Last week, I visited New York City for the first time. Part of our tour included a visit to “Ground Zero” in lower Manhattan. This is the first time I have ever written any of my thoughts on the events of 9/11.
When 9/11 happened, I was living in Dallas and 3 months into my career at Southwest Airlines. I was engaged to be married within 4 months, with my fiancee living in Houston. I heard about the first plane crash just as I was pulling into the parking lot to arrive at work. Like everyone else, I first thought it was an accident due to weather (not knowing the NYC weather that morning) or mechanical failure of the aircraft. Shortly after work started, I went online to read the news about the incident. My radio was tuned to my regular morning show. Then the radio DJ broke in with an exclamation of how another plane had hit the Trade Center. Because my job at the time involved answering phone calls from frequent fliers, we had no access to televisions. We were all shocked and very confused about what was happening and what might happen next. Would it happen to Southwest? Would it happen in Dallas? Nobody knew. My fiancee called and I assured her everything was OK in Dallas. By then I had seen photos online of the burning buildings. My co-worker was informed that one of the buildings had collapsed. I was in disbelief that this was even possible – that something to tall and strong could fall back to earth. I figured the top portion above the impact sight was what collapsed. It was not until I saw the video during my lunch break that realized the worst had actually happened. I expected an influx of phone calls from Customers. However the opposite occurred, and it was eerily calm. Like everywhere else in the country that day, we were worried about what could happen next. The cowards who took over the aircraft had accomplished their mission of provoking fear in the minds of all Americans.
The site now looks like any downtown construction area, except ringed by tour buses. The memorials to the fallen now reside across the street at Trinity Church. This was the most moving time for me, viewing the letters signs and patches dedicated to the fallen. The WTC site was not my first visit to a place where thousands of people had died as a result of an act of terror. Auschwitz was the other one. I couldn’t bring myself to take photos there. I took none at the WTC either. Like at Auschwitz, what I saw at Ground Zero will never leave my mind.