Monday, September 10, 2007

Heads or Tails: September 11: Hartford to Washington DC

I was at school. The girls and I all lived and worked in Hartford, Connecticut. My son, Andrew, lived then (as now) in Washington, DC. He lived within sight of Capitol Hill and worked at a research facility near the Pentagon, taking the Metro to his job every day.

In Hartford, before first period, a teacher came out of his class and told us to turn on the TV because his wife had called. We couldn't get the TV to tune to a station without a metal coat hanger. At the moment we were able to tune a station, the second plane hit the Trade Center. We stood in a circle in awe and fear until I finally realized that somehow the US was at war with somebody.

We were told not to let our students know. All morning, we surreptitiously stole into the room with the TV and shared what we learned with the staff. I heard about the Pentagon attack and panicked. The principal arranged for me to call Andrew but the phone circuits were overloaded and I couldn't get through. I called the girls and told them to try Andrew's cell phone non-stop until they got him. I finally called a friend in Michigan who called Andrew. Somehow, Michigan got the call through and created a conference call for us.

Andrew's supervisor had locked all of his charges in the basement of the building near the Pentagon and they were going to stay there until the Army told them it was safe to leave. I told Andrew to get as much cash from the bank ATM as possible but he had already done that. I told them that we would drive down and get him and bring him home (that proved impossible: the roads from Connecticut to Washington were quickly all closed down).

Andrew was scared. A friend he worked with had seen the Pentagon attack from her car on the Beltway. She was in shock by what she had seen and she (and hundreds of others) had simply abandoned her car on the highway and somehow walked to work where she was locked up with the rest. There was no food except for vending machines. They dismantled the machines in order to eat during the day. Andrew told me that the White House was on fire and related other rumors that were flying throughout the country.

Andrew's supervisor finally let all of the employees out at 10 PM that night. He personally made sure that each person got home safely. The Army was patrolling Washington, huge military helicopters were flying over head and anti-aircraft guns were stationed at most intersections. They stopped to eat on the way home. They had to walk from Arlington to Dupont in the dark, in fear, because the Metro had been shut down. But as soon as Andrew got home, he called. He said he could not sleep all night because of fear and the noise of the military activity all around, including the huge lights used by helicopters to light up the city below.

As if that was not enough trauma, Andrew was affected by the anthrax attacks. His post office was the huge Washington facility that was infected. His mail was confiscated and destroyed. He had to have his mail forwarded to another postal facility. We simply stopped sending him mail for a long time because he refused to collect it for months. He was in fear for weeks that he may have contracted anthrax in mail he had gotten before they knew what was going on.

Andrew and I have talked a few times about what to do "next time." He has an escape route planned and will not cancel his land phone account, which he considered doing at one time because he only uses his cell phone. I reminded him that cell phone service was shut down on that horrid day and that land phones were the only phones working.

I am grateful that this is the only way in which we suffered on that day. I pray that we find a solution to the anger and hatred in this world so that this never happens again here or anywhere else.

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21 comments:

  1. The event has affected so many and these posts are so sad to read. But we need to remember.

    I cannot imagine living through that day worrying about a family member, even though thousands of people did just that. You are the first person I "know" that was one of them.

    Andrew had a angel with him that day.

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  2. As terrible as it must've been to see all the guns and stuff in our Capital, it still makes me feel a whole lot better knowing that they were ready.

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  3. wow--thank you so much for sharing your experience. What a vivid post!!

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  4. It was so different for us who don't live close to the areas hit, I can't even imagine how it must have felt to be worrying about a loved one's safety. Thank you so much for sharing that!

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  5. A day that had repercussions all over the world. A vivid account and I'm pleased that Andrew was ok.

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  6. So glad to hear Andrew was okay. Thanks for sharing your accounts of the day.

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  7. Wow. That is so scary. Someone in your own family that close to the danger. I can't even imagine. We can only hope that there is no "next time."

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  8. That would have been so scary. It was hard enough watching all this without actually knowing someone who was close enough to be affected. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. I remember watching those planes go into the World Trade Centre in real time... it felt like a big dream

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  10. here's my email!

    hammynutter@lycos.com

    nb i don't always check it as often as i should so please don't get offended if there is a gap!

    or if you send something important tell me in a comment then i will go right over & open it!

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  11. Oh my goodness. That must have been such a frightening ordeal for you all. I don't know anyone personally who was that closely affected by any of it. What an interesting perspective!

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  12. Couple of things we could do is everyone soften there hearts and not to stereo type people in groups.
    This would be a major step toward peace but not an easy one.

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  13. I'm glad your son Andrew was not harmed by this attack. I can only imagine what it was like to be there in the midst of all that chaos. I just goes to show how unprepared we as a nation are to deal with this type of horror. I hope something can be done to remedy this. Good post.

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  14. Thank god your son wasn't physically hurt during the attacks. Anyone who went through that first hand like your son must be very lucky that they are alright and have very bad memories. I hope he is good.

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  15. Blessings to you and yours!

    I had a hard enough time getting through that awful day and I had no family members directly involved. I did worry about two Navy sons tho. . . I still do as both have fought in both Iraq wars and one in Afghanistan.

    It did affect me even so . . . you can read about it on my blog if you choose. . .God bless America!

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  16. Glad you didnt have to suffer much,it sounds really scary what you had to go through

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  17. You brought tears to my eyes...it is still surreal in some ways...Thanks for sharing your story!

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  18. This was a different account. I am sure I must have heard of what it was like for those like Andrew and the military on the streets, but reading it today was like for the first time. As soon as we move I am getting a land line, we haven't one now. You made a good point, many times long distance calls go through when local calls are too jammed. Similar in hurricanes, etc. It must have been awful for all of you.

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  19. I've never been to the East coast and don't know anyone there (in real life) and I was in a daze all day just watching things unfold on TV and on radio. I can't imagine hearing seeing and hearing all of that and knowing someone especially your own child might be in danger.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

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  20. Your description is riveting. What an awful experience for your son, you, and your whole family.

    I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I saw the second plane hit on TV. I am picturing you and the other teachers huddled around the TV with the coat hanger antenna while I sit in bed at home in Albuquerque nursing my first baby.

    In some ways, as awful as this whole thing was, I think it has brought people closer together. I try to think of this when I grow depressed about current events. 99.9% of people on this Earth are horrified by 9/11 and similar events. I guess that deep down inside I must be an optimist.

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  21. I wish I had known him...I would have sat with him and we could have been miserable together. Maybe we both could have found some....solace? reason? something. Thank you so much for sharing.

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