My story isn’t unlike most others.
A junior at MSU, I was laying in bed bleary eyed, listening to the Today show not wanting to get up for my Business Communication class when the first plane hit. Cameras immediately took to the Trade Towers and Matt Lauer began describing the situation as best he could with little information about what just happened. At that point, it was an “explosion”.
Then the second plane hit. I did what any other normal, sane person would do (read: anyone obsessed with news and current events) – I popped a tape into my VCR and hit record. Yeah. A VCR. Remember those things?
Looking back, I have no idea what really compelled me to do it other than I wanted to see what was going on by watching the tape when I got back from class. Because I thought I was going to class that day.
As I got ready I made a phone call to my dad, who lived in Chicago at the time, to make sure he wasn’t at work downtown in a tall building. (Remember: no one knew what was going on then…) He picked up the phone.
“Hey Dad, just calling to say hello and make sure you’re not working downtown today.”
“Nope. Not in Chicago today. I’m in Manhattan for the day on business. Do you know what’s going on?”
The line went dead.
He was calm and cool. He didn’t know what was going on. Just that something was going on.
The next moments were like a scene out of a movie.
I frantically called again and again. Everyone was trying to call loved ones. Networks were bogged down. 20 minutes or so went by. Could have been longer.
I finally got through. I quickly and I’m sure eloquently, spit everything out as fast as I could because I didn’t want the line to cut out again before I told him:
“Planes hit the Trade Center. 2 of them. There’s something going on at the Pentagon too. They think it may have been another plane. They’re saying something else about another plane not responding.”
“We’re under attack. I’m going to get to the airport to get home.”
“Dad. DAD! Do NOT go to the airport. They’ve shut everything down. They think they used planes! Don’t go to the airport.”
The line went dead again.
I tried calling him again and again but it was hopeless. It took 3 hours before I got ahold of him. He told me he was okay. He told me how he still hoped to get a flight out tomorrow. He explained he was going to be sharing a hotel room with 4 other people he met since every hotel in a 50 mile radius was now booked by day business travelers hoping beyond hope to get home soon. He told me the new New York City skyline was heartbreaking.
It took him another 5 days to get out of NYC. He eventually rented a car and drove back to Chicago. But he got home. Thankfully. So thankful.
I’m sure in hindsight he wouldn’t have headed to the airport. I’m sure in hindsight my dad wished he would have just rented a car, right off the bat. I’m sure in hindsight he wouldn’t have asked me what was going on. I’m sure in hindsight he probably wouldn’t have told me he thought we were under attack.
But that’s the thing about these moments we all remember. The moments that change our lives. They are raw, unfiltered.
Do you remember that? Do you remember the panic we all felt? Do you remember how those moments became a cohesive, unifying declaration that we all are Americans and we all are in this together? Do you remember that?
I miss that.
In an election season filled with unending finger pointing and divisive issues that spew hate filled diatribes, it’s hard to remember that unity existed. It’s hard to remember that beyond partisan differences, we can communicate effectively. Respectfully.
Try to remember that this election. We’re more than capable of unity in a sea of differences. Let’s hope that on September 12th and beyond, the politicians remember it, too.
On a sidenote: I just talked to my dad who again, is traveling for work today (he tends to do that a lot) and we reminisced about this time 11 years ago. I was in full on panic mode trying to call him. He was using his negotiating skills trying to get a hotel room. And 11 years later, I’m blogging about it. Times sure have changed.
Where were you on September 11th?