10 Days At Ground Zero

The following story is dedicated to all the rescuers killed at the World Trade Center incident on Sept. 11, 2001. This tragedy portrayed the sheer evil hidden in man’s darker side and, in turn, the heroes who rise above it all. (Note: Because this...


The following story is dedicated to all the rescuers killed at the World Trade Center incident on Sept. 11, 2001. This tragedy portrayed the sheer evil hidden in man’s darker side and, in turn, the heroes who rise above it all. (Note: Because this article was written five months after the event...


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The following story is dedicated to all the rescuers killed at the World Trade Center incident on Sept. 11, 2001. This tragedy portrayed the sheer evil hidden in man’s darker side and, in turn, the heroes who rise above it all. (Note: Because this article was written five months after the event, not every detail could be fully recalled or determined. There are also periods of time and activities that I simply don’t remember.)

DAY 1. Sept. 11, 2001 – a day etched in our minds and in our history. A day that undoubtedly has changed the way we view our lives and the freedom which we have taken for granted over so many years. A day which shattered our self-confidence and shook our sense of security to its very foundation. We’d never experienced a major attack on the U.S. mainland. Maybe because we are the mightiest country on earth, we felt we never would. We always felt that our daily routine would never be compromised. We had control over our lives and felt secure in that thought. It was normalcy. Until Sept. 11. Then, whether we have accepted it or not yet, our country, our lives and our sense of normalcy were changed forever.

I start my day preparing to fly to New York on a business trip. I always fly USAir because it has non-stop service to LaGuardia. I usually arrive at LaGuardia around 7:30 A.M. and make it into the city by 8:30. Any other trip, I would have arrived at my hotel 15 minutes before the first plane attacked and no doubt would have been downtown within 30 minutes, just after the second strike. This trip, however, is different.

Even after buying a ticket on USAir, I change my plans on Sunday. Instead, I book a flight on United through Washington Dulles Airport and come in a day earlier than originally planned, on Tuesday, Sept. 11. Having to now connect, my new itinerary puts me into New York three hours later than usual, so I schedule no meetings until the afternoon and decide to just reuse the USAir ticket on a future trip. Just a feeling, something that can’t be explained.

After watching Monday Night Football, I switch over to the Weather Channel and notice a major storm front coming through that night, all the way up the Eastern Seaboard. It’s supposed to push off the coast by early morning and I feel comfortable about flying the following day. I realize later on, that if the storm had stalled, the attack would not have happened that day, with poor visibility being a big issue.

I drive to the airport and take off on time, arriving in Dulles right on schedule. Yet another uneventful flight, just the way I like them. I walk into the terminal to check the monitor for my connecting gate. It is around 9 o’clock. The screen reads “Cancelled” for my flight to New York, and for the flight after that to New York. Every other destination shows “On Time,” so I think nothing of it, it’s just another quirky travel day.

At the counter I ask what the story is before booking a new flight. The gate agent says, “Two planes hit the towers.” She has a very distraught look on her face. My first thought is that an aviation accident has occurred at LaGuardia. Two planes must have collided over the airport and fell on the control tower. That’s why all the other flights weren’t affected. But I could have sworn she said “towers” – plural. I hesitate, then ask her to clarify, and she tells me that two airplanes flew into the World Trade Center.

I stand there in shock for about five seconds while the magnitude of her statement sinks in. Terrorism. I then ask where my bags will go. I know two things at that moment: there won’t be any more outbound flights, regardless of what the monitor says, and I need to get to New York right now. I dash to baggage claim and find my carousel, while talking to the office on my cell phone. I instruct them to buy me a train ticket from Washington, D.C. to New York. Oddly enough, they succeed.

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