The morning of 9/11 I was unaware of what just happened. I was driving to work from Berkeley to Walnut Creek in my convertible Geo Tracker with the wind blowing through me. I did this every morning. I put on my business attire, swept my hair up in a baseball cap and off I drove into the misty mornings. It was my time to sing and take deep breaths before I walked through the doors of the corporate world. A place I never felt I belonged.
I pulled into the garage and noticed I had 10 missed calls on my phone. They were from mostly coworkers and some friends. I called a coworker back and she said in tears "where are you?". I just pulled into work, I told her and then she proceeded to tell me I shouldn't go back home and asked me if I had watched the news. No, I never watch the news or listen to it in the mornings. Too depressing. I save it for when the day is done. She then proceeded to tell me what was happening in New York and that the bridges in San Francisco are at risk of a terrorist attack. One is connected to Berkeley. I felt like I was going to throw up.
I hung up the phone and ran into my office. I was the executive assistant for the president of a large technical consulting firm. Our corporate office was in Newark, NJ. My boss liked living in California better. So, she commuted...all the time. You could see the towers from the Newark building. We had clients in the towers. We had client meetings on that day. A few of our consultants were to hold the meeting. I knew one of them and his wife very personally. We were friends. I also noticed in my panic that my boss wasn't there. That didn't make sense. She always arrived at 7am...a half hour before I did. She was supposed to fly in last night from Newark to San Francisco.
The news was in the background. When I heard the flight number, everything inside of me stopped. I swear I could hear my breath in a room full of loud people. United Airlines Flight 93 went down. Wait, why does that sound familiar?
I ran to look at my bosses flights. Yes, yes...there it was "Flight 93" on the records of her trips. This is the flight she always takes in the mornings from Newark to San Francisco. Perhaps she is not here because she decided to go this morning rather than her unusually scheduled red eye flight. I tried to stay calm and I called our travel agent. He was panicked too. He told me he doesn't always do it for her if it is passed hours. She sometimes books directly with the airline. I tried calling United Airlines. It was busy. Of course it was.
Everyone came into my office asking where she is and I had to pretend I had it all under control. I stayed calm but beneath the surface, I was trembling. Her cell phone was going straight to voicemail. No one was answering her home phone. You can imagine my thoughts.
For another hour I fielded many calls for her. Everyone that knew she took that flight often, was inquiring. I was also being asked to send out a list of the names of all of our clients and consultants that were in either one of the towers. So, that one by one, if we somehow got a hold of them and found out they were okay, we could cross them off the list and take a deep breath.
I'll never forget when I heard her voice. I was on the phone and I saw her passing my office and saying over and over..."I'm okay, I'm okay", holding her hand up and reassuring everyone in her path. I lost all ability to be professional and ran into her office and hugged her. She is not they type of person that is very huggy. She is very stoic and unemotional. But not that day. We hugged and tears fell. I told her I thought she was gone and she said "I know...I still flew in last night." She then proceeded to tell me that she's been on her phone all morning and that it died on her way in. She also told me she considered leaving this morning but felt in her gut she needed to get home to her family. Now she knew why.
Not everyone on that list was crossed off. Most of them were. And everyone that was crossed off had an odd story as to why they were alive. Either it was traffic or a personal phone call making them go outside or a drunken night that left them with a hangover or they were on one of the floors that got out. So many stories like this.
I think everyone I know has a story connected to this day and it is why we all feel it so, so much.
I'll never forget when Stephen called me. He was the consultant that was supposed to be in the towers at that time. He was the one that was my friend. An older gentleman with beautiful gray hair and the sweetest smile. Him and his wife traveled around the world as much as possible and he always came into my office sharing his adventure stories. When I first heard his voice say hello, my own voice cracked as I told him I thought I lost him. He started crying and told me that he feels guilty for being here. That he was in his hotel room and is usually on time to meetings but that his alarm didn't go off. He was late, just about to run out of the room with his coffee in hand when it happened. The hotel was close to the towers. He heard the airplane.
So you can see why on this day, so many memories surface for me. So many people I knew at that time in my life were directly connected or related to the victims.
I don't mean for this to be depressing. I don't talk about this day much. I think this time, I needed to write it down. It feels cathartic. And since I consider this my "journal", I know it doesn't have to be perfect. It can be messy. I am doing this for me. For healing and also in remembrance and in honor of the victims and their families.
They will forever live in our hearts. And I will forever remember how good my boss smelled that day when she nuzzled my face into her shoulder. How I wish everyone else got that chance to hold the one or more person(s) that they lost that day. Just one more time. Someday, somehow...they will.
I was turning 30 on September 15th. I was supposed to be in my dear friends wedding that day. In Chicago. But I couldn't fly there as the airport was closed. I wasn't expecting anything on that day. There was no reason to celebrate. I missed my friend's wedding I've been waiting for all year.
My girlfriends surprised me. They met me at my cottage and told me to get something pretty on. They drove me into the city (san francisco). It still felt like a risk, crossing that bridge. I think we all held our breath. They were determined to make me smile, at least once. This was supposed to be a huge milestone, turning 30, but to me, it wasn't consuming my thoughts.
When we arrived at the block full of restaurants and bars we noticed no one was out. It was quiet. You could almost hear a pin drop. But most places remained open, even if empty. So, we spent the evening at this pub...all sitting up at the bar, talking with the bartenders and wait staff. Everyone had a story about how they were connected to someone in those towers. There were tears shed and hugs and stroking on backs and hands being held. They were all strangers to us but by the end of the night, they felt like friends. I never saw them again but I will never forget their faces.
This is how our nation came together during that time. Even today, when our nation feels so disconnected, it is this day that breaks down the political party walls and a tenderness seems to wash over. Even if just for a day.