Posts Tagged ‘history’

9/11

September 11, 2019

On 9/11/2001 I was a federal employee at Social Security Headquarters (a large complex of 8 buildings) in Baltimore County, Maryland. Shortly before 9:30 a.m., as I was pulling into a parking space, I heard that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. I thought they were talking about small planes, not commercial passenger jets. I remember thinking that two planes was weird. I hurried into the building to sign in and get to my 9:30 meeting.

The woman who sat next to me called in to say she couldn’t get to work from Virginia because something was happening in the Pentagon area. Rumors about planes hitting various government buildings in and around DC ran rampant. Frankly, if they’d hit the right buildings in the SSA complex, it could have dealt a substantial financial blow to the U.S. Hopefully, the current disaster recovery plans will reduce the time required to recover from any kind of disaster.

My branch chief who was also acting Division Director that day stuck her head in and said she was getting the hell out of the office and that we could do whatever we wanted about staying or going. Sometime later an announcement was made that the building was closing and everyone was dismissed. I had to hang around because the tech support people were working on my computer and I had to keep signing in for them. Despite the rumors I never believed I was in danger. Another reason I stayed was so I could stop and pick up some lunch on my way home.

Who stayed to make sure our quadriplegic employee was able to contact his transport people? Remember, the boss hightailed it out early on. Phone circuits were tied up with all the phone calls being made and attempted. Bruce hadn’t been able to contact his transportation to get a ride. Who stayed? Our newest employee who had been there for two weeks and I. I asked Darnell why he hadn’t left. He said he wanted to make sure Bruce was able to get home. If I had any respect left for my boss by that time I lost it that day. In a different division, the acting director insisted on staying until every single employee he was responsible for left despite his employees trying to get him to leave because he had a family. He deserves respect.

I had no idea what was really going on until I got home and turned on the TV. When we returned to work I learned that one of my former co-workers was one of the masses of people walking across the bridge to get home from Manhattan. I wondered where my parents were. Once all the planes were grounded I knew they were safe, I just didn’t know where they were. They were supposed to fly out of St. Louis that day but I didn’t know when. Were they at home? Had they reached their destination? Were they grounded somewhere? I didn’t know and it didn’t occur to them to call me to let me know. I called them that evening and learned that their flight was after the planes were grounded so they went home to Illinois. My aunt was the only person in the family who called me to make sure I was ok. I said I was fine but I didn’t know where mom and dad were yet.

Watching the TV coverage was like watching a disaster movie. I had no connections to New York at that time so it wasn’t real to me. The next week my friend who sat next to me at work told me about her weekend in New York helping to search for her three cousins who were in the towers. One was a John Doe in a hospital, unable to talk; another found under her maiden name in a different hospital; no trace of the third one who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. Finally, they went to his apartment and got the superintendent to let them in. Rather than call a family member, he left his final message on his answering machine. No trace of him has ever been found. My friend’s tragedy made it real.

My house was near the flight path for BWI airport. The next three days were so quiet with no aircraft in the air except for the military planes making their circuits around the Baltimore-Washington corridor. I was at one end of the loop, my friend in Virginia was at the other end of the loop.

One of my former guild members, Veronica Christensen, was an instrumental part of the 9/11 ground zero flag restoration. Read Veronica Christensen’s story of the flag’s rescue.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
. . .  any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

MEDITATION XVII
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne

The Eagle Landed . . .

July 20, 2019

View from above of 2 astronauts in spacesuits deploying a US flag on the moon.

50 years ago today man landed on the moon for the first time and I missed seeing it.

In July 1969 I was 18 years old and a member of the 1969 European tour of The School Band and School Chorus of America. July 20 found us in London, England – our last stop before returning to New York.

Our guide took us on a walking tour of the city. It was quite an exciting evening to be in London. I remember two things about that night. One was seeing the Prime Minister arrive at 10 Downing Street. He waved to us as before entering the residence.

The second thing I remember is the huge crowd filling Picadilly Circus. There was barely room to move. A huge movie screen had been erected, showing the TV video of the moon landing. TVs weren’t as ubiquitous then as they are today so people gathered in public places to watch. Unfortunately, the astronauts didn’t exit the lander until approximately 3 a.m. London time. I believe the exit was delayed to occur during U.S. TV prime time. By then I was sound asleep. Bed check by the chaperones for our tour members was 11 p.m. No exceptions made for historic events. The hotel had set up a TV in a small room off the lobby but there were no TVs in the rooms.

The most historic event of my lifetime and I’m one of the few Americans who missed it. Where were you when the Eagle landed?