My Memory Of That Day
We awoke at about 7:00 AM as usual. I let the dogs out and thought, what a beautiful, sunny and warm early September morning here in Boston. I wondered how many more days before the autumn chill filled the early mornings. My wife headed to the shower as I boiled the kettle for morning tea. We fed the dogs (McKenzie the Dalmation and Moxie the Dal/Lab mix) and ate our breakfast of cereal and toast while sharing the Boston Globe. We were 38 and 37 years old.
My wife headed out for work at a local university as I headed to the shower. I went through my usual morning ritual of shaving etc. before heading to our bedroom to decide which suit and tie to wear. While getting dressed, I turned on the television in our bedroom. At this point I became aware.
The television showed a skyscraper with a huge cloud of smoke billowing out of its side. I thought, wow, that is an awfully big fire in that building. I began to take my mind off my suit and pay attention to what I was seeing. The newscaster said that there were reports that a small private plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers. At this point I was hooked. I sat on the bed in my suit pants and t-shirt and socks and watched the television as the smoke continued to pour out of the building.
For some unknown reason I was beginning to realize that I was witnessing something very noteworthy. I telephoned a childhood friend with whom I still played hockey and who I knew worked the 2nd shift at a warehouse and would be home. I do not know why my first call was not to my wife. I guess that maybe I thought that since she had just reached her office, I would let her settle in and begin her day. I think I may have also thought that the incident, although significant, was not quite big enough news to bother her at work.
My phone call awoke my friend and I told him of the burning twin tower. I told him to turn on the television and have a look. I distinctly remember him asking what channel it was on and I told him Channel 5. It had not yet dawned on me that this was such a big story that it would be broadcast on every channel. I only knew that I was watching Channel 5.
I was filling my friend in on what I had heard when suddenly the screen showed what I believed to be a clip of the initial collision. It was not. It was the second airliner crashing into the second tower. I remember we both exclaimed, “Holy S__t!” The newscaster then began to speak of hijacked planes, other targets and terrorism. The Pentagon was mentioned as having had sustained some sort of explosion. There was talk of potential other planes in the sky. My friend and I both decided to call our wives to let them in on the developing story and agreed to speak with each other again thereafter.
My wife and her office-mates had no idea what was taking place. As I was informing her, she told me that someone had just come into the office with the news and that they were all now going to a room with a television. I hung up the phone and dialed my friend once again. I wanted to be able to discuss the developing situation with someone. I had also decided to skip the office today and stay home (luckily I am self employed).
As we learned of the Pentagon and Pennsylvania and the potential for other hijacked planes and other targets, a feeling of apprehension or fear began to take hold. I was stunned to learn that the two planes that collided with the twin towers had apparently left Boston’s Logan Airport that morning. Things were now beginning to hit home. Did I know anyone that flew out somewhere this morning?
Shortly thereafter, the first and then second tower crumbled and fell in mere seconds before our very eyes. The iconic image of those towers in the New York skyline was erased in moments. My friend and I were stunned. After about 45 minutes to an hour, my friend and I concluded our conversation which consisted mostly of “I can’t believe its.” My phone then began ringing constantly as family and friends called, all for the same reason. I called my office and sent the employees home. I was glued to the television in our bedroom (not even taking the time to move to the larger screen in the living room) for the rest of the day. My wife came home at about lunch-time and we both continued to sit on the bed and watch for what must have been hours.
We stayed up very late into the night doing the same thing. We fervently changed channels to see if another network had any new details. I seem to recall that we did something that we never do. We went to sleep with the television left on so as not to miss anything.
The next morning the phone rang very early and my wife was instructed that there would be no work that day. I in turn, called my employees and partners and did the same. The two of us sat together for another full day watching the live coverage of what we now realized was an event on the scale of the Pearl Harbor attacks before we were born. We understood that this had become our “Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot?” moment in time.
As the next few days passed, the names of some of the presumed victims were beginning to be released. The first one I remember was Garnet “Ace” Bailey, a former Boston Bruin from the Stanley Cup wining teams of 1970 and 1972. He was now the director of scouting for the Los Angeles Kings and was headed to that city on United Airlines Flight 175 out of Boston but which found one of the towers instead. I then learned that the best friend of one of my law partners had also been aboard that flight. Not long after, I learned that one of my college friends and our team goalie perished while working as an equity trader in the South Tower. A day or so later I learned of another classmate who was aboard American Airlines flight 11.
As the days passed and the number of victims began to increase, the magnitude of the event began to take hold. I thought that perhaps everyone I knew, either personally knew someone who died that day or knew someone who personally knew someone who perished that day. I was pretty much correct. As each day passed and I resumed my ordinary daily routine, I heard another story of somebody’s lost family member, friend or acquaintance.
As I sit here now writing this blog post, I realize that it was exactly 10 years ago today at just about this very minute that I first turned on the television.