I checked my bag, and headed toward my gate. Arriving at my gate, I called my wife to let her know when my plane was landing. My call also had a secondary effect of calming me down. She happened to be few months pregnant at the time, and she was adament I not fly. Unfortunately there was no way to get out of the training that was required.
I said my goodbyes as I started to board the plane, and grabbed my seat. I had a window seat just over the wing. I prefer window seats for two reasons: Firstly I don't like getting up every two seconds to allow whomever is next to me to get out and do whatever it is they are doing every two seconds. Secondly I want to "see" what the plane is doing. I know I've no control over what the plane does, but I feel more in control if I can see for myself what's happening. As the old adage goes, it's not the plane you need to worry about, it's the pilot.
The plane landed in NYC around 10:30PM, and after telling my wife I had landed okay, I picked up my rental car. Thanx to the loverly New York highway/street system, I got lost looking for my hotel. I finally got to my hotel around 1:00AM, and I quickly crashed for the night.
I woke up around 7:00AM, and after my shower, I met up with the some of the other techs who had also flown in for the class. We grabbed some dunkin donuts for breakfast, and headed towards the site where the class was being held. During the drive over we did not have the radio on at all, we just chatted about the company and generally caught up with each other. Traffic didn't seem overly bad, or good for that matter, although being my first and only time in NYC I could hardly be the judge of New York City traffic.
Arriving at the headquarters for the class, still oblivious to anything, we walk into the building and found a horde of people gathered around the security desk. Everyone strained to watch the events unfolding at the Twin Towers on a tiny 4 inch black n white television. That day I will never forget.
I was finally able to reach my wife that afternoon. She had been watching the entire thing on tv, and needed to hear from me almost as much I needed to hear from her. Using any phone was virtually impossible for a few hours. Our company's call center in Tampa, Florida had to set up a chain phone call so all of us could let loved ones back home know we were safe. Oddly enough I also heard from my sister that night. She had a "feeling" that I was in NYC, and wanted to make sure I was okay.
For much of that day and for the entire week, several people were glued to that little screen during the day. The news was filled gloom and despair. "There's eight planes unaccounted for." "If you're in a highrise, get down immediately" "Police are investigating reports of a truck under some bridge" and others.
My wife had asked Kristyna's teacher to be mindful. She was only in kindergarden at the time, but if she realized her dad was in NYC she might react uncharacteristically. As luck would have it, she didn't even realize I was there until a couple years later. Good thing for small blessings.
I'm not a person who cries easily. Anyone who knows me can attest to that. I can remember clearly crying in my hotel room that night, thankful I was alive, thankful I was loved. I was also crying for those that had been in the Towers. The news showed constantly people jumping from the burning building, the planes hitting the towers, it was impossible to escape, it was impossible not to feel anything. I still have local NYC newspapers in my dresser drawer that I brought home with me. I don't want to ever forget.
Even though planes were grounded, they finally started opening up tunnels and bridges a couple days later. I ended up driving the rental car all the way from New York City to Atlanta that Friday. I couldn't help but feel proud about the patriotism I witnessed driving back. Flags were everywhere, hanging from cranes overpasses, draped over cars, flying from antennas.
Say what you want, but right now 9-11 is my generation's Pearl Harbor. Many people lost their lives in the attacks. Let's not forget a plane also hit the Pentagon. Another plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field, the passengers and crew heroically fighting back against the terrorists. The ramifications of that day are still being played out in the desert of the Middle East, and in countries around the world.
Let's not forget!