Tribute, Part 3: 9/11/01

My day started early, to compensate for the time I’d lost on Monday at the office. I had a frantically apologetic voicemail from the landlord, apologizing for waking me, a quantity of emails that far exceeded my pay grade, and a growing cynicism for the fashion industry. In addition to being my third week on the job, 9/11/01 was day two of my first Fashion Week. For those who have experienced it, you already know what I mean. For those who haven’t, watch Devil Wears Prada. It’s not exaggerated. Most people laughed at that movie; I cried a little. Sometimes the truth hurts.

So it was that I missed the first cue that day that something significant was happening. One of my colleagues paraded into the office and announced, to no one in particular and everyone all at once, “Oh my God, did you hear what happened?” I assumed a tent had collapsed or Tyra had broken a heel and continued working on the charity auction that was my lot in life at Saks.

After a few minutes, my curiosity got the best of me. I tried to pull up No luck. MSNBC, the same. Local WNBC … nope. All the news sites were down due to too much traffic. I had been volleying emails back and forth with a friend back home in Iowa, and sent a quick one-liner, “Hey, think something’s going on in New York. Can you see if there’s anything on TV and call me?” I can’t remember if he did. I do know he was the first person I finally was able to get through to once I got home. The only person who was “with” me as I saw those first images on the news. He played such a huge role in that day for me, yet I haven’t spoken to him for more than seven years. Funny, life.

Through all this, I was never motivated enough to leave my desk. I didn’t know anyone I was working with, I was determined to stay focused on the task at hand, and I was already working hard at my jaded New Yorker act. It didn’t really matter what it was. I’d like to be in the know, but it’s just another day in the city. Right?

A few minutes later – it seems like all of this took a lifetime, but I know it was all less than an hour – I called my dad’s office to ask if he’d seen anything. His secretary told me he was out of town fishing, but asked immediately if I was OK and if I’d called my mom.

Throughout this whole morning, as events moved quickly but time stood still, it was like a canopy was being slowly inched over my head; a black cape that darkened the situation, that increasingly but ever-so-slowly threatened me. My mind said, “No big deal,” but my intuition kept trying to tell me that something significant had just occurred. It took a while for the two to catch up, for so many of us that day.

When I called the school where my mom worked, they ran to the parking lot to get her. She didn’t have my cell phone number with her at work, and was driving home so she could call me. While I was on the phone telling her that I was far, far away from the Towers (three miles, but hey… a little re-imagining of geography never hurt anyone) and that it would be no big deal, she said, “They’re just saying another plane hit the Pentagon. It’s on the news right now.”

And then the black cape was finally pulled around me. It was tight, dark, and frightening. But more than anything, it was real. Unavoidable.

I told my mom I had to go, I had to figure out what we were doing. I hung up, and finally got up from my desk.

It was barely 10 a.m.

To be continued…

Link: Chronology of Events on September 11, 2001


4 Responses to “Tribute, Part 3: 9/11/01”

  1. 1 Jackie 9 September 2010 at 20:32

    9/11 … I left the house for my new office, in my “new town”, where we had lived for a little less than 2 months, at the usual 6:35 AM. It’s a 5 mile drive, and I was delighting in the fact that it was a balmy 70 degrees, even though the sun was not up yet, cruising along with the car windows open … thinking of all I could accomplish in the golden hour before 8:00 AM, when most of the rest of the work force arrived. Radio on, half listening to the babble of the disk jockey. Suddenly, I realized they had switched to a live news feed, and heard Peter Jennings’ voice, talking about airplanes crashing into BOTH of the twin towers. Shock, confusion .. apprehension. What the hell was going on? Then, Peter again … his voice sounding somehow unnatural, even breaking a tiny bit, as he said “we have unconfirmed reports of a 3rd plane, that has crashed into the Pentagon”.

    I was born 6 months and 10 days after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor .. an event that shocked the USA, and impacted the world I grew up in, and my childhood, in ways I could not really appreciate until many, many years later. I had a fleeting thought that “this must be how the American people felt when they heard of that bombing”. Total disbelief, shock, fear, anger, …. who would do such a thing? and WHY?? Ran up the steps to my office, turned on the computer, searched out the radio that was in my bottom desk drawer, seldom used, but still in working order. Few other people in the building at that hour, but Mike, from the telephone division, came into my office and we just listened to the radio, and tried to take it all in. I wanted to call all my children, hug them, be sure they were safe, even though I knew none of them were any where near NYC or DC. Suddenly …. a jolt of pure fear .. Oh No … my eldest niece lives there! She is working in Manhattan!! How could I have forgotten that??? I had to call my sister .. I was terrified of what she would say, but I knew I had to call her NOW!! I called, she told me she had spoken to Jen, she was safe. We shared a few tears, and promised to talk later in the day. I talked to all my children, my husband, my other sister … I needed, was compelled, to reach out to those I love.

    The rest of that day went by in a blur … no work got done … it was like there was nothing really important to do. As the day came to a close, as I sat at home that evening and watched the news on TV with Bill …. profound sadness. How could someone do this? WHY would someone do this? Nine years later, I still have no good answer to those questions. All those lives taken by mad men, all the destruction … for what? The answers are not forthcoming. But we go on … always hopeful, ever looking forward to a brighter future. That is the quality that makes we humans so great … we never stop hoping, and planning, and dreaming, and trying to make a better world.

    But we will never forget … and we will always shed tears when we remember that black morning. May they all rest in peace.

  2. 2 Lisa Talbert 9 September 2010 at 20:52

    It’s hard to believe that 9 years have passed. I’m a mom and a wife. Nine years ago, I was a freshman at the University of Iowa. I was 19, fresh out of high school. No experience at all. Excited to be on my own for the first time in my life, ready to make my mark it life. I was naive. I decided that morning to sleep in and skip my morning Calculus lecture. I had a headache (probably hungover, who knows) and didn’t feel like concentrating that hard to understand my professor’s very thick Middle Eastern accent. Not to mention my roommate was also skipping, and I wanted to fit in. I was oblivious to what was going on as I hopped on the bus to the chemistry building and slipped into class. Why I don’t know, maybe my friend, Erin checked her phone, but as we were leaving, I slipped my cell out of my backpack and noticed I had a voicemail from my mother. That’s weird, I thought, she knows I have class and I usually call her later in the day… I thoughtfully stared at my phone and started to listen to the voicemail. Panic, instant panic comes flying across my phone. I’m so confused. I hang up my phone and look at Erin as we walk to the student union. Erin looks at me, “What’s wrong, Lisa?” I quickly explain, that my mom left me a frantic message. I told her all I could comprehend was that my sister was ok and bombs and towers. Pieces… nothing clicked, the puzzle hadn’t been put together yet. Erin looked at me curiously and shrugged. I told Erin I was going to run home instead and I’m talk to her later. Although the walk from the student union to Hillcrest was maybe 10 minutes, it felt like a lifetime. I couldn’t put it together. My mom was at work, I can’t call her back, I think. I know dad’s out of town, can’t call him. Oh, it’s probably nothing, I think. Something wasn’t sitting right. I run up the back steps to my dorm room and as I walk down the hall, I see the TV on in someone’s room. It’s starting to sink in, I pick up the pace… I see another TV, smoke, chaos…I start jogging down the hall, fumble with my keys, what’s going on?! I turn on the TV and stare in awe. Still, what’s going on? I don’t understand. Who cares, that mom’s at work, I think. I call, I need to hear friendly voice. By this time, she knows it was planes, by this time, we know about the Pentagon, by this time, the other plane had crashed… I try to call my sister in New York. Busy signal. I try again, busy signal. I don’t care that my mother had talked to her, I needed to hear her voice for myself. I head to my next class, by this time everyone knows. I spend the rest of the day in a complete daze, angry that Iowa didn’t cancel classes. The world as I knew had changed. My 19 year brain was having a hard time coping. Class was the last thing I wanted to do. I tried all day to call my sister during breaks. I was still furious by my last class of the day. My professor, God Bless him, was not interested in teaching that day. Instead, we talked about our feelings on what happened. It was like one big group therapy. It helped… my roommate and friends were sympathatic for my panic and were shocked like me. After dinner, I almost jumped out of my skin when my called ID on my cell said, Jen. I ran out of my room to answer the phone. I slid on the wall to sit on the hallway floor and listened. I don’t remember if I spoke. I was just so thankful to finally hear my sister’s voice. 9 years…9 years.

  3. 3 Ginny Eskildsen 9 September 2010 at 22:11

    We celebrated our one year wedding anniversary in June 2001. In August 2001, we moved to Kansas City to start our grown up lives with real jobs. Anything was possible. We were young, college educated, married and being exposed to so much that didn’t exist in the small town we grew up in. Things like sirens, trains and the sound of airplanes coming and going from KCI quickly became part of the routine, blending into the sounds of our life.
    I landed my first job through a temp agency. It was a stable job and it paid well enough, but I was still looking for my dream job. It was that search that had me going into work late on September 11. I had the tv on as I was getting dressed for a job interview. I sat down and watched the first plane hit. It was terrible, but just an accident. And then the second plane hit and there was no way it could be chance. By the time I was to leave for my interview, I almost couldn’t tear myself from the tv. The horrible, amazing, video was captivating and I was afraid of what might come next.
    I somehow made it through the interview. It was not my dream job. As I was leaving, I asked the receptionist if anything else had blown up. She didn’t know. When I got to my job, they were in lock down, afraid that someone might be trying to taint their product and poison everyone. I mention this as evidence of the fear, the confusion and absolute uncertanty at that time.
    Other than the non-stop video coming from the east coast, the absolute silence from the sky that afternoon and the following days left the biggest impression. We were far removed from the physical site of the tragedy, but the silence in the sky was absolute and incredible.

  4. 4 Kati 10 September 2010 at 08:52

    None of us will ever forget that day. I was living with Andrea at the time, and she was the Daily. I was working at the Tribune, on autopilot. She came home and found me crying. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

    I remember when I heard about it/saw it on TV. I instantly thought of you and Connor. Luckily, you were both OK!!

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