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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