10 years ago I went to sleep in one world, and woke up in another. I was 21, newly engaged, fresh out of college. I was living with my friend Shauna in our very first apartment (that was pretty crappy by the way).
My phone rang sometime around 5:50 or so. It was Curtis. I thought he was calling to tell me his car had been broken into again. He worked the 6am shift (east coast call center) for Nissan at the time. He was on the road and trying to understand what they were saying on the radio. Curtis said “they are saying a plane hit the World Trade Center”. I was thinking small two seater plane. He wanted me to turn on the tv to see what was up.
Shauna was asleep still. I was quiet so I didn’t wake her. When I turned on the TV both Towers were on fire. I was so confused. I thought he said a plane hit one tower. As I listened to Diane Sawyer talking, I was quickly realizing what happened. I told Curtis I wanted him to leave work since he was almost there and worked near the airport and some oil refineries. He said he was fine and went in.
I was then alone. I decided to wake up Shauna. This was bad. She said she just remembers me standing in her doorway saying “You need to get up.” The next few things are a blur. I remember watching TV with her and I know at some point I got ready for work. I had a pager for work that had a news feed at the time. I remember getting pages saying that people were jumping from the building. I didn’t tell Shauna because I remember she was getting upset. Then the Pentagon was hit. We panicked. Shauna just kept saying “ I don’t know what to do!”. We were 21, adults, but this was the first time we actually had no guidance in a dangerous situation. We wanted our parents. I know I called mine at some point but I don’t remember what was said. We also called our friends who were still in college. We knew most of them were not awake and had no idea.
I then left for work after the Towers had fallen. I remember thinking to myself “why am I going to work???”. Driving to work was eerie. Everyone was crying in their cars, etc. I also kept looking up at the sky waiting for a plane to drop. At this point I am not sure if we knew about the 4th plane or not. There were rumors swirling around and since we lived in Los Angeles we were considered a Target.
I remember leaving work early. I just didn’t feel right pretending like everything was fine. Shauna and I went out and put gas in our cars and went out to dinner to stimulate the economy. That night we were terrified to go to bed. I didn’t want to go to sleep. We ended up pulling out the sleeper bed on the couch and sleeping together there with the tv on. I woke up in the middle of the night and heard a plane. I panicked again. Air space was closed! Later I would realize it was a fighter jet patrolling the area. We slept out in the living room for months. I think I just didn’t want to be alone in my room if something happened. I also had to sleep with the TV on.
Shauna and I have a bond and I always think of her on this day. We were each other’s support system. We had to figure out what to do.
Every year I watch shows documenting 9/11. I don’t want to shut it out and ignore it. The people who lost loves ones that day can’t, so I don’t think I should either. Living in NY for this event is also very sobering. There is a memorial around the block with the names of the people from my town who died. I pass it every day. Curtis and I want to go to the memorial at Ground Zero at some point too. I would like to pay my respects.
I remember how the country was in the weeks following. We would be driving along and fire departments would be lining the streets with their boots out asking for donations. It would make me cry but I was proud of my country and proud to give money to the fire fighters. I wish that feeling was still in the country today.
Last night when I put my kids to bed, I realized that they will never know a world before 9/11. Before terror on our soil was something we didn’t think about a lot. Before we had to be searched and take our shoes off when flying. Before code yellows and oranges and reds. I hope they never have to feel the terror and fear we all felt as we watched the events of 9/11 unfold before our eyes. I envy their innocence. They don’t yet know what happened today. It’s just another day to them. One day they will ask me. I will have to explain what happened and why. I still don’t know how I will find the right words, but I hope I can explain it in the best way possible.