All of us that were adults on 9/11/2001 have our own stories of that day. Those of us that were too young or not yet born do not. That came to me as a revelation at school this morning. I’m recently retired and go to college for fun. I engaged fellow classmates in conversation before class, and many did not know the significance of this day in history, and heard about it for the first time with amazement. It made me think about how history is repeated if history is not learned. Everyone old enough to remember has a story. For those that do not know this history, it is important that those that do share theirs. This story is mine.
It was a warm morning in September. As a early riser, I decided to drive to Chicago that day instead of flying. The drive is 5 hours, the flight 1 hour, with an hour to get to the airport and check in, and then another hour to get out of O’Hare and find a rental car. For the extra 2 hours I got to use my own vehicle, and could leave anytime I desired. I also saved company money driving, so it was an easy decision.
I left at 5:30 am. and was on the Ohio Turnpike minutes later. My house in Hudson Ohio was close to the turnpike. I would be in Chicago by 10:30 am. with plenty of time to make my first appointment at noon. I was listening to news radio at the time and at 8:46 am. it was reported that a private plane had just crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. A dark shadow of dread came over me. I called my boss in California, woke him up from a dead sleep and asked him to turn on his TV. After a few choice words, he agreed to do so, just in time to see the South Tower get hit at 9:03 am. I told him I was shutting down our Ohio operation as soon as we were off the phone, and he did the same on his end.
Now almost in Chicago, I called my salesman to see if our meetings were still on. He verified that we had a line review at Ace Hardware Corporation, and a dinner meeting with True Value Hardware Corporation that night. I continued on my journey, occasionally screaming as loud as I could to release the pain I felt for those dying in New York.
Minutes later the radio announced that US airspace is now closed down indefinitely. The radio also barked that an unknown number of other commercial planes have disappeared from the air traffic control system, and at least one of these planes has also been hijacked. Shortly after the Pentagon was hit, and then another plane, United Airlines flight #93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. There was some conversation about the passengers fighting the terrorists and deliberately crashing the plane, which was headed to our nations capital, possibly to crash into the White House. I let out a loud primordial scream, one that came from deep inside my broken heart.
As I head into Chicago, the towers fell, and at once, over 3,000 lives were lost in those moments. Every radio station on the dial is now reporting that we are at war. The military is now on high alert, and airports around the world are shut down for the foreseeable future. My cellphone rings, my salesman tells me that our meetings are cancelled and I can now turn around and go home. I’m emotionally exhausted, and cannot fathom driving another 5 hours, so I check into the O’Hare airport Marriott.
As I exit my van and capture my luggage from the back of the vehicle, I notice a strange quiet. In this normally bustling area, no planes were taking off, the nearby freeway, usually jam packed this time of day, hardly a soul was driving. It was if the world had come to a eerie stop. I enter the lobby to the hotel, and people are sleeping all over the floor. Since the airport closed, the rooms were full but the hotel let those stranded use the lobby for their lodging. As I check in, the counter person informed me that I had the last room available, and my $145 rate was a bargain, as they were selling un-booked rooms for as much as $750 before they ran out of inventory.
Heading to the elevator to get to my floor, I run into neighbors of mine, stranded and needing a place to sleep, shower, and transportation back to Ohio. My room had 2 double beds and a fold-out couch bed, and I now had 4 roommates. We spent the evening in the bar downstairs contemplating the day and what was to come.
The next morning we all loaded up in my Chrysler Town & Country van. We drove home barely mouthing a word. We were done, we had enough, our emotions were shutting down. As we drove home, caravans of firefighters from Indiana and Ohio were speeding down I-80, with their sirens blaring and their lights flashing danger. They were headed to hell, they were speeding to destiny in Manhattan. My friends and I cried, not just for the dead, but for those brave men that were headed into that maelstrom of destruction.
Subsequent days after the attack air travel resumed, but with very tight security controls. Flying now was a chore, with checkpoints and with passengers eyeing each other with suspicion. There were “no fly” zones around our biggest cities, with fully armed fighter planes on standby to eliminate anyone entering these spaces. It was now a paranoid new world where we were now giving up freedom for safety.
We were now in 2 different shooting wars, now debatable but then touted to eliminate those that would do us harm. Our boys once again were dying in far off places like Kabul and Baghdad. Saddam Hussein was tracked down and hanged. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda were being destroyed, and Osama Bin Laden was in hiding.
Since then, Osama Bin Laden has met his demise at the hands of our Navy Seals. We are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, and both countries are a big mess. Flying is still uncomfortable due to security implemented by the Transportation Security Administration. That one day in September changed us forever.
Now, 17 years later many in our country do not remember that day, many were too young or not yet born. Some of our politicians are cynically using 9/11 as political props on this solemn day. New York, the Pentagon and an empty farm field in Shanksville, PA are having ceremonies honoring the dead. Today, I honored those dead by giving my fellow classmates a history lesson that they will never forget.
#9/11 #9/11 history
2 thoughts on “THE DAY THAT EVERYTHING CHANGED!”
Nice article George. I shared my story of that tragic day as well last night. I emphasized the comraderie that followed.
I will never forget that day!