Today will always be a day to remember, even without all the news broadcasts and replays. Part of me doesn’t want to watch the historical events because it’s uncomfortable, painful to watch. YET I can’t seem to walk away from the TV. The images are so graphic. Time stood still that day. Like my good friend Lori wrote in her blog post, we have all suffered and 9/11 isn’t the only day in our history where time stood still.
Generations before us remember JFK being shot, and the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrating in mid air. In fact, when that happened, I was at school and we were watching the live broadcast. It was the oddest thing because we really didn’t now what was happening when it blew up. We knew it wasn’t good, but the teacher just shut off the TV. We watched the horror without knowing it was horror until later. I always had a gleam of hope that the astronauts would be ok. Of course, they weren’t. And as a school, we didn’t get counseling or grief support, we just went on with our day. I think about the nutcases these days who sue others for being present to witness tragedy. Come on…
But, before I get too off track… That morning of 9/11 was a big day of firsts for me. It was my son’s first day of kindergarten, and I was waiting with him for the bus. I remember how cute he looked, and how nervous/excited he was just waiting with me. We also met many of our neighbors that morning who we had not known even existed! Who knew there were several 5 year-olds on our street – we live on a busy street and we typically did not let our kids play outside for too long.
I was also getting ready for my first day of work at a new software company as a VP of Marketing…and we were holding a big User’s Conference down in Boston at the Marriott Long Wharf. So, right after I got my son on the bus, I hit the road to Boston. On my way into the Conference, I was listening to Howard Stern to get my morning laughs, when he mentioned the first plane hit Tower 1. At first, it was sincere disbelief…thinking it was something else and not a terrorist attack. But he kept saying “I can see the smoke from here…” which was the beginning of many eerie sights and sounds that day.
By the time I got into Boston, both planes had hit and it was mass chaos…except for the conference where I was going to because folks had already started their sessions and had no idea this was going on. I pulled my manager aside and told her the news, then the CEO was informed and an immediate plan for crisis communications was underway. We ended up stopping the conference in mid-session, and made an announcement to the group and put up the live broadcast on the big projector screens to stay abreast on the details. We turned it on just in time to see Tower 1 crumble, then shortly after Tower 2. That was the most chilling moment for everyone…we all just looked at each other in silence. You could hear a pin drop.
As you would imagine, many attendees wanted to get the hell out of Boston and get home. But because one of the planes left from Boston (which was revealed later that morning) Boston was in complete lockdown. Airspace was closed off. The only options were rental cars.
As conference staff, we were given carte blanche to do whatever attendees needed, and to coordinate things as much as possible. We got in touch with a couple rental car agencies and began putting together a number of trips all over the country, where people would ride together and drop each other off, the last person dropping off the rental. We had trips from Boston to Houston, Boston to DC, Midwest, all over the place. It’s no wonder we figured it all out. It was clearly a baptism by fire in crisis management.
The attendees were thrilled just to get rolling home, they didn’t care how it happened. But not everyone left. In fact, to add to the chaos, former president George Bush (father) was our keynote speaker the very next day. We though for SURE he would cancel. But, in a show of patriotism and concern for the people he was going to talk with, he came to our event and gave the most inspiring talk that made us all feel good to be an American. Of course, there were secret service everywhere…and everything was planned out to a “tee”…
I would say it brought us as a group together, and helped the very beginning of the healing process for everyone who was there those few days. But I will never forgot those moments of learning of the horror, and all the Americans who were on those planes who were sacrificed. My heart hurt for them and their families. Not to mention the firemen who all sacrificed their lives, I always have a special place in my heart for all fireman as my Dad served for 30 years in Cambridge, MA. He was lucky to walk away without injury.
I also pray for and wish everyone who is remembering their loved ones today to be surrounded by healing light and love, and know that their loved one’s death was not in vain.
I don’t think I will ever understand why people want to hurt so many in such defiance and in the name of religion. I wasn’t around for the JFK shooting, but my parents were and remember those days like they were yesterday. I imagine so will I when it comes to this day in history.
I want to thank all the military service personnel who are over in Iraq and Afghanistan who are still fighting this fight. Blessings to you all for protecting our freedom, and teaching others to be free. Your efforts and time are a true gift to our country.
I am proud to be American.
Where we you on this day 9 years ago?
Photo source: http://nymag.com/news/articles/wtc/gallery/