On this day
After reading many friends’ posts on Facebook, each one noting what they were doing on September 11th, eleven years ago today, I too find that I need express myself. It is respectful acknowledgement of what happened to us as a nation and individually. Now, more than in years passed, I find that I am more connected to New York than ever. It’s ironic that I am no longer a resident of New York State, but in my heart, I will always be a New Yorker and have such a strong sense of New York Pride. I am really missing being there today of all days.
Eleven years ago, a beautiful clear crisp day, just like today, I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for work. I managed a conference for a professional association. I had just run into a few friends who were also staying at the same hotel by pure coincidence. I was also 5 months pregnant. I remember as I flew to Pittsburgh, just 3 short days before the unthinkable, I rubbed my protruding midsection, and prayed for a safe flight. Instinctually as a mother, I almost knew.
The conference was going off without a hitch, thanks to my apt ability of planning (along with the help of some amazing co-workers!) until it happened. My colleague ran up to the mezzanine level of the hotel, where our ‘headquarters’ were stationed and blurted out that the World Trade Center had been hit. Blood rushed from my face and a feeling of deep gloom engulfed me. By the time the second tower was hit, I knew we were at war. At that point, the conference that was this well oiled machine, abruptly stopped, and the majority of attendees flooded the hotel bar, where the large screen TV projected horrible images that were happening right before our eyes.
And it didn’t end there –another plane hit the Pentagon and the plane that crash landed in Shanksville, an area just outside of Pittsburgh, I knew the world had just ended. And it did – the world as we knew it no longer existed. The city of Pittsburgh shut down and I, along with my colleagues and 600 Mechanical Engineers were held captive at the Pittsburgh Hilton. Not really, but it felt like it. And, everyone looked to me for answers. “How am I going to get home?” one asked, another said “if we can’t get home, will the hotel kick us out?” “Should we continue the conference?” one of the volunteers asked.
We collectively decided to continue with the conference, since we all were stuck there without an easy exit. I don’t know how any of the attendees were able to objectively present their work, stay focused or carry on but they did. Through it all though, I kept thinking of my brother, who at the time, worked downtown or my girlfriend who has a store on Park Place right around the corner of where it all started, or the few I knew who worked in the area and prayed that they were OK or the thousands of others that were just going to work. Only after I got back to New York, I found out that a friend from high school perished.
I did have the foresight to rent a minivan that horrible September day when all this happened. I was able to get myself and 4 others home safely to New York 4 days later, with a trip tick from AAA (long before GPS people), boxed lunches and at that moment I knew I was ready to be a mother in this unsettling world. After a long emotional drive back to New York, crossing the George Washington Bridge and seeing the smoke all the way down the Hudson, I knew that I loved New York more than I ever did.