Some say what I was doing on 9/11/01 will be my generation’s equivalent to my parents’ generation of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. And what Pearl Harbor was to the generation before that.
You remember everything about that day in detail…
I got off the train at Boston’s Arlington St. T stop in Back Bay. I was heading to work. This was my first “real” job out of college. A fancy white-collar job for an asset management company. I walked up the stairs to Boylston St. and looked up at a beautiful sky. The weather was awesome. My city of Boston looked and felt calm for a September Tuesday. I strutted in, said “Good morning” to my security guard buddy Edison and took the elevator up to my cubicle and sat in my chair. A chair I’ve only been sitting in for a few weeks at the time. The job was new. The whole going into the city for a job was new. It was awesome new. I signed onto my computer. Checked some email. Both work and personal. Then immediately went online to check my everyday sites. There was no Facebook or Twitter back then. There wasn’t even MySpace. Or blogs really. I checked Boston.com, ESPN and MSN. A habit. Had to do it before I could really start my day.
I got up to fill my water bottle and say what’s up to the work people I was just getting to know. I could hear my phone ringing. I knew it was my cousin. He called me at every college job I ever had every morning while he was still in college. I went back to my cube and picked it up. “What up?! You get fired yet?” he said. “Not yet.” I said. Then I heard somebody say a plane crashed into the world trade center. I asked my cousin “Did you hear about a plane crashing into the world trade center?” He said “No. It’s probably some dope who crashed his little puddle jumper crop dusting shit plane or something.” “Probably.” I said. I went online and saw “Breaking News” flash across MSN and other sites. They only said that a plane crashed into the world trade center. There wasn’t a flood of Facebook updates. No tweets. And text messages cost most of us 40 cents back then so texts were few and far between. What did happen at that moment was a lot of people at work made phone calls from other cities & companies to a lot of other people at work. Fast. People started talking. You could hear the talk sitting in your cube. “Somebody said it was a passenger plane out of Logan.” I said to my cousin. “What? Let me put on the radio.” He said. “Ok. I’m going to check this out. I’ll talk to you in a bit.”
The office started to buzz. The first time I heard “It’s a terrorist attack” came very early that morning. My boss came by and told me everybody was going downstairs to watch the news. Like any financial company, we had dozens of TVs for the latest financial information and stock updates. I got up and went downstairs. Everybody was downstairs. My first reaction to those helicopter shots was thinking it looked like a Michael Bay movie. The panoramic shots of New York City’s skyline. The smoke coming out of the tower. The people gathering. The quick shots to news reporters. The emergency rescue crews pulling up. But this wasn’t a movie. The office phones kept ringing. People were yelling out things like “Terrorists had taken over all our airplanes.”, “It has to be Saddam!”, “They’re evacuating all buildings in Boston. In every city!”. Then the second plane hit. A giant fireball shot out of the building. People were jumping out of the windows. We were watching it happen live. This was one of the realist and scariest things I had ever seen and shared with a bunch of strangers. We all watched as Tower 1 fell. The smoke and debris covered New York City. People around me were crying. More phones were ringing. Cell phones stopped working from all the calls being placed. Then Tower 2 fell.
I did what everybody was doing. I went back to my cube to call the people closest to me. Before I could pick up my phone it rang. “What are you still doing there?! Get out! Boston is being evacuated.” my cousin said. “Really?” I said. My mother called me from work. I called my sister. Friends were calling me. They were panicking because I worked in downtown. In a skyscraper. The building only had 14 floors and I was on the 6th but that was enough for them. And I was only a block from the Prudential Building and the Hancock Tower. Boston’s tallest and most famous buildings. At that time, we all thought the world was ending. No bullshit. The world was ending. We didn’t know what was going to happen next. “The army just shot down a plane over the White House!” somebody screamed. What?! The president of our company went around to everyone and told each of us to go home. I had to take the train home. People were afraid to take the train. I could’ve taken a cab but the young “angry bad ass” in me for some dumb reason said “Take the train and snap somebody’s neck that looks like a terrorist”. Seriously. It was stupid. And pretty much ignorant. But at that time and the days and weeks and months after that day a lot of people started to racial profile. It was sad. But it became common. That’s how the lust for revenge caused the war we would later get into. No direction. Just anger.
I got on the train. People were crying and talking crazy. We were all scared. I got to my car and put the radio on. I just listened. It wasn’t even really real factual news at that time. Just opinions, gossip, anger and fear. Mostly fear. For some reason I drove through East Boston. The city I grew up in. The city where the terrorists got on the planes. There wasn’t a plane in the sky. They were ordered down. It was very eerie not hearing or seeing any airplanes for the first time in my life. I grew up with planes rumbling over my third floor apartment a hundred times a day for almost 21 years. I drove home. I lived downstairs in my sister’s house then. I went upstairs and watched TV with my sister and nieces. We watched as people tried to rescue the fallen. For days and weeks they would try. We would watch. That’s all we could do. My cousin came and got me that night. We just drove around. Quiet. We drove by Revere Beach and saw hundreds of candles on the wall for the fallen. It was quiet everywhere. Everybody and everything was quiet those first few days. No planes. No work. No sports. No stock market. No entertainment. No fun. No hope. Just being with your loved ones and a lot of quiet and loss. It seemed like the world had just stopped. And when it finally started back up again, it had changed.
Until next time. Always take it there.
I know I certainly remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. And I also feel it’s our generations equivalent to the assassination of JFK and Pearl Harbor.
Thinking about that day, how beautiful it was weather-wise (all over the country, actually– I know it was a stunning day here in Minneapolis, sounds like it was in Boston, too), the black-black smoke against that blue sky…still gives me chills.
Every time I see pics or footage of that day I still get chills too.
Wow okay I just have to comment right now ’cause that was really really well-written and emotional. Your experience, just like probably every testimonies of people who lived these events, is breath-taking. I’m French and I was 8 so obviously I didn’t share that experience like you did but I’ve always been interested in knowing how americans lived through it. I remember coming home from school and seeing my babysitter watching the news and my mom getting so scared because her brother lives in LA and she couldn’t reach him on the phone and gosh I remember the fear, the people interviewed, nobody really understood what was happening. And somehow I’m glad I couldn’t really understand what was happening at the time because I think it’s better. When you think that single event conditionned the way we are all living today and will be living tomorrow… I don’t think anybody foresaw that when they woke up that morning.
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