In a few hours (past 8:30AM-ET for me), clocks will mark the exact time when a plane crash began the most devasting attack on the United States. My stomach still goes into knots when I think of that day’s events, and hearing everyone’s stories recalling what happened creates a bond amongst us. Here is mine.
I was working for Fidelity Investments at one of the Boston, MA buildings in 245 Summer Street. We had recently moved into our new digs on the 8th floor the month before and had finally settled into our area. My being a Baltimore Orioles fan caused a lot of ribbing at work, but when you bought Red Sox tickets for that upcoming weekend’s game in Camden Yards, co-workers were as excited for you as if the game were in Fenway. This was Cal Ripken’s last season of playing baseball, and I did not want to miss the chance of seeing him play once again in Camden against the Red Sox. The plus was that Rich had never been in Camden, and I wanted to show him how beautiful it was along with the city. I proudly beamed whenever I was asked about these tickets for the past week. I especially was happy about the price I paid for them — $85 for the pair and we were in left field’s home run territory.
For the first time ever, I had a fairly serious food allergy reaction 2 days in a row. The first occurred after we ate dinner at the Crow’s Nest with Mom and Dad to celebrate Dad Reynolds’ birthday (Sunday the 9th). A hive had appeared on my mouth, and since I never had any food allergies before, I thought it was a fluke. Monday morning some jokes were made over my “cold sore” but by the end of the day, it disappeared. The 2nd one popped up after we had dinner and ice cream with Sandy and Steve Hodell. This time the hive was on the other side of my mouth and I became scared. Nothing I did made the bump on my lips go away, and I started stressing out late into the night with worry. I finally decided that if the hive did not go away when I awoke for work in the morning, I would call in sick and see the doctor. Sure enough, it was still there at 5AM, and I promptly sent an email to my manager explaining the details of the hive. Knowing that I will be at the doctor’s office later in the morning, I decided to go back to sleep for a nap.
The hardwood floors combined with the vaulted ceilings were the reason why the phone’s ring echoed loudly in our apartment, and those rings woke me. I sleepily answered the phone, and heard Rich’s voice telling me to turn on the television. Still a bit groggy, I grabbed the remote and turned on the little television in our bedroom. The first plane had already hit. The hysteria on the screen mesmerized me. I kept repeating to myself “Oh my God!” and “What the H—?” over and over. I watched when the second plane hit; the news about the Pentagon’s crash and the crash in Pennsylvania were not far behind. Numbed from what I had seen, I managed to pull away and go to my doctor’s office.
The office was abuzz with the news of the crashes. Robin, the Nurse Practitioner who checked me out, and I did a lot of head shaking in disbelief. Nothing could be diagnosed without seeing an allergist, so the office set me up with one. (It was weeks later when it was discovered that I am barely sensitive to strawberries and shrimp, but hives only seem to appear when both are eaten in a certain time span.) Talking to Robin reminded me that my close friend Eric was a full-time firefighter in Alexandria, VA. I called him later that day to see if he was okay. His active duty team was placed at on-call status for the Pentagon. Turned out that they were given the late shift and were retrieving bodies throughout the night well into the morning.
I still remember what Eric told me: How the limp bodies looked like they had no skeleton and gave an eerie glow in the darkness. I could only wonder what the other senses gave — the burnt smells, the crunching sounds underfoot, the smokey tastes, and undescribable touch. It would have been surreal to me if I had been there, like a bad nightmare in a deep sleep.
On Wednesday I found out from teammate Linda (her sister worked at our NYC campus) that a number of fellow employees working at Two Liberty could have been casualities in the crashing Twin Towers. When the first plane hit, the plan was to evacuate the building and have everyone meet at the front of the building, which was across from the Twin Towers. Most of the employees (including Linda’s sister) decided that they would rather go home than risk the chance of the Twin Towers’ collapse. Little did they know how their choice to disobey management’s orders would save their lives.
The second bit of news that amazed me was how lucky I was for calling in sick. Because the planes came from Logan Airport in Boston, the city was evacuating and South Station was chaotic. All the platforms were filled with people pushing and shoving to get on the trains. For those not familiar with Boston, 245 Summer Street is next to South Station, across the street from the US Federal Reserve, it is behind the US Postal Service’s main building, and its waterfront faces one of the main building sites for the Big Dig. Now imagine what my co-workers saw in the train station’s chaos. I really was lucky; the irony is that I have not had any hives appear since then. Now, what do YOU remember doing that day?? =:8