Today is one of those “stop and remember where you were” days. September 11, 2001.
I was in Boston. For a week-long conference for the software I use in my book design business. I remember leaving the hotel room that morning after turning off the TV, not really catching the beginning of the news…just a glimpse of a replay of a plane and the Towers. The conference keynote speaker presented and we all moved on to the first sessions of the conference…still unaware, although I overheard someone say something about a “small plane clipping a building”. The conference organizer had encouraged us to turn off our cell phones as a courtesy to others and I had mine turned very low. I got into my first session and the phone buzzed quietly. I ignored it. Twice more it rang and I checked…my husband was calling from Phoenix. Odd, I thought, so I quietly left the room to call him back. He quickly filled me in with the news that he had at that time in Phoenix. We were to learn later that one of the planes left Boston’s airport and that our stay in Boston would be extended by several extra days.
By then, phones were ringing for everyone. And they continued ringing all week and no one complained. I had a brother-in-law who had been stationed at the Pentagon and while he was currently living in Colorado, he traveled to the Pentagon several times a month. It was several hours before I got word that he was safe at home in Colorado. Many of the attendees at the conference were from the east coast, specifically New York, Boston, and DC. Somewhat miraculously, as I recall, no one in the group lost anyone close to them.
Lunch was a somber event; this conference was a relatively small group of software zealots, close-knit and not a quiet group. I had attended maybe 8 or 9 previous conferences with many of the same people. Questions were asked: Do we cancel the conference? What can we do?
As it happened…no one was going anywhere, in or out that week and into the weekend. We stuck close to our hotel staying up late in the bar with our other “family”. Those nights were spent glued to the TVs and taking turns dialing for airline reservations to try and find out how and when we could get out of Boston. When one of us got through and changed a reservation, the phone was passed to the next person who needed it, as it was so difficult to get through. (We did venture into Boston central one evening by bus and tried to do normal tourist things…after two evacuations of restaurant/bars for fire alarms, we all made our way back to the bus and the outskirts of Boston.) I fell asleep through the “Bridget Jones Diary” twice waking to find the TV on, afraid to turn out the lights that week.
My family was naturally worried with me so far away at a time when it was natural to seek comfort from those closest to you. I know it was harder on them than on me. I was, after all, with people I had known for many years. Strengthening bonds by going through an event I hope never to have to go through again. And when I did finally board the plane to go home to my family six days later, I remember the pilot greeting each and every passenger (on a half-empty plane) to reassure us as best he could. I remember the person next to me, a perfect stranger, and how we talked and shared stories of our families waiting for us.
Stop and remember, and never forget.