When one of my coworkers told me that a plane had hit the WTC, my response was “You know, I just watched a documentary about air travel and they said that pilots rated the JFK airport in Manhattan as the scariest in the nation - someone probably missed the runway or something.” Obviously, I have no idea where things are in NYC. When the second plane hit, we were all just glued to the television, trying to absorb the info. I had the odd vision of how all the post-apocolyptic science fiction shows that I ever saw - you know the ones I mean, that have cityscapes with bombed-out skyscrapers and uninhabited tall metal buildings with holes in them—were wrong. When those buildings collaped, it was horrifying.
When the third plane hit the Pentagon, it was a shocker because my mom was working there that day!! I told a few co-workers who asked, “oh my god, are you freaking out?” But, strangely, I didn’t have any worried feelings about her: my immediate response was, “I really think she’s okay and just having the adventure of her life.” We all ran up to the roof to see the black smoke that was visible from our nine-story building.
After a while, management told us that we could go. Since I lived in the city, I offered to take two of my co-workers back to my house so they’d have a base until the Metro opened back up. As we were leaving the crazy building manager told us to stay in the building because the next step in the terrorist attack was going to be bio-warfare—they wanted everyone to be out in the streets! We ignored him, I retrieved my bike (I used to be able to bike to work; sigh), and we started toward my house. I must have had 5 or 6 people offer me cash for that bike while we walked!! All cars were at a standstill. Only pedestrians and cyclists were making any progress.
I finally heard from my husband around 11 a.m. —he worked near my parents’ house in NoVA and just decided to hang out there until things cooled off. I didn’t hear from my mom until around 3:30 p.m. She and a bunch of coworkers were in a training room when they heard a loud noise which they all assumed was a bomb. The lights went out and one guy (who has since received a medal) took charge and told them all to follow his voice and stay close to the floor. They eventually found their way, joining others along the way, to a Pentagon exit and decided to walk to the National Airport Metro because nobody really knew what was going on and of course the Pentagon Metro was closed.
When they arrived at the airport, of course the Metro was closed there too, and they had found out that it was a plane that had hit, not a bomb. They were all lost and confused about what to do next and how to get home, so a few folks wandered back out to the GW Parkway. A chartered coach bus stopped for them and asked if they needed help; after they told him where they had come from, he offered to drop each and every one of them off at their doors, no matter where they lived, at no charge. That’s why I didn’t hear from her until later.
My mom had a friend who left her purse in the room where the training was; she never was able to retrieve it. To this day, my mom wears her purse everywhere and doesn’t put it down unless she’s inside a house.
There have been a lot of memorials at the Pentagon over the last few days. I wish everyone who is still suffering from the effects of that catastrophic day can find peace.
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