I first wrote this post on the 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. I’m reposting it today on the 10th anniversary.
I think every decade or two has an event occur in history that is so momentous that virtually anyone who was alive during that time can tell you exactly where they were when they heard that news. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were that event in history for the current decade.
I was at work at approximately 6:30 that morning PST in a hospital in Spokane, Washington. I was walking down the hall and glanced into a patient’s room and noticed our charge nurse standing there staring at the television with a stunned expression on her face. This is a nurse who has 30 plus years of experience dealing with life and death situations every day. The fact that whatever was unfolding was stunning her scared me before I even knew what was unfolding. I glanced up at the tv in time to see the second tower of the World Trade Center crash to the ground. As I heard that this was the second tower to fall the charge nurse and I glanced at each other and almost at the same time said “This was no accident.” The patient grabbed my hand and all three of us in the room had tears either in our eyes or streaming down our cheeks. The last hour of that shift until I got off work at 7:30 was the quietest and most somber I’d ever seen the floor I worked on. Staff were concerned about a co-worker of ours who was due to fly back from Boston that morning. Some patients had family and friends in the NYC area and were frantically trying unsuccessfully to reach them. As the day shift staff came in it was apparent right away many of them had been crying recently. At least one staff member was crying as she said she’d tried to reach our co-worker stuck in Boston for the past hour and not been able to reach her cellular phone. All of us expressed feelings of shock and sadness. More that one of us used the word surreal to describe how the whole situation felt. As I left work that morning the news announcer on the radio was announcing it was just becoming clear just how many people were presumed to be dead. I drove home with tears streaming down my face.
Later that morning my mother and I drove to Airway Heights, Washington near Fairchild Air Force Base. The base was locked down, of course. We were approximately three or four miles from the base entrance and within a five minute span saw no less than six local police patrol cars. The fact that the perimeter of the base was being patrolled so closely really made it seem more real to me because that hit so close to home. I went home and cried myself to sleep. I can’t think of a single day in my life when I have shed so many tears in one day. Each year on September 11 I can’t help but remember exactly where I was and how I felt when I heard the tragic news. I imagine that I, like many, many others, will continue to remember that for a very long time.