Where were you on 9/11 8:48 a.m.?
Everyone seems to remember exactly what they were doing at this time on 9/11. For some reason, we recall the smallest details of whatever it was we were doing. Do traumatic events such as 9/11 leave permanent sketches in our minds? Even my mother can recall every single little thing she was doing when World War II was going on. She still hears the air raid sirens blaring through her head when she tells her story of where she was. Mom was only a little girl in school. They had to run out in the hallway, and crouch low, hugging their knees. My mother never forgot how frightening all of this was. It’s still ‘in her’. When she was home, the screaming whistles of the sirens made her shiver with fear. She’ll never forget it.
The same holds true with us. We will never forget 9/11. We can recall each miniscule detail of anything we were doing. It’s engraved in my mind. We always think, “Something like this can never happen to the United States, we’re too intelligent and powerful.” Wrong. It takes one small crack to make a huge catastrophic disaster to take place.
It was 8am, on that Tuesday morning. That was Madelene’s day off. I was getting ready for work, scrambling around to see what I was going to wear. Madelene and I ate breakfast together, and then I headed off to the office. I remember walking outside thinking how beautiful it was. The sky was so blue that day, and the air was crisp. I drove down the road and got stuck behind a school bus. All the kids were back to school, and all the busses were stopping at each single house next to one another.
“Can’t they just all meet somewhere in the middle and make it one stop???” I said to myself, frustrated with this stop-and-go ride. I was jacked up on caffeine and anticipating the arrival of 5pm.
I swiped my card through the security doors at my job, and walked up the three flights of stairs—because their elevator was an old rickety-crickety box, that shook uncontrollably as you rode in it. One of my managers got stuck inside of it, while smoke started filling up the confined space. No way. You will never catch me in that thing. I’d rather walk. Besides, I needed to lose a few pounds anyway. Couldn't hurt to actually do something physical, right? Sitting at a desk all day for eight hours or more, is enough to give you secretary’s spread. (Ladies you know what I’m talking about!)
I got to my desk, huffing and puffing, turned on my overhead light and booted my computer up. Packing my purse and other belongings away, I kept thinking what a bad idea it was to beg my managers for a window seat. It was way too beautiful outside to be sitting in this cubical full of sunshine. I’m going to wish this workday away for sure! Maybe I can play sick, start coughing or something. Hmm. They were on to me though; I always weaseled my way out of things. I worked for a telecommunications company selling phone products, long distance calling plans, as well as internet and DSL lines.
8:30 am, I went into my inbox and faxed over some information a customer requested. As I was walking through the office full of cubical jail cells, it’s so fascinating how everyone is so fricken cheerful with their fake “Good mornings”.
“Good morning Debbie!”
“Good morning.” I reply, grudgingly.
“Good morning Deb.”
“Hey.” I start losing my ‘good mornings’ to a basic, unprofessional, “hey”.
I run back to my desk, sit down, and put my phone headsets on. As a customer service rep, I was ready to take these angry customers head on. My caffeine buzz was wearing off, and my grouchiness was moving in its place. A senior rep was sitting next to me to show me the new interface system we were working with. They changed the whole format of their computer mainframe. I needed help. (Not just mentally) I couldn’t answer calls just yet, until this lady showed me the ropes. As she was teaching me, my mind got overwhelmed with each command and tons of options to choose from on the screen.
“I’m never going to figure this out, and by the time I do, the customer will already have my head on a platter for being so damn slow!”
Heads are popping out of the cubicles one by one. People seemed to be socializing. Hmm. My manager is going to rip them a new one. Some people were walking out of their cubes without headsets on. My senior rep teacher and I were still at my desk going over the system as I took notes. Our heads turned each time one of the customer service reps whizzed by frantically to another rep that was still on the phone.
“Oh my God! Really?” I heard the rep behind me say to another girl giving her some sort of news. I chucked it up to gossip. This office was literally a henhouse. If someone was biting their cuticles, the person on the next floor would know about it. God forbid someone received roses, the whole office started clucking like wild hens in heat. Awful. Are offices that ‘kept in’ from the world that they have to thrive off of other people’s lives? I have to admit, sometimes it was tempting to partake in these gossiping hen fests.
9:05 am. “A plane hit the World Trade Center!” The rep behind me blurted out to us.
“What?” Molly, the senior rep said, in disbelief.
“It must have been by accident, but my husband just called and saw it on the news.” She said.
“Oh my God…I wonder how that happened!” Molly replied.
Shaking our heads, we started working again. Now, our office was always delayed with news. We never received phone calls through our extensions. We were never allowed to use the call center phones. There was a public phone that anyone could use for emergencies. All our calls were usually monitored by a supervisor and/or tape recorded; so even if we weren’t being tapped into, we still had that fear of ‘someone was listening’ in our heads.
9:10 am. “Another plane hit the second World Trade Center building!” I heard a rep say this from behind the cubicle wall. I couldn’t see her, but I heard her clear as day.
“Oh this is an attack! This wasn’t an accident!” Another rep said, four cubes down.
“They’re still missing three other planes!” Someone else screamed out from another cubicle.
I dropped my headsets and ran to the phone, but there were too many people waiting for it. I needed to get in touch with Madelene. I wanted to be home with her. I was scared. My office was under strict rules; you couldn’t just run off anywhere you’d like, unless you signed off your phone under a project number, a bathroom code, or to ‘see a manager code’. I just dropped everything. My mind was focused on getting to Madelene. I didn’t want her home alone in fear. I wanted to be with her. My mind instantly delved into thoughts of, “What if this is a chemical warfare, or something worse, a suitcase nuclear bomb?”
I finally got my hands on the phone. No time for over analyzing how germ infested this phone receiver was. I didn’t care, because I was going to die from a nuclear holocaust anyway. I started to dial Madelene.
“All lines are busy, please try your call again later.” A recorded operator said in such a non-caring way.
My fifth time, I got through.
“Mad? Mad? Did you see the news?”
“Yeah! Some drunk pilot hit the trade center!” She said to me.
“What? Mad, there was a second air plane that struck the second building too.”
It baffled me that she didn’t think this was a war. She actually thought these airplanes were filled with intoxicated pilots. I think she was in shock. She had the, “this can’t possibly happen to the United States” type of mind frame.
She then heard President Bush’s speech, and then realized after he said we were being attacked, that we were in fact, at war.
It amazed me that my company didn’t let us go into a conference room to hear Bush’s announcement, or to watch the news being unfolded. Many other companies offered this to their employees. Some companies even let their employees go home. Many of the customer service reps had family members inside that building. We had other call centers from other states that helped take our flow of customers, so we could have at least rotated employees to go into the conference room. Our company only cared about ‘call volume’ at our site. They wanted to be number one. Even a tragedy couldn’t stop them. I seriously thought about dropping everything, and running home. All of us, regardless if we didn’t have a relative or friend in the trade center, were in distress. We couldn’t focus on our work.
“The lines are down; no one can make calls in or out. You can only make local calls.” One of the mangers yelled out from some cubicle afar.
Instantly, the office was silent. Not only were our phones silent, but the fear had suddenly sunk into our minds, leaving us speechless. Our long distance cable lines were located under the World Trade Center. They were also owned by AT&T, so that trickled over to many other customers. It had such a ripple affect, that it left us scared to know that our communications were down. We were unable to get in touch with loved ones. We were left with only silence.
Later that evening, when I got home, I hugged Madelene—thanking God I was with her now. We watched the news coverage in fear. Not one station was concerned with a television sitcom or their regularly scheduled programs. We were more silent than usual. Even the sky was silent. No airplanes, hardly any cars; everyone was fleeing to their home. No planes were permitted to fly into, out of, or within the United States until September 13. With this knowledge, we knew that we wouldn’t hear a plane while we slept—or tried to sleep.
Tossing and turning that evening, while trying to get some sleep, I heard a loud plane fly over my house. It was so loud that I jumped out of bed in fear and ran outside on my deck.”They said that there aren’t supposed to be any planes flying!” I yelled out to Madelene.
“Deb, it’s probably the military crafts. That’s why they are so loud.”
I realized she was right, but never before did I have such fear while trying to go to sleep. That night, I didn’t sleep. I was awake, in fear.
I think all of us have a detailed story of that grim day. Some stories are more horrific than others, some stories like ours, can only be sympathetic and heartfelt to the people who lost their loved ones in this tragedy. Nevertheless, I think it’s a day where nearly everybody shed a tear, and was filled with anxiety.
It’s still ‘in us’…
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare of the Lord;
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I am trusting him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from the fatal plague.
He will shield you with his wings.
He will shelter you with his feathers.
His faithful promises are your armor
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the
nor fear the dangers of the day,
nor dread the plague that stalks in
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around
these evils will not touch you.
But you will see it with your eyes;
you will see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your
no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your dwelling.
For he orders his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you with their hands
to keep you from striking your foot on a
You will trample down lions and
you will crush fierce lions and serpents
under your feet!
The Lord says, "I will rescue those who
I will protect those who trust in my
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue them and honor them.
I will satisfy them with a long life
and give them my salvation."
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