September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:I was at work when a co-worker walked up and asked me if I had heard a plane hit the World Trade Center, and if I could find out if it was true. I immediately checked the AOL page and got a blurb that confirmed what he had said. The quote on the page, which I have never seen or heard anywhere else since then said that papers from the building were falling on Brooklyn.

Our office in Washington, DC is in a window-less building several miles from the Capitol and even farther from the Pentagon which is located in suburban Virginia, but when we heard the Pentagon had been hit we rushed to a basement teaching room that had a large screen TV and started watching the coverage. I remember someone I didn't know breaking into tears as we watched the buildings fall and feeling so helpless.

Rumors were awful. There was a local Washington TV report that a car bomb had gone off near the State Department, and that downtown was in flames. My wife, who was in her office much closer to the Pentagon but still in DC could see the smoke from the fire, and hear the jets scrambling overhead. She couldn't get away from her office because all of the offices around were emptying at once and the streets were a madhouse. She finally used the subway to come over to my side of town where I picked her up for our trip back to our home in Virginia.

Our normal route to and from work takes us past the Pentagon
so we were worried about what it might be like. It turned out to be even more surreal than the rest of the day's events. By the time I hooked up with my wife it was almost noon, and we headed out prepared for a long ride home. Surprisingly, by that time, the town was empty except for National Guardsmen, police and firemen. We passed the Pentagon and through the smoke cloud which was acrid and sickly sweet at the same time. We were basically the only car on the road until we got home.

Our twin daughters had started college as freshmen in different parts of southern Virginia only two weeks before. This was their first time on their own and boy did we miss them and their optimism. We ran up such a phone bill over the next two weeks talking to them that it took me three months to catch up with it. One daughter was going to school in Norfolk, VA near the Naval Base there and she had to contend with constant alerts and warnings about closing the harbor or the base. It was even proposed that the school might have to close to allow the Navy to use the dorms while the students would have to go home. The other daughter was at a school in the Shenandoah Valley miles from any town of any size or anything that might be considered a "target" but the paranoia still had many of her classmates heading home for safety.

Life Changed:I find I still cry easily and am affected by stories of that day even when I least expect it. I know my wife and I have gone through some difficult adjustments and some of our problems were certainly affected and increased in severity by the events of that day. My daughters, who left as kind of scared teenagers on the brink of something new, have very quickly blossomed into capable young women who have withstood their baptism of fire. I suspect all first year college students grow up a lot, but I think the freshmen of 2001-2002 have an extra edge of having weathered the worst they will ever have to deal with. At least I hope they never have to face worse events. Please God, are you listening? Damn, in tears again.

On the day of these events, when my office dismissed and we went our separate ways to be with our families and to face what we only could guess would be forthcoming, I bid them farewell with "Viya con Dios". Go with God everyone.

Should be remembered:

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