Where were you on 9/11?
September 11, 2001 will always have a special place in the heart of Americans. Across the United States we watched in horror as we were brutally attacked from the air. I recall in vivid detail exactly where I was when the Twin Towers were attacked that sunny Tuesday morning.
My alarm normally goes off at five thirty so I have plenty of time to prepare my coffee for the start of the day, but I decided to rest in the bed and recover from my long birthday weekend for a few more minutes. I jumped out of bed grabbed a cup of coffee, and headed to the shower. Turning the temperature dial from warm to hot sent an electrifying bolt up my back. Shocked by the feeling my temperature started to rise, my skin red with blood and the beads of sweat began to run from my forehead. This is exactly how I like to wake up in the morning. I sat under the scalding hot water for what seemed like an hour until I was awake and ready to start my day. I dried my body and hurried from the shower to put on my uniform.
Today was a special day for my unit so we are required to wear full dress uniform with white gloves in celebration of the hard work and dedication of the Iraq soldiers we served with everyday. Several sailors would receive medals of accommodation and I was hoping to be picked as Sailor of the Year for a second year. (I should make sure my hair looks perfect for the camera), I remember thinking. Fully dressed I looked in the mirror and marveled at the design of my face and body. Vain? Perhaps, but I look good in my uniform!
I walk through my small apartment to pick up my second cup of coffee and notice the CNN “Breaking News” banner on the bottom of the screen. I had a bit of trouble figuring out what the breaking news was, but from what I could tell on the screen some small building was hit by a plane. As the camera man focused the lens I could tell it was the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I remember thinking to myself “How is possible to run into that building when it’s been there for years and planes have never hit it. The pilot must have been asleep.” I started having a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, but I quickly said a prayer, grabbed my hat and walked out of the door.
Closing the door to my truck, I turned my radio on to get further details of the crash, but then only sketchy details were available. I pulled out of my driveway and started on my way to work, but I could not shake the feeling something worse was coming. Five minutes passed and I was in my parking spot and walking to my office. As I passed the shiny doors to the office I took one last look at myself. I am picture perfect!
Confident and assured I am ready for anything today, I fumble for the keys to my office in my briefcase. I placed the key in the door, twist and walked into the worse emotional environment I could image. Several of my sailors were lying on the floor, faces white as if they had just seen a ghost, but they were still breathing. My supervisor was walking backwards as if the coming of Christ were steps in front of her. I reached out my hand to touch her just as she walked into the wall, slid down and started sobbing.
I dropped my briefcase, took off my hat, just in enough time catch her as her eyes rolled into the back of head. She was out cold! I stepped into the office and shouted “Can someone tell me what the hell is going on?” Only one person remained conscious during this tragedy, and he simply pointed at the screen “We are at war shipmate. This will change the face of the earth forever”
As I gazed upon the screen I realized why my coworker was walking backwards. She was on the phone with her brother who was in the second plane as it crashed into the South tower killing her mother, sisters and younger brother. She was now alone, and many Americans would soon share her loss.
I may have only been a child when the first tower was hit, but even eleven years later that moment is etched in my mind. I was finally at war, but on familiar territory.