Although we had lived in Washington, D.C. for many years, by 2001 we had moved to the Finger Lakes area of New York, where I had taken a job as alumni director of my college. Both of our daughters had grown up in the DC area and our oldest couldn’t wait to get back there. And as soon as she graduated from college, she did go back in 2000 to work about one block from the White House.
So it was with great trepidation as the news of September 11th reached us that we heard there had been bombings in the city near the White House. These stories later proved to be rumors, but at the time in the wake of all that was happening, it was easy to believe the worst. Those who were not alive in 2001 cannot imagine the horror of any parent who feared their child had fallen into harms way. The flaming towers and collapse was so fresh in all our minds.
So as I tried to call my daughter in DC, and as the news of the plane hitting the Pentagon echoed in my ears, I truly worried about her. I didn’t reach her, but I left a message on her cell. I am sure as she listened to it she could hear that I was barely able to hold it together. The news was so grim.
It took several hours before she was able to reach us. As the events of the morning unfolded, she and others from her office had fled DC. First in her car, but as the streets gridlocked, she left the car and made it to a Metro station where after an extended time she was able to catch a subway to Virginia. There she and her friends pulled themselves together. So when she finally called it was late in the day. A day where I sat at my desk at work, dealing with many alums who had friends in DC and New York and wondered if the college knew any news. It was also a day, where I basically functioned on auto-pilot, going through the motions until I could make it home to a cocoon of safety in a world suddenly in upheaval.
In the evening my daughter was able to retrieve her car from the city. She and a friend retraced their route back to where they had left it. But now troops cordoned off the area near the White House and told her that she couldn’t enter it. With some persistence she was able to get an escort to go with her and got her car. Finally bringing to an end, a day that she will never forget.
If this seems anti-climatic later that week after the awful events of Sep 11, I would call the families of two men who died in the Twin Towers and offer condolences on behalf of the alumni of our college. These were families that were not as lucky as I was. They had no happy ending as I did. For them the nightmare would continue for many years.
It was their legacy of that awful day.