No I wasn’t in New York, I was in Atlanta the day the two planes crashed into the Twin Towers. I think most of the people in the world who were old enough to remember and understand what happened can remember where they were when they learned about the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers in New York, into the Pentagon in Washington DC and into that field in Pennsylvania.
I was living with my relatives in Atlanta and it started out like a normal Tuesday. I’d started helping my uncle with his medical records. I worked at his clinic, in the back office, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. They were transitioning into digital records so I was doing data entry for them, taking patient records and inputting all the patient information, doctor’s notes and procedures into a patient records management system that they’d just installed.
I got ready to go to the clinic, went down and had coffee and a piece of toast and left the house with my aunt. We had a small white TV in the kitchen and it was usually switched on whilst we had coffee. Strangely on that day, I don’t remember the TV being on. We got to the office shortly before 9AM. The first plane had already hit the North Tower so it was definitely after 8:46AM. I don’t remember what time we got there. But I remember one of the patients in the waiting room saying “Oh my God!” over and over again whilst staring at the TV.
The TV in the clinic’s waiting room was tuned into CNN (we were in Atlanta after all). I remember switching on the computer and walking to the water cooler to get myself a huge glass of water. I can still remember rounding the corner and walking into the waiting room. I remember looking at the television and seeing the the second plane crash into the South Tower. I can still see it. I don’t think it’s something you can “unsee”. It’s one of those images that embeds itself permanently in your brain. I’m sure it all happened in real time but it I know that I can see it in slow motion. How the plane flew straight into the South Tower and the ball of fire that exploded shortly after.
The rest of the day passed into a blur. I don’t remember much about what happened except for all the TV watching we did. There were a few panicked hours because we couldn’t get in touch with my cousin and her husband who were both in New York. But at the end of the day, we were all accounted for, safe and sound, rattled, unsettled and terrified, but scared.
I think I never really understood the feeling of helplessness until that day. Even now, it isn’t difficult to remember the feeling of not being able to wrap my mind around the enormity of what happened to America on that day. The shock, grief, utter helplessness and eventual anger that everyone felt on that day. It will always be a day that I will sit quietly and think about life, how blessed I am to have all my loved ones with me. My heart goes out to all those people who lost their loved ones on that day, not just in New York but in Washington DC and in Pennsylvannia. We will never forget all those senseless deaths. Know that we will always remember.
Last year, in November, was the first time I went back to New York after that day in 2001. We went to the 9/11 Memorial and did the walking tour with a firefighter and a lady who worked in an office across the street from the World Trade Center. Before we went on the tour, we walked around the 9/11 Tribute Center. I was fighting the tears by the time we finished walking around the exhibition. Our tour guides talked about their experiences, what happened to them on that horrible day. It was heart-breakingly poignant. They were ordinary people who were thrust into extraordinarily horrific circumstances. But what struck me was the underlying spirit of hope and the indomitable human spirit.
We must all never forget. We must all remember so that this will never happen again. We should always try to walk in someone else’s shoes. Our first response must always be peace. We must always be guided by love.