Wednesday, September 11, 2013

102 Minutes that Changed America

On September 11, 2001, our world changed.  Our generation suddenly had our "Where were you when...?" moment, like our parents did with Kennedy, and our grandparents did with Pearl Harbor.

At 8:46 AM, Flight 11 flew into the North Tower.
At 9:03 AM, Flight 175 flew into the South Tower.
At 9:37 AM, Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon.
At 9:59 AM, the North Tower collapsed.
At 10:07 AM, Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.
At 10:28 AM, the South Tower collapsed.

Where was I?  I was at work, at a local hospital.  We had a room that was full of comfy chairs for our patients to get IV fluids or blood, and each chair had a TV.  I was doing rounds, delivering mail and such, when I walked by the IV room and saw everyone staring blankly at a tiny TV. Curiosity brought me inside the room and I saw that the North Tower had been hit.  At this point, we all were thinking "Accident" or "Pilot Error", but then another plane flew into the South Tower. We looked at each other with hollow eyes, knowing that this was something completely different, and I ran to my office and called my husband, who was at home with our toddler daughter. I told him to turn on the news, that something was happening and it was like Pearl Harbor all over again.

Flight 175 headed towards the South Tower
I sat in my office, riveted to my chair, as I watched CNN and ABC on my computer, seeing people fleeing the buildings, seeing people cry for loved ones. Seeing people jump from the buildings because there was no other way for them to escape, and they chose to choose how they died, rather than let some gutless terrorist take their lives on their terms.

The explosion, seen from the Brooklyn Bridge
After a while, I went back to the IV room, to be near colleagues, near other humans, to suffer this inhuman tragedy in the company of others, when we realized that our head doctor, Dr. Wingard, was on his way to a conference. To this day, I remember looking at one of our nurses and saying "Wingard is in the air" - I didn't know what plane he was on, but I knew that he was in NY that morning. (We found out later, he was diverted to Canada, and landed safe and sound - he had no idea what had happened!)

At 9:35, we were told that another plane had hit the west wall of the Pentagon, and all of us knew that war was coming. This wasn't a little attack. This was huge, it was well-planned and it was HATRED towards America.  By 9:57, the part of the Pentagon that was hit collapsed as well.

The impact at the Pentagon
At 10:07, Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA, and at the time, no one knew why.  It wasn't until later that reports started coming in from friends and family members who had spoken to their loved ones that we learned why.  After the crew and passengers of Flight 93 learn about the terrorist attacks in NYC and the Pentagon, they decide to fight back, attempting to take control of the plane, rather than let the terrorists continue their plan (which was to fly to the Capitol). Many of the crew and passengers call their loved ones, including Todd Beamer, without a doubt one of the most heroic men I have ever heard of.  Beamer was on the phone with a GTE supervisor when the plane made it's southeasterly turn.  According to accounts of cell phone converstions, Todd, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick formed a plan to take the plane back and let other passengers in this effort. He told the GTE operator that they were going to "jump on" the hijackers and fly the plane into the ground before the hijackers' plan could be followed through.  He recited the 23rd Psalm with the operator, and his final words were "Are you guys ready?  Okay, let's roll."
The Shanksville Flight 93 Impact Site
Todd Beamer Memorial from "Grateful Colorado Citizens"
There was no way any of us could get any work done that day.  We were all glued to our computers or the little TVs in the IV room or the TV in the waiting room lobby. We saw planes crash, the towers fall, and how men and women, dressed in typical Tuesday businesswear ran through the streets of New York in terror. We saw the look on George Bush's face when, in an elementary classroom in Sarasota FL, he was told of what was happening.

President Bush being told of the attack in Sarasota, FL
By noon, the evacuation of Lower Manhattan had begun, causing over a million people to walk the streets of NYC in search of a place to go. People who worked in Manhattan, but lived in Brooklyn, or New Jersey, or even Connecticut, all trying to figure out how to get home to their loved ones.

I saw thousands of policemen, firemen and other first responders, frantically trying to dig out their own, and finding more dead than alive.

By the time I got home that night, I was emotionally drained. All I wanted was my husband and my daughter. I wanted to hold them tight and not let go, ever.

Parents should never outlive their children - at the WTC Memorial
On every anniversary of 9-11, I will never forget.

This man will always be my biggest hero

In a single day, 19 men changed my America.  And I will never forgive.

If you would like a simple timeline of what horrible things happened that day, click HERE.