Eight Years and Still Vivid: September 11
Author’s Note: This is Post 1 of a 3-Post Series.
Few triggers break me down and 9/11 is one of them. Eight years ago day I was in a hotel in Peabody, Mass. It was a Tuesday and as I was getting ready for breakfast, NBC’s The Today Show played in the background. Matt Lauer broke with the news of a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers. I headed down to the restaurant and met up with the rest of the group I was traveling with. (It was a travel industry road show and I was traveling with other tourism destinations along with car rental, hotel and airline representatives and we were presenting to New England travel agents during the evening.)
I asked if anyone else heard the news of a plane crashing into the building and immediately the restaurant’s television was turned to CNN. We speculated whether it was a tourist sightseeing plane badly off course or a terrorism hijacking gone terribly bad.
Back in the room preparing for my departure, NBC still provided information and I watched in horror as I saw the second plane hit the second World Trade Center building. Definitely an act of terrorism.
I called my then husband to tell him what was happening (since he lived in a national park and news was limited). I was crying out of fear and confusion and couldn’t get in touch with him but left a message with the lodge’s receptionist. I then called my parents – crying – and spoke to my father who told me things would be okay and offered to come get me wherever I was. That’s what dads do.
What happened during the next few hours is a bit fuzzy but I vividly recall riding on the bus heading to our next stop in Rhode Island and receiving intermittent updates. We were told a plane crashed in the Pennsylvania field and was told Washington, D.C., was under attack. For the first time I heard about the Taliban and Al Queda.
The big question was, do we move forward with that evening’s dinner and trade show? Many of us said, “no,” we weren’t in the mood to talk to travel agents when our country was under attack and family, friends, and colleagues of many of the participants were dying in the Twin Towers. But the organizer told us travel will not stop, the country will get through this and the show must go on. And it did. Besides, flights were suspended indefinitely and we couldn’t get back to Florida.
Immediately upon entering that evening’s hotel room, I called the office to check in and my boss was surprised the show was progressing. “You all should hold hands and sing kumbaya,” she said.
Sitting on my hotel bed I was glued to the television watching live feeds of the World Trade Center and looking back, I know that was a mistake. I watched as people jumped from the towers to their death and couldn’t imagine the horror and hell they were escaping to think plummeting from tens of stories would be better than hoping to find a way out. As I know now, there was no way out for thousands. Most disturbing was watching the Twin Towers collapse.
As the day unfolded and although I was sharing a significant day in history with a group of people I barely knew, I felt completely alone in the world and 9/11 triggered a re-evaluation of my life.
About 40 travel agents showed up that evening, compared to the anticipated 100. The floor was light with chatter and presentations were kept to a minimal. The show went on.
Continued with the Post: “Lying for a Ride: September 11”