September 11, 2011

Where Were You on this Day in 2001?

Those of us with memories of this day, are all looking back ten years.

It was a Tuesday morning, as brilliantly sunny as today, but hotter. My husband had left for the day on business.Our family had a vacation planned, to camp with our toddler on Cumberland Island at the end of the week.  I was looking forward to us figuring out, together, all that we needed for this trip to our first barrier island. 

My husband had flown to Philadelphia that morning, bright and early out of Atlanta.his plane touched down right around 8:30 that morning. He travelled light that day, just with a briefcase. He  had not even brought a toothbrush with him, for his meeting was to be short and focused. He was supposed to arrive home not long after dark.

We were talking today about how many people had driven to Philly that day, from New York City.  These were the folks that met him at the hotel where they were meeting. Who gave him the first news of the horror unfolding in the lives near and dear to them. And how he learned what had happened, only when he got to his hotel meeting site. "Have you heard what happened just now?"  They filled him in quickly and then got back to their focus  on the television news. My husband was aghast to see, live, the last plane hit the World Trade Center.  And watch in horrid fascination, as the buildings begin to topple, minutes later.

Meanwhile, I was oblivious, living life off the news grid with our two-year-old, at home. At some point shortly after nine, I found myself on hold making a doctor's appointment, with their choice of radio station to hold my attention while I waited.  Suddenly I heard a woman radio announcer matter-of-factly say, "all flights in and out of Hartsfield have been canceled." Surely this was a spoof. What day was this again? Some kind of international April Fool's?

When the receptionist got on the line, the first thing I asked her was, "Was that a real radio station? What does that mean, all flights at Hartsfield are cancelled?"  "Oh haven't you heard...."  And so began my  journey of uncertainty.

I wanted first to know if my husband's plane had had been able to land. I wanted to know  what time my husband should have touched down and the hotel he was to meet at. At this time, my husband did not have a cell phone, so I called my husband's workplace. That's when I learned that a plane had been hijacked from D.C.. and flying over Pennsylvania. Now I saw nearby Philly as a place where the  next shoe would drop. His friend at work gave me the hotel information and found out the plane details so I could call the airline and see whether my husband had made his destination. 

The airlines affirmed that my husband's flight had arrived on time, 8:35 am in Philadelphia. There was peace in that. My next call was to the hotel, to see if I might make contact with anyone in his meet-up group.

I can still remember my feeling of utter powerlessness when I dialed the number for the hotel in Philly and found out that all the long distance circuits were busy. In Philly and in New York state, too, where I have extended family. Every time I called, without fail, the same mechanical voice in my ear, for the next half hour. Finally I gave up, and went to gather whatever strength I had. 

After all, I was not alone. I had our son to care for during this ghastly nightmare.

1 comment:

  1. It is probably most appropriate that I was sitting in the waiting lounge at the local psychiatric hospital while my mother had an ECT treatment for depression. That's where I saw the events unfold on TV. Surrounded by the mentally ill, watching crazy events unfold--the irony of it all.


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