Friday, September 11, 2009

We must never forget...

I can't even begin to describe to you the feelings I had on September 11th, 2001, but I am guessing they are quite similar to any other country loving American whose perspective on life was altered forever on that fateful day.

I am sure you all have a story, a strong memory of where you were, what you were doing...etc.

Here is mine:

I had just started work at Apex Systems Inc, in Annandale, Virginia (just outside of DC, a few short miles from the Pentagon) mid-August and was in my boss Rob's office talking to one of my candidates who in fact had an interview that afternoon at the Pentagon. I was prepping her for the interview, telling her where she was going to meet the hiring manager, and how to get inside that fortress when David Lewindowski (whose birthday it was) came into the office, said that a plane ran into the Tower in NYC (Background: His Dad worked for a top secret agency and had called David to give him the news before it broke on national radio and tv), at this point in time there was speculation it was an accident, but it wasn't long after he came into the office, and we told our candidate we would call her back, that the news broke that another plane had hit the other tower, it was then that I dialed my good friend Allison who was living and working in NYC, I was on the phone with her, she was sitting under her desk at work, I could hear the sirens, everyone had left our office to go find a TV, and then she says "The Pentagon was just hit" chills ran through my veins, someone was on the phone with a candidate that was on 395 just as it happened, turns out our Branch Managers wife was also on 395 right beside the Pentagon Exit (she has had years of therapy) and it felt like seconds later that Allison said "And now the White House" turns out the radio was reporting that in NYC because there was smoke coming from the Executive Offices, not sure how that rumor started, but it added to the terror. At this point everyone knew it was terrorism, planes were being grounded and we were being evacuated due to our buildings height and close proximity to Washington. The radio hosts told us to fill up our tanks, grab water bottles, because they weren't sure what we were to expect on the roadways.

During this time I had managed to get a call through to Megs, my roommate who had just moved in a few days before, she was at home studying for the CPA exam and didn't have the TV on, she had no idea what was going on, but did realize that it was awfully quiet at our house (Background: We basically lived on the Dulles Airport Runway, so quiet was a scary thing). I probably passed a total of 10 cars on my way home. Police/FBI was guarding Exit 10 on the Toll Road, stopped me, asked me where I was going and once I told them home, they asked me if I was okay the rest of the way by myself, I was, and on my way I went. I pulled into our apartment complex, Megs was waiting for me on the balcony. I was so thankful I had one of my closest friends there to share this wretched day with, her and I "cuddled" up on my bed for what felt like 24 hours. We watched news program after news program, I don't think coverage stopped for several days, and we were glued to it.

I talked to several friends from home who were worried about me, knowing that my job took me to places like the Pentagon. A guy I was "talking to" at the time had some friends that worked in the Towers and he was on edge not being able to get in touch with took a few days, but they were all accounted for. I remember IM'ing with some JMU friends that lived in NY that tried to detail the scene that day, they could hear building jumping from the towers, they could see bodies flying through the air, what a terrible sight.

I remember the days after September 11th we (all the other recruiters at Apex and I) were scared to call any candidates that worked in the Pentagon because we were terrified we would hear "I am sorry, but he passed away on the 11th", it was scary.

I will never forget driving to work in the weeks after September 11th, driving on the GW Parkway, entering DC listening to "Do you remember?" and all the other patriotic songs that came from that tragic day. It was moving to work in such a powerful city, but scary at the same time.

And a few short weeks later a big group of us took the Metro to RFK Stadium for the United We Stand Concert, the skys were still quiet in DC, the FAA had declared DC airspace a no fly zone, and I recall sitting in my seat listening to all the amazing performers and being scared to death that the stadium would be a target for another attack, a huge venue like that, celebrating our freedom and the ones that lost their lives on that horrific day. There were snipers on the roof, and since we had terrible seats, had it been appropriate I could have reached out and touched one. There were helicopters circling the stadium, and when one came a bit too close I felt my heart stop for a quick second...

It was strange having peace and quiet at our apartment, we were so used to the noise from the planes overhead, and when I saw we lived on the runway, I mean, when the planes were on the ground, we could see the pilots, that's how close we were. When the planes took to the sky's again it was a little erie. Megs and I would climb up on my bed and watch the planes come in at night, they started slow and then sooner or later it was back to normal...

I remember September 11th, 2002. The "Heaven" song that was created with all the little kid voice overs broken into the lyrics caused me to pull over in Ballston because I couldn't see where I was going I was crying so hard. That song got to me every single time I heard it, and to this day I try and find it online every year so I can remember just how many lives were changed forever by those terrible people.

So that's my story...It clearly put things into perspective for me. Live each day, Cherish the ones you love, Always say I love you, Always make sure those you care about know how you feel...and be thankful for each and every second we have with the ones we love.

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