I was supposed to fly that day.

I had plane tickets for that day. Technically, I still have them, as they weren’t used. It was supposed to be my first real business trip – Salt Lake City for a conference.

I came into work early on September 11. I had some things to finish up at the office before my afternoon flight, and I still had to go home to pack before heading out to Dulles. I got in around 7:30.

The phone rang just before 9:00, barely catching me before I left. It was my husband.
“Go to a news site now,” he said.
“Which one?” I replied.
“It doesn’t matter.”

I tried CNN, ABCNews, The Washington Post. Having no luck, my husband sent me an instant message – “Try the Houston Chronicle: http://www.chron.com”. I did. I got through.

I don’t remember the headline, just the picture. The World Trade Center towers, one smoking, with a hole in it, more than halfway up. Looking at the image, I understood that something really awful had happened, but I didn’t really get it yet. The phone rang again.

“Are you still going to Salt Lake City?” My mother.
“Of course, mom. Planes crash. It’s sad. I can’t believe it hit a building. Probably someone in a Cessna – got off course, got lost, had a heart attack, or some kind of plane malfunction. I’m still going to Salt Lake City.”
“I think you should reconsider. Promise you’ll call me back before you leave.”
“Ok, mom, I will.”

I don’t remember how I heard about the second tower – I can’t remember if I saw it online, or if Dan called me. But when I knew, I began to understand. I remember seeing people jump from the towers to their death. My brain wouldn’t let me believe what I was seeing. Those aren’t people – must be something else.

The phone again.

“No, mom, I don’t think I’m going to Salt Lake City today.” I hung up. I sat at my computer, hitting the reload button every few seconds, to make sure I didn’t miss anything new. Eventually I lost the Houston Chronicle. Trying to get a streaming video feed from CNN, my computer froze.

My officemate, Deihim, got it, though. I stood behind him & watched. I was transfixed.

From down the hall, I heard someone say, “They hit the Pentagon”. I got chills. This is my backyard.

CNN reported on the crash at the Pentagon. Someone said it was a helicopter.

I don’t remember the order of things after that. They were saying planes were “missing”. How do you lose a plane? They have transponders. You can’t lose a plane.

Someone reported that there had been an explosion at the State Department. That made up my mind.

I told Deihim, “I’m going home. Work will be here tomorrow.” I left.

After deciding to leave the building, I couldn’t get to my car fast enough. I kept thinking, “what if I’m too late? What if I made the right decision (to leave) but I made it 6 seconds too late?” I had a second of fear when I went to start my car – afraid it would explode. I don’t know why.

I was at home when the towers collapsed. I was glued to the TV.

I think I cried all day. I heard the Washington Monument had been hit (false report, as was the report of an explosion at the State Department). I started getting phone calls (once the phones were working again) from frantic friends & family members who’d known I was supposed to fly from Dulles that day. I heard from friends who worked near the World Trade Center. One who’d gotten off the New York subway just as the first plane had hit. Everyone I knew was accounted for.

I remember the sky – that day & for days after. How clear the skies were – no contrails, no silver glimmers of airplanes in the sun. Only the occasional grumble of the military planes flying over DC. It was so quiet.

I can’t believe I got up the next morning & went to work. I don’t remember anything I did for the next few days, except that I’d go home, plant myself in front of the TV and cry until I was too tired to cry anymore, and then I’d go to bed.

Eventually it got easier. I didn’t cringe when I heard a plane fly overhead. I stopped being afraid to do every day things, like go downtown, ride the Metro. I flew again in June. It still gets me, though, when I see a shot of the World Trade Center towers on a TV show, or in a movie. Or when I drive past the Pentagon, and see the bricks that are the wrong color.

I found the plane tickets recently, when I was packing to move. I almost threw them away. Actually, I did throw them away, and had to go into the trash & retrieve them. They’re dated 11 09 2001. I was supposed to fly that day.

One Response to “I was supposed to fly that day.”

  1. [...] 10 years ago, Tuesday, September 11 started as a regular day at work.  I was in a hurry — I was headed out on my first business trip that afternoon.  A year later, I wrote about my experience, and reading it takes me right back to those moments:  http://blog.danandem.com/2002/09/10/i-was-supposed-to-fly-that-day/ . [...]