Ten years later.
I wasn't feeling very well on the evening of the tenth of September, 2001, so I called my work and told them that if I felt better I'd be there, but otherwise not to expect me. Little did I know, the next morning's news would initially make me feel worse, then wind up making me entirely forget that I was sick...
The next morning, I was trying to sleep in, but my phone kept ringing. I finally answered it. My girlfriend was on the line, saying with a concerned tone “There's some shit going on.” My sleepy brain thought she meant some office intrigue at her work. Then, when I asked her what was happening, she told me a plane had hit a building in New York. Since she didn't sound panicked, I didn't grasp the enormity of the moment. I told her it seemed really weird that a pilot wouldn't see something as big as a WTC tower, and that even if it were extremely foggy or cloudy, planes have radar and various ways to fly “blind”. She agreed it was odd and said there wasn't much other information at the time. I went back to sleep.
Not long after, my pager buzzed (I was still living in the 90s and didn't have a cell phone yet). It showed my ex's phone number followed by 911, pager era “text speak” for an emergency. I was awake – I thought something was wrong with my son, who was two and half years old. I jumped up and called her. When she answered, there was no hello, no greeting at all, just
“Turn on the TV. Channel 4. NOW!”
“Just do it. Now. Do it!”
I ran into the living room, grabbed the remote, thumbed on the TV, pressed “4” and “Enter”.
I saw the second building collapse.
“What the fuck?”
We heard about the plane that hit the Pentagon. I realized I had known people while I was at Ft. Meade, MD who worked there. I wondered if anyone I'd served with was there when the plane struck.
News came in about the plane that went down in Pennsylvania, and then we found out what had happened. True heroes on that plane.
True heroes in NYFD. Anybody who can see thousands running in panic away from something, and then run toward it.... Well, any words I can think of are inadequate to describe their bravery.
I spent the rest of the day pacing back and forth between the TV in the living room, and the radio in my bedroom tuned to talk radio. I punctuated the pacing with phone calls to my ex, to my girlfriend, to my parents, and to my brother. He was out of the Army, but was still in that period of time that he could be recalled into service, so I was worried. I thought about all the people I'd served with in the Navy, and those I knew in other branches. I wondered how many were still in, and what would happen to them. I spent the day somehow both numb and in pain, choking back tears as we all watched those towers fall, over and over, replay after replay, slow motion, and true speed.
That evening, once I was pretty sure it was over and I wouldn't miss anything by leaving the apartment, I went to my ex's to hug my little boy.
That was my day on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.