Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You?

(post copyright, 2011, Dawn Weber)

On the TV of the fifth-floor break-room, I watched those towers fall. I was working the morning of September 11, 2001 - you may have been, too. Just as they were.

My co-workers and I gathered around the set, white-faced, looking on as people jumped from the 110-story structures to end it, to escape the building's fiery hell. I wanted them all to get out, get OUT of there. Somehow.

I had visited the roof viewing deck of the World Trade Center just a few years before, in 1998, with a close friend of mine who lives in New York City. I wasn't thrilled about it at all.

"Um, isn't this the place where some guy blew up the Ryder Truck in the basement a while back?" I asked her.

She laughed, told me it would be fine, that I had to see the view.

A New Yorker, you know.

I have never liked tall buildings, and vowed never to work in one. In 2001, I didn't even like working on the fifth floor. Girls like me, from the cornfields, generally don't trust high-rises...too far from the outside and the earth and the...cornfields.

A hillbilly, you know.

As I watched the towers collapse on the TV in Ohio, I wondered how many of those people had been working when I visited in '98. If the lady who sold me my Diet Coke at the Trade Center's rooftop snack bar went to her job that day. If so, she didn't go home that night.

Two Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy-Seven people did not go home. Ever.

My co-workers and I went home.  We didn't have to work the next day, either. I sat on the front porch of my house, in the direct flight path of the Columbus airport, and looked at a sky now empty of its usual jets and vapor trails. Flight 93 had crashed near my sister-in-law's house in Pennsylvania, after reversing its course over the skies of northeast Ohio. Over the skies near my hometown, my mother and my friends and my fields.

The days and months following 9-11 blurred into mostly news coverage, and a while later, I visited my friend in New York City. Although I had talked to her, I wanted to be sure she was OK, that she was really still there. I went to the giant pit - all that was left of the World Trade Center. People in hardhats worked day and night, scooping rubble into dump trucks. I watched at the site as shredded computer paper swayed in the trees.

Then I realized it wasn't paper at all. It was the crumbled remains of the building's metal window blinds, twisted into the branches. I felt a little guilty, a little silly, for my sadness. After all, I was just a woman from the Midwest. I hadn't personally lost anyone in the terrorist attacks, I still had my family and my life and my work.

That changed soon enough. As a direct result of the post 9-11 tanking economy, many of my co-workers and I lost our jobs. Good jobs, close to home. Jobs that never returned.

Life goes on, the way it does. We had a new baby, so staying at home for a couple years became a blessing in disguise. Although the terrorists made sure our country would never be the same, I kept moving forward. You did, too.

In the blink of an eye, ten years have passed. Osama Bin Laden is dead. I work where I swore I never would: the 25th floor of a high-rise, an hour away from my house. I have no choice. Like so many of my laid-off 2002 co-workers, I had a hell of a time finding ANY job, let alone one nearby.

A few weeks ago at work, I watched my pencils roll across my desk for no apparent reason. The metal mini-blinds quivered in the windows of my building. Aftershocks of the earthquake in Virginia. Who'd have thought they'd reach all the way to Ohio? Although I felt somewhat alarmed, I watched the little scene in my office unfold with an almost amused detachment. Since September 11 - and all the tragedies and natural disasters since - nothing surprises me anymore.

The innocence is gone.

But I was O.K., I was lucky. I worked the rest of the day and walked out of my building that night, drove home from work to my family.You probably did, too.

 We are Americans. That's who we are. That's what we do.


  1. Poignant, lovely sentiments.

  2. I absolutely that so many bloggers are taking the time to reflect on this day and sharing how they felt and where they were.

  3. I, too, was at work that day; luckily, on the ground floor in Maine. We Watched it all unfold on a tv in the break room, with a mixture of shock, horror, and grief.

  4. I remember driving to work and marveling at the brilliant blue sky above. It was a gorgeous day! That all changed rather quickly when the announcer said that the first tower had been hit and then the second. Someone was discussing the possibility of terrorism. As I walked into work and told my co-workers, they thought I was mistaken. Then it came across all of our computers. I was in central NJ and 40 miles east had just been attacked. 10 years later it seems like yesterday. When will we heal?

  5. This is so nicely written. Thanks for sharing your story, Dawn. It's heavy with glimmers of hope.

    I was sent home from work for the week because The Jewish Community Center feared for its/the kids' safety.

    Be well.

  6. Beautiful post, Dawn. I'm proud of you, and Sir Mix-A-Lot would be damn proud too you know. (What? The terrorists will not take our sense of humor, dammit!) I thumb my nose at them today and always.
    I think our country has proven in the past ten years that we will keep on keepin' on. Things might get tough but you're right---we're Americans and we press forward. Thanks for the post.

  7. So beautifully written. As you say, Life goes on and so do we. My parents used to say, "You have to laugh. Otherwise you'll cry."

  8. I was at work that day when someone rushed into our meeting and said a plane had hit a tower. We watched in silence. Then the second one hit. I thought to myself, one might be an accident, two, we are under attack.

    That summer, in July, we were traveling through New York city and I commented we were next to one of the towers as we looked out the car window. I don't know which one.
    A summer to remember.

  9. I was at the auto shop getting my car fixed. I called the Little Woman at home and said, "Remember that dream I had two weeks ago where I woke up crying b/c I heard screams and airplane engines? Turn on the TV."

  10. I was working for an International freight forwarder 2 miles from Cleveland Hopkins airport. We turned on the tv 60 seconds before the second plane hit the tower.

    We were sent home due to the proximity to the airport.

    My sister worked downtown in one of the tallest buildings. She was also evacuated.

    The next day I returned to work because our business was turned upside down by the planes that had been rerouted. Our customers overseas didn't show much compassion to our situation in New Yor.

  11. Everybody asks, "Where were you when you heard the news" that day? I was having a semi-ordinary day. You see, the company I worked for had its annual managers meeting at that time of year every year. I was supposed to be out of town from 9/10-9/12. I wasn't. I'm so glad I wasn't. I was 7+ mionths pregnant with my second child & had a gorgeous 7 active nearly-2-year-old at home & when the managers' meeting dates & place was announced, I went oddly paniceked. It was here in Ohio, but the thought of leaving home for 3 days freaked me out beyond belief. I felt anxiety I could not explain. I knew I would need more reason than that to bail on the meetings, so I spoke with my OB & she agreed with me that feeling the way that I was, I shouldn't travel so I got my dr.'s excuse & did not go out of town, even though it was only 2 hours by car. So I was having a perfectly ordinary day with my toddler & I called my sister because it was her son's 1st birthday. She asked me why i was so normal. I didn't know what she meant. She asked if I had on the TV. (IT was on Nick.) She said to change the channel. I asked what channel. She said, "ANY channel." So I did, & that's how I found out, at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon. I was supposed to be at work at 4. I called in to ask if we were going to be open. I was told yes. I did not want to go. But being responsible, I did, grateful all the while that I was not stranded at that hotel 2 hours away. We had no business. I was there barely 2 hours when I took my dinner break. As soon as I came back we had the warning to evacuate the building. Someone had called in a bomb threat. And I was 7+ months pregnant & not with my child... The police came, did a sweep & found nothing. We were told to go back. I did not want to go. But I did. Because I am responsible. Well, another hour, maybe less, passed & the building operations gave us the choice to shut down & go home. We did. We were spending more on payroll than we were bringing in & no one wanted to be there. I say I always trust my instincts...but I really do. They do not steer me wrong. I cannot imagine the pain & fear to be going through thenational crisis separated from my family...& like you, I knew no one personally who may have been more directly affected, but I knew of people & had accquaintances that may have....I thought of them, willed them strength, & like you, lived my life. Because I'm responsible & that's what we do...

  12. Awesome job Dawn. I almost wrote something about how I spent that terrible day, but decided not too. I'm glad I didn't because you said it all. Very eloquently, I might add.

  13. Beautifully written.

    I was in Southern Maryland, with construction contractors on all of the military bases in the DC area. I spent the day crying and calling their wives to explain that the bases had been locked down and their husbands couldn't leave.

    I was also extremely scared that the Marines would call up my boy, who had enlisted only a month before, to go immediately to war. They didn't. But he was Iraq in March 2003 when that war officially started.

    Yes, my world changed forever that day. Yours did, too.

  14. Very well written and with such sentiments. I am not in a high rise, nor do I know anyone personally who was in the area at the time when everything happened.

    I do remember where I was and how I felt. I also remember looking at the pictures online and actually smelling the smoke. As someone said on another blog- this was the Pearl Harbor or JFK event of this generations lifetime. I don't want to imagine the event of a lifetime yet to come for our children...

  15. I was at home packing for our trip to to Italy the following morning... Made for an interesting flight...

    Mrs B had been informed a couple of days earlier that her department was going to be on the top floor (44th) of the new building her company was moving into and was freaking out a little...

  16. I watched on TV as the 2nd plane hit the other tower. My wife popped a tape into the VCR moments before.

    Then I watched our country go nuts - restrict civil liberties, attack a country that had NOTHING to do with 9/11, watched airline travel become like walking through a checkpoint in a third-world dictatorship, watched our budget diverted to war while other decried how "entitlements" were causing our deficit.

    To some extent I think we have let the terrorists win.