I was working at America Online (AOL) on September 11, 2001. I was filling in for a girl who had just gotten married to a military man (Navy I think) and had gone on a lengthy honeymoon. I heard someone say that the World Trade Center had been hit and they were talking about whether or not it was an accident.
Some other people walked into my supervisor’s office and turned on his television. We watched and tried to work and watched. I remember how surreal it felt. I remember the light in the office, the bubbling of the fish tank of the girl I was replacing temporarily. I remember it was a bright, crisp day.
The exact timeline for me is fuzzy – just a whirl of unbelievable events: the second tower being hit, the Pentagon (which isn’t far from where I was working that day), the collapse of first one tower and then the second. My mind kept saying, “This is not happening, this isn’t happening!” At some point during all of this, the decision was made to evacuate AOL and its neighbor MCI (now Verizon) because these companies could be possible targets. At that point I started feeling the strain and tension and fear. Approximately 10,000 people between the two companies were evacuated at the same time – that led to some anxious time waiting in the parking garage, wondering if we were going to be targeted, wondering what was going on, and wondering what else was coming.
My husband, who was working at MCI up the road, and I met at home. From there, we went to a friend’s house nearby to gather with ALL of our local friends. We hugged and gathered around the tv. It was numbing to watch the videos over and over and over again but that’s all that was on that was on that I can think of and that’s all we could bring ourselves to watch for hours.
My husband and I were out playing tennis sometime later – we decided we had to get away from the news. Outside it was deadly quiet. All aircraft were grounded so the airport we lived near – Dulles International Airport – was quiet. Suddenly we heard airplanes. Turns out they were evacuating the planes from Reagan National Airport in DC and were flying them to other local airports. There was a steady stream of airplanes with no more than bare necessity staff on board from National to Dulles. It was disconcerting to see a steady stream of aircraft like that.
I will never, EVER forget what happened that day. Nor will I ever forget the images from the news. To this day, I have a hard time watching video of the buildings burning and collapsing. God bless all of the families of the victims and of the first responders.