September 11, 2001: Are We At War?

It is hard for me to believe that of all of the days to not blog about, this day 9/11/01, would be one of the days that I missed and did not return to until more than six years later when I added this entry in December, 2007. In fact, no entries for the entire month of September were recorded for over six years leaving this critical point in history rather a blank in my recorded memory. Of all of the days that I have written about I imagine that more people have looked to see what I have had to say about this day than any other and have been left wanting.

I awoke to the phone ringing. My cell phone. Eric Millen was calling me from his office at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Hospital where he worked as the manager of the waste processing facility there. (As of December, 2007 he is still working in that capacity at that facility.) At the time that he called it was early in the morning and I had been planning on sleeping in late because Dominica and I were due to drive down to Washington, D.C. that evening and I was getting plenty of sleep before making the drive.

Dominica had gone to work. At this time she was living in Enfield in her small studio apartment there. She was working in a bio-chem lab in Ithaca and was at work already by the time that Eric Millen called me.

Eric just told me to turn on the television. I ran upstairs to the living room (my bedroom was located in the basement) and turned on the television. Luckily at the time the house was splitting the cost of having Time-Warner Cable so I was able to get the news right away on the 32″ Sony Trinitron that served as our house television. The Northern WTC tower was impacted at 8:46 am so this was several minutes after this when I received the call.

At the time that I turned on the television the first of the twin World Trade Center towers had already been hit by an airliner and was smoking badly. It was early yet and no one knew what was going on other than the fact that New York and Washington were in chaos and panic. The second plane had hit the Pentagon but we were not hearing too much about that yet. The news was mostly showing live footage from Manhattan.

I ran upstairs to Andy’s room and woke him up telling him that he needed to come down and watch the news. He didn’t believe me that anything was going on but I finally convinced him to get up as we didn’t know if the country was under attack or what. At this point the news was very sketchy and no one knew what was going on at all.

Andy and I spent the morning just watching the news as events unfolded. There was so little information. You really couldn’t afford to leave the television for any length of time.

We were watching early enough that we were watching, live, as the Manhattan reporter spoke to the world and over his shoulder the second airliner crashed into the second tower. The south WTC tower was hit at 9:03 am. So thus far only seventeen minutes have passed since the time that the first plane hit, Eric called me, I woke up Andy and now we have seen the second plane impact.

It was one of the strangest feelings ever – seeing the second WTC tower get hit by an airliner while the reporter was obliviously talking to the camera. And then watching his reaction as his camera crew sees it happen and then he whips around to see it himself. News doesn’t normally happen like this in American and never before in a place that I knew so well.

It was another forty minutes before the third plane hit the Pentagon in Alexandria, Virginia. By this point we were beginning to become very alarmed. When it was only New York that had been attacked it seemed very isolated regardless of how much destruction there was. But once another site hundreds of miles away – and a military target at that – had been hit then the scope of things seemed to be changing. And to make it all more personal, every building that was hit was a building that I had been in at one point or another.

I took a tour of the Pentagon with Nathan Parker in 1993 while we were in Washington, D.C. on our “Close Up” trip. And I had been to the top of the World Trade Center’s Observation Deck in 1997 with Leanne Cooley while on a music department performance trip to New York City while I was doing my degree in Music Performance at Monroe Community College. And, by this point, I had living in Alexandria for six months of my life and had commuted past the Pentagon during most of that time. It was a familiar sight for me on the road.

It was 10:05, almost an hour and a half since this ordeal began and just over an hour since Andy and I started watching the news that we witnessed the collapsing of the south World Trade Center tower. This is the first building that we see be totally destroyed. And once again, the crisis was escalating.

Five minutes after the first tower collapsed we received reports of a fourth hijacked plane crashing into rural Pennsylvania. We have no idea when this is going to be over and the government has no plan for dealing with what is unfolding. All that has been done at this point is that the FAA has closed all US airspace and all inbound flights are being diverted to Canada. A first in US history.

Two minutes before 10:30 the north tower of the World Trade Center collapses bringing the disasters of the day to a close. But it will be some time before we know what is going on and that we are all confident that the day is over. It has been the most riveting two hours of my life and for just about anyone in America on this day.

Dominica was at work while all this was happening and did not get the news as early as we did. But her office did get a television, I believe, so that they could watch the news and she was following the events of the day as they were happening.

At four in the afternoon a small tower, Building Seven of the World Trade Center was reported to be on fire. Five years later (March, 2006) I would take a position with a company in the New York Metro Area and end up working in one of the offices that was evacuated from Building Seven and subsequently relocated to Warren, New Jersey.

My morning was cut short, however, as there was work to be done. Shortly after the “events” of the morning seemed to have settled down I was contacted by one of the guys who worked down at Lucente Homes and said that they needed me to come down and work with them as quickly as possible. The urgency was so high that he actually drove up to the house at Sanctuary where I was watching the news to pick me up.

My morning was spent as the technical adviser as Lucente Homes split into two companies. I had been working to a limited degree with Lucente Homes for the past year or so but this was a major change. Things had to move extremely quickly so we actually spent time today physically visiting Ithaca’s local Compaq vendor (this is before the HP buyout of Compaq) and getting much needed computers and equipment for the new company, Lifestyle Properties, ordered as quickly as possible. I spent most of the day working to get the new office up and running.

It was a long and busy day.  I can’t believe that we were working even with everything that was going on.

After Dominica got home from work she and I had to drive down to Arnold, Maryland as we were scheduled to spend a few days down in Washington.  She had decided to come along with me when I went down to work down there this week.

It would have been about six in the evening when we were finally able to leave for Maryland.  That means that it would have been just before midnight when Dominica and I would have arrived at John Nicklin’s condo on Bay Dale.

Leave a comment