It's hard to believe that it's been four years since that Tuesday morning that changed the world.
I remember it vividly in this almost surreal, this must be an episode of the Twilight Zone
type of way. Four years ago, Tuesday was the day of my early morning Bible study/accountability group at the Walker Springs Rd Shoney's in Knoxville. I'd gone into work, arriving early and feeling like I could settle into my day slowly and maybe get caught up on some things with the rest of the office in yet. I remember a co-worker, Steve, coming in and saying something about a plane hitting a building in New York. And my first thought was that it had happened a few weeks earlier in Florida or somewhere and it must be more of the same. I tried to surf over to USA Today or CNN and it lagged. Both sites..but our company web site worked quickly and so I went down to find the TVs with cable down the hall. I got there just in time to see that it was more than I'd originally thought and to see the second plan slam into the tower live. I remember this raw feeling of helpless, terror and horror that this was happening.
Then, the news started to come in...there was a fire fight in the halls of the Pentagon. My mind was filled with scenes of roving bands of people, shooting guns at each other in the halls and passages of the Pentagon. Sort of like something out of a Tom Clancy book or movie.
And then reality hit me. My dad worked in D.C. He worked for Lockheed Martin and he worked at the Pentagon a couple of days a week. Was he there today? Or was he off-site at a corporate team-building retreat that just a few weeks earlier he'd complained about fighting the traffic to get to? I couldn't recall. A bit of panic started to set in on me...and I grasped at the hope--he's fine..he's not there..he's at some stupid off-site getting in touch with his feelings.
But as I stood there, watching and heard some comments being made--some attempting to lighten things with humor--I felt panic setting in. I excused myself and tried to calmly walk to my office. That lasted halfway down the hall...seeing no one coming, I broke into a blind run, got to my office, shut the door and sat down. I took a deep breath, pulled out my cell phone and called my dad. The first ring..the second..the third...at this point I was looking up at the ceiling, begging him to answer. Fourth ring...voice mail.
I left a message, snapped the phone shut and tried to not panic.
I then took a deep breath, hoped he was talking to my mom and called my mom. Mom was in Nashville at the time, helping my sister to recover from surgery a few weeks before. I decided to call Mom and see what was going on. The phone rang at my sister's...once...twice...Mom picked up with panic in her voice. I knew she hadn't heard from Dad...and he was in the Pentagon. We talked briefly and I hung up in case Dad was trying to call. And I admit it..I hit my knees in that office, praying, crying out to God. "This can't be happening, God," I said..."I nearly lost Granddaddy, then I almost lost Susan a few weeks ago. I'm not ready to be the man of the family just yet...please let us have my dad just a few more years," I called out. I was fighting back tears and panic....I am pretty sure I wept right there in my office. Finally after a few minutes, I got it together, and went back to watch CNN some more. Maybe there'd be news.
I remember those hours of panic...of trying to go back to my desk and work, but unable to. I worked customer service and our normally busy phone line was dead. I tried to get to CNN's web site, USA Today's, any news source only for them to be clogged my volume. I remember the confusion that happened, the news that there were planes out there, one flying up the Potomac, potentially to attack the Pentagon or the White House. I remember wondering where President Bush was and when we were going to nuke the sons of bitches who did this to us back to the stone age or farther.
I remember being told we should all go home...our offices were in Oak Ridge, across the street from the entrance to the Y-12 plant. I went home, thinking halfway home if the reactor did go up, I'd live two more seconds in Knoxville than I would at Oak Ridge....and take some gallows humor at that. I was almost home when my cell phone rang. It was my mom. I was able to pull into the Walgreens parking lot on Middlebrook Pike in West Knoxville and take the call. I was afraid to drive in case it was bad news .
Turns out it was good. My dad was alive and well. He had left his cell phone at home that day...but he'd call me later.
In the hours following, my dad was one of the first back in the Pentagon. He has told me some of the horrors he witnesses there that day. He told me about going back in to keep our nation's leaders' communication networks running so they could decide what to do, how to respond, and keep the nation from panicking more than we already were. I heard stories of him helping rescue people and small children from the nurseries in the Pentagon. Of helping to reunite families.
As I said before, it was one of those Twilight Zone
-like days....it felt like it couldn't be happening. But it did. And today, as I reflect on that day...and the weeks and months after it, I remind myself that I must never forget that day. And it also reminds me of how short and precious life is and I should live every day to the fullest and make sure the people I love know that daily.
I know..not a highly original thought...but those are just some of my memories of that day and my reflection on it four years later .
posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/11/2005 01:19:00 PM