Sunday, September 11, 2011
I would bet there isn't an adult alive who doesn't remember where they were that day. I was a few months out of college and starting my first real job in Chicago. I had moved the previous weekend, excited to start my new adult life, and lived in an apartment on the north side of the city with some girlfriends. September 11 was my 2nd day of work at the Sears Tower.
I was riding the El downtown when the man behind me got a phone call and I overheard his conversation with someone telling him about some plane crash in NYC. It seemed strange to me, but obviously couldn't be anything life-changing, since everyone around us was acting perfectly normal, heading off to work. When I got into the training room in the Sears Tower, the person next to me was talking about some bombings in DC. I shared with him what I'd overheard and we started trying to find any news online that we could find. There was so much confusion with information and mis-information and I was relieved when they made a building-wide announcement that they were evacuating the Sears Tower just a few minutes later. I returned to the El and made my way back to my apartment.
I tried to call my mom but the phone systems were sporadic throughout the day, with what must have been an overload of phone calls but I reassured her I was okay, nothing had happened in Chicago - yet - when I was able to get through. I spent the rest of the day glued to the television, stunned, scared, and deeply saddened. Fighter jets circled the city the rest of the day and the next over my apartment.
Over the next few weeks, I saw tremendous changes in the security at the Sears Tower. The way of life in the city was changing. As part of my job I had to travel a lot. Those first few months, I couldn't get on a plane without thinking about what had happened. The flights and airports were empty - some flights had only a few people on them. There were intense, manual security checks of all my bags. And every time I drove into the city and saw the skyscrapers, I pictured planes flying into the tall buildings and it reminded me. Sometimes I still think of it as I'm approaching the city skyline.
In some ways it seems like that day was a million years ago and in some ways it seems like last week. Who I was then - single, living in the city, naive and fresh out of college and eager to start my life - seems a lifetime ago from the mother and wife I am now. At the time, I related the most for those who lost fiances, siblings, friends. Now, I think mostly of those young mothers, especially those pregnant, and imagine the horror of losing your spouse and partner in such a horrific way, of babies growing up without knowing their fathers, and of parents losing their child. 3,000 children lost their parents in those few hours.
I sit with tears in my eyes tonight, thinking of those babies without parents and of parents who survived their kids. I can't even imagine the pain of losing a child.