enters into his journal: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today…We think it’s Osama bin Laden.”
I couldn’t sleep that night, 10 long years ago. I remember wondering if anyone was sleeping and if so, were they sleeping well? I too thought back to Pearl Harbor. I wondered how we would respond. I hoped we’d learned from our mistakes and the new day and days ahead wouldn’t see the rounding up and internment of people because of nothing other than their country of origin or their religion. I knew it had been less than 24 hours, just over 15 in fact since the whole nightmare of a day began – but it felt like a lifetime.
I know as I tried to sleep I had no idea what the dawn would bring, but I thought a lot about what the last day had taken … had had stolen.
As I look back now at the changes to air travel and air security, at the new powers given our law enforcement and military, at the searches at sporting events, at a decade of war in two far off countries … at all the life lost both beginning that day 10 years ago and in response to the attacks – I wonder what will come next.
I hope I have learned that life changes on a dime. That sometimes a day is a lot less than 24 hours. To not let days just go by … though I’m guilty of not truly living to the truth of the sentiment in such a statement. I’m striving to truly live it. To get better at it each day.
Thank you for indulging me today as I’ve relived that day from 10 years ago in detail. I hope it wasn’t excruciating. I hope your memories of September 11th are as emotional and deeply-felt as mine are. I hope you’ve made peace with any ill will toward anyone you harbored that morning 10 years and 22 and one half hours ago. I hope it took you a very short space of time to do so.
I hope for the best. I pray for God’s grace to deal with the worst if it comes. I think we all do.
9:00: There are reports (later proven incorrect) of many survivors buried in rubble in New York making cell phone calls. Only two more survivors will be pulled from the rubble on September 12 and neither of them had made cell phone calls.
How we prayed they were right and there were many waiting to be rescued, somehow somewhat safe and cocooned in pockets within the rubble. Prayed they would be found before it was too late.
The entire day still had the feel of a big budget Hollywood movie. Do you remember Irwin Allen? The Poseidon Adventure? The Towering Inferno?
This couldn’t really be happening. But it was.
We all prayed more. We all hugged our kids tight as we tucked them into bed that night – most of us much later than usual. Did you peek on yours several times while they were sleeping that long night? I know I did. That night and many nights after. Like after Columbine. Just to reassure myself and because I could. Thank God.
6:00: Efforts to locate survivors in the rubble that had been the twin towers continue. Fleets of ambulances are lined up to transport the injured to nearby hospitals, but they stand empty. “Ground Zero”, as the site of the WTC collapse becomes known henceforth, is the exclusive domain of New York City’s Fire Department and Police Department, despite volunteer steel and construction workers who stand ready to move large quantities of debris quickly. Relatives and friends of victims or likely victims, many displaying enlarged photographs of the missing printed on home computer printers, have appeared around New York. The New York Armory at Lexington Avenue and 26th Street and Union Square Park at 14th Street and Broadway become centers of vigil.
My family sang with them from our home. I think most of us did.
5:00: The last of the aircraft headed for the U.S. to land at a Canadian airport lands at Vancouver International, since it was flying over the Pacific.
It would be days before planes flew into and out of the US again. It would be weeks before air flight returned to regular patterns.
Never again would air travel be normal as defined on September 11th 2001 at 6am. I hate that we have changed so in response to them. It makes me think of the saying, “when you dance with the Devil, the Devil doesn’t change. The Devil changes you.”
I know it is “safer” – I still hate it.
4:20: The penthouse on top of 7 World Trade Center crumbles apart, only about 6 seconds before the entire building would begin to collapse.
4:20:33: 7 World Trade Center, also known as the Salomon Bros. Building, a 47-story building that had sustained damage from falling debris and widespread fires, collapses. The building contained New York’s emergency operations center, operated by the NYC Office of Emergency Management, originally intended to respond to disasters such as the September 11 terrorist attacks. Due to the emergency personnel having more than enough time to evacuate the building since the collapse of the North Tower, there are no injuries or deaths as a result of the collapse.
As I got in my car to head home, I prayed, yet again that day; for no more buildings to come down. For no more planes to come down. I thought that even knowing all planes were out of the air. But what of when they flew again? I decided to not think of that fear.
After crossing the Fox River and heading toward I-43 to make my way home, I saw a huge line forming at a gas station and noticed the price had skyrocketed by more than $2.50 per gallon since I drove by earlier in the day on my way in to the office. Incredulous, I called my husband asking, “my God! Has something else happened?!”
It didn’t occur to me that what had happened was a combination of greed and panic. I thought briefly of stopping to top off and run to the store. But, I had just at 3/4 of a tank and we’d gone to the store on Sunday and our freezer was full.
I’m glad my better, calmer nature prevailed. I hope it does again in the future.
No, that’s not true. I hope I never have need for it to again.
I hope. I pray.
1:39: At a press conference New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is asked to estimate the number of casualties at the World Trade Center. He replies, “More than any of us can bear.”
I remember some reporter saying that on a typical weekday 50,000 people worked in the towers with another 200,000 passing through as visitors – as I listened to Mayor Giuliani, I really really prayed the reporter was incredibly wrong.
Thank God he was. One dead was too damned many, nearly three thousand was heart-stopping – but those numbers? Utterly unimaginable. Thank God, we only had to imagine it.
12:00 (approximately): At the Pentagon, fire crews are still fighting fires. The early response to the attack had been coordinated from the National Military Command Center, but that had to be evacuated when it began to fill with smoke.
12:04: President Bush puts the U.S. military on high alert worldwide (known as Force Protection Condition Delta). Taped remarks from the President were aired from Barksdale Air Force Base, stating that “freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward and freedom will be defended.” He also said that the “United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” He then leaves for a U.S. Strategic Command bunker located at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska.
Our Aging Task Force meeting started late as we stopped outside to listen to the President’s remarks. My notes from that day tell me we had a relatively productive planning meeting. It was then and remains to be a blur to me.
I’m still close to most of the women who sat at that table. We’ve spoken of that day often.
11:01 (approximately): Fourteen people, including twelve firefighters, who were in a section of a stairwell in the North Tower that held together during the collapse, climb the stairs to the top of the Ground Zero rubble field.
We all prayed more would climb up through the rubble. We all hoped many more would be found alive.
11:04: Los Angeles International Airport, the intended destination of Flights 11, 77 and 175, is shut down.
11:15: San Francisco International Airport, the intended destination of Flight 93, is shut down.
11:15 (approximately): The airspace over the 48 contiguous United States is clear of all commercial and private flights.
The air was quiet and empty other than military traffic and the occasional emergency helicopter.
9:49: Fox News Channel is the first of the United States news networks to implement a news ticker at the bottom of its screen for supplementary information about the attacks. CNN adds one at 10:11, and MSNBC adds one at approximately 1:00 pm. All three cable networks have used a news ticker continuously in the years since (and many local television stations have followed suit). Just one more way we’ve changed since that day
9:50:19: Five stories of part of the Pentagon collapse due to the fire.
9:53: New York’s primary elections are canceled.
Evacuations of the nations capital and a major US city. Continuous news updates along the bottom of the screen. Elections cancelled.
What else would happen? What else would change? How would we change? How would we respond?
Was it over??
Would it ever be over?
I remember thinking, “will we become as Israel – forever waiting the next attack on our soil, our people?” I wondered how they did it. How long can a nation live on the edge of readiness?
How much can we change and give up before we become what they who attacked us wanted us to be … like them? Living in fear and suspicion.
9:37: Associated Press reports that officials at the Somerset County airport confirm that a large plane has crashed in western Pennsylvania. CNN’s Aaron Brown passes along reports that a 747 is “down” in Pennsylvania. He stresses these reports are unconfirmed. At 9:50, this report is updated: A 767 has “crashed this morning, north of the Somerset County Airport”.
By the time it is confirmed, I’m sitting in my office around the corner from Phil’s office but still able to listen to the broadcast. I’ve returned to my desk to contact people to see if we should cancel the meetings we’ve got scheduled for the day. The noon meeting decides to move forward.