“10 years. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.”
I have found myself saying that a lot this week. Like many other people, I have been thinking a lot lately about what happened 10 years ago. It’s an event most of us will never forget. 9/11 changed life as we know it for all of us.
I remember my father telling me how he remembers exactly where he was and what he was doing in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. I also remember his father telling me the same thing about Pearl Harbor in 1941.
9/11 is that event for my generation. I remember it like it was yesterday. I’ll remember it until the day I die.
More than 3,000 people died that day. I didn’t know any of them. I don’t know how I would feel if I did. You hear stories of people who were on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. You also hear stories of people who were supposed to be on the planes.
It’s hard not to think about it. Turn on a TV or a radio and it’s right there. There are 9/11 specials on almost every channel this weekend. NPR is doing about 12 hours of coverage on Sunday. My station aired several stories about it. It really makes you think back to that day.
I was still in that in between period of my life. It was before I went back to college. I was 22, working in a factory at the time and I was listening to the radio. I think I was listening to Howard Stern (he was still popular back then). Since he was based in NYC, he was talking about it just a few minutes after the first plane hit. I remember him talking about how the first reports indicated that it was a small plane and it must have been an accident.
Then it was clear that it was a much larger passenger jet. He kept talking about how the building was on fire and how there was debris falling. I walked over to the break room and turned on the TV. I turned on the Today Show and not 10 seconds after I turned on the TV, they showed the second plane hit the other tower. Live.
“HOLY SHIT!” I remember saying loudly. That got the attention of my boss, who was walking by. My boss just happened to be my father.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“You have got to see this. Two planes flew into the World Trade Center.” I was wearing a Walkman (remember those?) and as soon as the second plane hit, Howard Stern said “This is a terrorist attack. We may have to leave. I don’t know what to do.”
I remember my dad scolding me a bit, telling me to go back to work…but I couldn’t. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen.I watched the buildings burn and finally went back to work. I kept listening to Howard Stern, who really did a fantastic job describing what was going on. I give him credit. He was right there in Manhattan and he didn’t leave. He was on the air until well after noon (his show was on from 6-10am) and he took phone calls from people all over New York and the country. People described what they saw and how they felt. Looking back on it, Howard Stern provided some of the best coverage of 9/11.
10:00 was break time. I went back into the break room a minute or two before and walked in just as the South tower collapsed. I, and the rest of my co-workers sat there stunned as the North tower burned. We were still there watching when it collapsed at 10:28.
We went back to work shortly after that, but not much work was done. All of us were glued to radios. By now, every music channel had flipped to a news network. There were reports of other planes being shot down or crashing. You really had no idea how many planes there were or when this would end. For me, it got real when I heard that President Bush was on Air Force One surrounded by fighter jets. I lived 10 miles from a nuclear plant. “What if they hit the nuke plant?” I remember thinking.
I remember turning on the TV as soon as I got home from work. What else could you do but sit there, stunned, as you watch people covered in dust and ash walk home from Manhattan? I remember watching another building near the WTC collapse around 5:30 that afternoon. They still weren’t sure how many people died. Nearly 40,000 people worked in the World Trade Center. How many of them were at work that day?
I can’t believe it was 10 years ago.
The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years. You can’t go into Canada without a passport now. You can’t get on a plane without taking your shoes off, or getting groped by an agent. Everyone is watched more closely. In some places, if you’re a Muslim, you’re suspicious. That’s life in America now.
One thing is for sure. Terror attacks will continue. Events like this will happen again. When it does, the people who experience them will say the same thing.
It seems like yesterday…