I wanted to share an extra post today given the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed by US forces last night. This has brought up a lot of emotion for me.
For those of you who don’t know, I was working out of town on a project in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. That is a day that I will never forget.
I had a standing meeting at 9 AM with out client. On my way to the meeting, one of my coworkers told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Thinking that it was touring plane, I said, “How can a plane miss the World Trade Center? It’s huge.” When I got to the conference room, the TV was on, and I saw the footage of the first plane hitting the tower. We knew this was no accident. However, there was work to be done and the client manager asked that we turn off the TV because we had work to do.
Near the end of the meeting, one of the clients came into the room and told us that the Pentagon was hit and that we were evacuating the building. We all walked over to an office that overlooked the Pentagon and we could see the smoke bellowing up from the crash site. It was surreal. I was ready to just walk out of the building right then. One of my coworkers was with me and reminded me that some of the other people from our company may not know that the building was being evacuated and we should probably let them know.
So we went back to our desks and told the other consultants that the Pentagon was hit and we were evacuating the building. The news of the evacuation obviously hadn’t made it around to everyone because a different client manager came up to us and said, “Who’s in charge of you people? We are not evacuating the building.” Our most senior person on site that day said, “I don’t know what you’re doing with your people, but if mine want to leave, they can.” I can’t tell you how much it meant to us that he stuck up for us, since some of my coworkers had friends and family working at the Pentagon.
We were now getting reports that the Vice President’s office was bombed. Our phone lines weren’t working and I wanted to get a message to my husband before I left. Luckily the internet was still up. I sent a quick message hoping to reassure him, but because it was so rushed and talked about the report of the bomb, it just made him more worried.
Traffic in D.C. was at a stand-still. You could literally walk faster than you could drive. Since I had an apartment downtown, I invited the other consultants to my apartment until traffic cleared. As we were walking over, I began to wonder if it was the best idea to go to my apartment. I lived across the street from the FBI building and on a direct path between the Capitol Building and the White House.
When we got to my apartment, we put on the news. While watching the news, my roommate got a call from her family. The man who would have been her future brother-in-law was in the World Trade Center on a floor above 100. He normally didn’t work at the World Trade Center; he was there for a meeting that day. I believe he knew he wasn’t going to survive. He made calls to his family to tell them how much he loved them. We watched as the towers fell and tried to console my roommate, hoping that by some miracle her brother-in-law made it out. We later learned that he did not.
That night in D.C. was eerie. No one was around; the streets were empty. The people from my project who lived downtown, wanting not to be alone, decided to go out together to get some food. The only place we could find open was a restaurant at one of the near-by hotels. As we walked over to it, the only thing we could hear were fighter jets circling the city.
My husband obviously wanted me to leave D.C. permanently. I was on an out-of-town assignment which had me in D.C. Monday through Friday and home on the weekends. Leaving the project would have meant quitting my job which for financial reasons, was not an option. We luckily had 2 locations for the project – one in D.C. and one in Virginia.
The next morning was solemn. I will never forget the walk to work. It was like everyone was in a daze. There was no talking, just glances of shared sorrow. When I got to work, I asked the project to allow me to work in Virginia the rest of the week which they allowed me to do.
Since almost no flights were flying out of D.C. that week, I had to drive home for the weekend. It was a long drive home and I listened to news reports the entire way. I remember the feeling that the nation was closer; that all the petty differences we had didn’t matter anymore.
I am not happy that people lost their lives last night because I would never celebrate anyone losing their lives. But I imagine that it brought some level of comfort to the families who lost loved ones on September 11th knowing that Bin Laden is not around to plan anymore attacks.