Twenty years ago I was a 25 (almost 26)-year-old newlywed. I lived and worked in the New York metro area (Ossining, NY and Norwalk, CT). My husband had just recently left a job in Manhattan for one in White Plains. That weekend we had attended a friend’s party in New Jersey, and driving home late at night, I remember looking out over the lights of the NYC skyline and noticing the World Trade Center. We used to go into the city pretty regularly, so I didn’t always take the time to notice the buildings. But driving home that night, for some reason I paid attention.
Twenty years ago I drove to work early. It had rained the day before and we spent all day watching movies (including, ironically, “Escape From New York”). A cold front had moved through the area and it was a crisp, sunny day. I remember thinking how it was perfect weather.
I settled into my cubicle, checked my voicemail and email, and got started on the news section for the telecommunications magazine where I worked. It was just me and a co-worker. We often got to work on the early side and enjoyed a bit of quiet before the newsroom started to bustle with ringing phones and chatty editors. Her radio was on quietly. I could barely hear it.
Around 8:45 she told me that a news broadcast announced that a plane had just hit one of the Twin Towers. We couldn’t imagine what was happening. I thought it might have been a small, private plane. An inexperienced pilot must have lost control.
And then it happened again. Now the rest of our co-workers were filing in. There were calls between our two offices. Staff members tried over and over again to get hold of their husbands, wives, partners, relatives, friends who lived or worked in the city.
I constantly refreshed by web browser to see if CNN.com had updated with anything further. What was happening? Why was it happening? We were approached our monthly deadline for the magazine and somehow I managed to keep working that day. I think I left early. Honestly, it all starts to blur.
To go home, I had to drive I-95. It’s the highway that goes right into the city and typically it is always busy. Traffic is horrible, and backups were pretty regular. That day, there was no afternoon traffic — maybe a couple dozen cars. After all, you couldn’t get into or out of the city. It was so weird driving with almost no one on the road. In fact, it was unnerving, and this just compounded my anxiety.
That night we ate dinner while watching the president address the country and we just wondered what could possibly happen next.
And here we are… 20 years on. 9/11 changed us a country, and it certainly changed me as an individual. We all have our stories, our memories from that day. Today I hope you will all take a moment to pause and remember.