The morning began normally – kids’ lunches packed, I sent them off to school with our car pool partner. Showered and after drying my hair heard a bizarre report on NPR, that one of the Twin Towers in Manhattan had been hit by an airplane. Immediate response was “what?!” followed by something I never do – turned on television news.
About that time, the second tower was struck and I know my jaw dropped. What at first seemed to possibly be an accident became clearly intentional and evil. Something Bad was happening. As the tension rose and the news anchors’ voices took on an intensity they couldn’t conjure for everyday drama, the Pentagon was hit and it was revealed that a plane heading west was off course and out of contact. Ironic that the planes all left from Boston, a seat of US independence and a symbol of the revolution.
Something Bad became even worse, as that day, no news was good news. I went to the office where nothing was getting done, except the beginnings of contingency plans for what we’d do with all the upcoming international travel (our firm planned incentive travel programs, large group trips involving months of logistical planning). There was one TV in the office, and the Internet had basically broken – couldn’t connect to any news. A friend in Thailand sent me updates by email, since he could get CNN on the other side of the planet.
I left work as soon as we could pick up kids from school, it was a very quiet evening as we were all glued to the news. Nothing changed, and details were slow to emerge. I don’t think we knew what terror meant until that day. I slept on the sofa with the TV news on (another thing I never do), and I believe this was the time FOMO began – like many people, I think I had the sense that anything could happen at any time, terror was part of the new normal, and if any other horrors were to take place I wanted to know right away.
A month afterwards, we traveled to Chicago for an annual trade show, but this trip involved planning for emergency response should there be any threats on the flight: who was to sit where, what type of shoes were we wearing, how much carry on baggage.
Three months afterwards, I visited New York City and was astounded at the change in the heart of the city. People were somber but kinder (yes, New Yorkers can be kind), and the city was decked out in American flags, including the Chase building, fully swaddled in a giant flag. Rockfeller Center’s Christmas tree was decorated in red, white and blue lights and ornaments. As fine snow swirled, the sense of unity and patriotism was palpable and if there was one Good Thing that came from the Bad Thing, perhaps that was it.
Let us never forget – let us hold on to unity and patriotism, and use those principles to make more Good Things happen in spite of the terror.
Where were you in 2001, on September 11?