Where were you when the world stopped turning?

Originally? I was supposed to be on vacation with my mother, driving cross-country. We should’ve been somewhere around LA, approximately, when it all happened. But I’d had a vacation in Georgia over Labor Day, and decided to push back the vacation with my mom one week so that I wouldn’t be too exhausted. Mom was off work for two weeks, so it just changed her vacation to the 2nd week instead of the 1st. So, instead of being in a car on some highway somewhere, I was sitting there at work. Mom was watching the news, and called to tell me right after the first plane hit. I waited, but nothing was being reported on the radio yet. Probably since at the time of the first plane, they weren’t yet sure what was going on, so they didn’t break in with the news. But, the radio I have at work also picks up the audio signal from local TV stations, so I tuned in the news on one, and listened. Listened to the broadcast as the second plane hit. Sat there, starting to get afraid, not knowing what was going on. I had to leave the radio though, I had to deliver things to other parts of the building that morning.

In every office, there had to be at least one on 9/11: that one person who broke the tragic news to their fellow coworkers. In my building – that was me. At least, it was me to about 1/3rd of my floor of the building. I dropped off the paperwork I had to deliver, and everyone over there was laughing and cutting up. Someone noticed that I was beyond pale and shaking, and asked if I was okay. I looked at her, and simply said no. Then I told her about the two planes hitting the World Trace Center, and the news saying they thought we were under attack. Other people over heard me and gathered around, and I had to repeat it a few times. As I left that area, others who’d sat a little farther away asked what I’d been talking about, so I had to spread the news again. I’d already told several people back in my quadrant of the building, and they were spreading the news along their rows. Roughly 30 minutes later, there was an email from the corporate office, informing everyone of what was happening, in case they somehow hadn’t heard yet. They finally sent us home about noon that day – everyone was too shaken and afraid to be able to work.

Before we were sent home from work, though, I spent all morning on the internet. The first thing I thought to do was to turn to a site called the Bronze. That was a message board system that had been set up for Buffy fans, and was how I knew most of the people I was worried about. There was an amazing support system there that day. People would post questions, asking if we’d heard from this person or that, and a list was compiled, to keep track of all Bronzers in the New York area. One by one information came pouring in, and we were able to breath a sigh of relief as someone was heard from and we knew they were okay. People not in the area, but with family there posted, asking for prayers, everyone keeping each other appraised of the personal situations. News articles were posted as they came in; that’s actually where I got most of my breaking information as to what was going on, since the CNN site actually crashed from too many users that day.

After I had got home from work, mom and I went to Target. I remember standing in the toy section with her and running into our neighbor, and them standing there talking. I don’t remember WHY we were in the toy section, just that we were. I can’t even remember why we went to Target at all, my mind couldn’t grasp the idea of it since it was so “normal” on such a crazy day. I think maybe mom just had to get out of the house, get away from the TVs for a little while. I think she needed the “normal” too, to be able to handle and process the grief and shock of what was happening. I know that’s why I needed the normal things, anyway.

The rest of that day is a complete blank, due to the shock. Notes I have from that day say I watched a lot of the news on TV, but I don’t have any actual memories of doing it. I’m sure I was also in front of my computer the rest of the day, clinging to my friends as best as possible through the internet. The rest of the week at work was quiet. My company put together internal fund raisers and matched the donations us employees raised. I donated money that way, through that telethon concert that aired on all 3 stations; any way I could. I didn’t have a lot, but any excess I could find I donated. I attempted to donate blood, but I actually got turned away from the donation centers because they had too many people wanting to donate, and not enough staff to handle the response.

Mom and I debated for a while, but we decided we were still going to go on our vacation. That was our way of refusing to let anyone win – refusing to let the terror take over. I’m really glad we went, even if it felt a little strange. We left on Sept 14, drove up to the Grand Canyon, then Las Vegas, then down to Los Angeles before heading back home. The trip really brought the tragedies into a new perspective. It’s one thing to see everything on TV; it’s another to see after-effects up close & personal. On our way up out of Texas, we passed a couple of 18 wheelers, carrying their “cargo” down the highway. Carrying massive missiles, a significant number of them. Seeing that shook me up for a while. When we stopped in Kingsman, Az, for gas, there was a soldier in uniform, duffel bag at his side, waiting to be picked up as he reported for duty. Almost everyone who was stopped at the station went up to him to shake his hand, to thank him for his service to the country.

Our route to Vegas took us through Hoover Dam. They’d re-opened it – but to passenger vehicles only. Nothing with any kind of trailer allowed. 10 miles both sides of the Dam, there was a police blockade, making sure only approved vehicles passed thru, and they inspected any suspicious cars. There were a few police cars parked strategically through the Dam too. Once we got to Vegas, the casinos had a smaller type of blockade set up at their parking garages. If you weren’t headed into that specific casino, you weren’t allowed to park in that garage, period. In LA, our hotel was near LAX airport. In fact, from the road we came down the coast on, we had to take an exit for our street that also doubled as an entrance to the airport. There were police everywhere before we even got to the airport, and blockages at every entry point, including the turn we needed. We weren’t stopped, but only because we were taking the Century Blvd split & not heading into the airport itself.

It was also amazing to see all the flags & ribbons flying from car antennas, proudly displayed across the back window, etc. The displays of unity everywhere we went was comforting, in it’s own way. I remember reading that on Sept 12, 2000, Wal-Mart had sold only 6000 US Flags, nationwide. On Sept 12th of 2001, they sold over 88,000. So many people wanting to show unity in a time of great tragedy.

In a way, it doesn’t seem like it’s been 5 years. It feels like a lifetime ago, yet at the same time it still feels like just yesterday. I don’t think that feeling will ever change.

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