What were you doing on September 11th, 2001?
Working in the airline industry, it’s a questions my coworkers and I ask each other on every anniversary of this tragedy. Some were working, some were off, some were about 20 miles from Manhattan. Doesn’t matter where we all were, it’s a day we haven’t and won’t ever forget.
Marlea was here in Rochester, NY, working a flight to Pittsburgh. A coworker who was known for always joking around had mentioned that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. She told him to stop kidding around. Her coworker came back a little later and told her a second plane had hit the other tower. She told him it wasn’t funny, and didn’t believe him, until the pilot for her Pittsburgh flight told her to not board anyone who looked any kind of suspicious. Then, the nationwide ground stop came, and the order to evacuate all terminals followed. As passengers grabbed their bags and went home, she and her coworkers and pilots and flight attendants stared at the TV in horror. A plane they had sent to LaGuardia returned to Rochester, and the pilot said they had to take evasive maneuvers when they encountered one of the highjacked planes.
Tom was working in Philadelphia at the time. His gate happened to be near a TV, and he and his coworkers were a little confused as to why they had to stop boarding and eventually evacuate the terminals. He saw the news and his phone immediately started going off. It was his wife, asking if he has heard from Tommy, their son. He was a pilot for a regional carrier at the time, and the news had wrongly reported that a small commercial airliner had struck the tower. After a long while, they were able to get in touch with their son. He had been grounded in Buffalo, NY.
Alan was visiting his mom about 20 miles from Manhattan. He had his bags packed to fly back to Rochester, and he was watching the news while having his morning coffee. He spat out his coffee as he saw the horrific live footage of the WTC and realized he wouldn’t be flying anywhere. After a series of frantic phone calls home and trying to find a way back, he was miraculously able to secure a rental car out of the LaGuardia airport. His airline ID was the only thing that let him inside the property, and he took the rental car and made his way down, crossing Pennsylvania. Part of the road was closed, so after many detours and 12 hours later, he made it home.
I was a 12-year-old middle school student in São Paulo, Brazil. My mom already worked for the airlines, and we had gone up to New York City about 3 months before the attacks. We had walked past the World Trade Center and started at its towers’ amazing height and importance on a really windy day. My dad picked me and my sister up from school, and told us that he had heard on the radio that those really tall towers we had seen a couple of months ago had been taken down. We didn’t understand what he meant and wondered if they were doing construction on their site, so we didn’t ask any questions. When we got home and turned the TV on, looking for our afternoon cartoons, the news was on with live footage of what was going on and repeated the footage of the planes striking the towers. My dad said that bad guys had taken the towers down, and to not be scared. He eventually had us turn the TV off. Mom had gone to the dentist before going to work and watched all of it on TV while there, in shock. When she got to work, all flights headed to the US had been grounded and cancelled, and all they could do was provide information as they received it. Everyone was scared, confused, and sad at her station, and mom says that it was one of the saddest days of her life to this day.
Let’s take a moment to think of everything that happened 16 years ago and what resulted from it. Let’s take this as a lesson that tomorrow is never promised. Thousands of people went to work and boarded their flights that day without knowing their lives would tragically change or come to a sudden end. People of all races and ages and beliefs suffered together on that day. Let’s honor their lives by being kind to one another and working together against all odds and evils. It wasn’t the day America changed – the rest of the world did, too.