Eight years ago I left my house on a bright morning. I walked the 25 minutes to work and it seemed everything had changed. I entered my office and my officemate told me a plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers. Her sister works in the World Trade Center and she was trying to get a hold of her. We didn’t know what happened, but I saw the pictures online and wondered if it was an accident.
Soon a second plane hit the other tower and we knew it was no accident. Just outside my office was a conference area in our office with a wall of windows that looked down over 20th street, just blocks from the White House. My boss called someone he knew at the CIA and came over to tell us they are saying it was terrorism. A co-worker had an instant message from a friend saying there was fire at the Old Executive Office Building (where many there are many executive branch offices and even closer to us than the White House). Someone else was on a cell phone saying there was smoke in the national mall. Another instant message: the military was taking over Lafayette Park. I’m not sure if these rumors were actually true, but at the time all I knew was everywhere I turned there was more fire and bad news.
The only (somewhat) good news that arrived: my officemate talked to her parents and found out her sister was not in her office that day. While it gave us some comfort, there was not much comfort for the many who still have loved ones there.
Word arrived that a plane hit the Pentagon. It was across the river, but almost due south of us. Immediately we all went home. I walked the 25 minutes back to my house in a sea of people who couldn’t get on the metro or their bus and somehow had to make their way back home, in some cases all the way to Maryland. Getting on a bus wouldn’t have helped anyway, as the streets were packed and cars barely moved. A woman walking with me borrowed my cell phone. I walked up 16th Ave NW to my house; walking just a bit faster every time I remembered the White House was just below us at 16th and Pennsylvania.
I spent the rest of the day glued to my television and trying to call my family. My sister in New Jersey, just in case she or my brother in law had decided to go into NYC that day. My friend who was studying there. My family in California to let them know I was back home. Neither of my roommates were able to make it back to our house. But one of my roommate’s friend came by around noon. I had only met him once before. He couldn’t get his car out of the underground parking garage and our house was the only one he knew in walking distance.
We watched the devastation together that day. I didn’t really know him at the time, but I felt connected to him. Both my roommate and I have moved to new places now. I don’t see her often, let alone her friend. Yet I still think of him sometimes and wonder where he is on this day.