Most Americans today are remembering where they were ten years ago when they heard the news that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York. I remember vividly. I had gotten up that morning and turned on the small television in the bedroom that we used to listen to the news. I showered as usual, stepped out to my hot cup of coffee (which John always had waiting for me), and started to get ready for work. I heard something about breaking news on the television and went to take a look. It struck me that something was wrong as I listened to the report. There were the pictures...it was a bright, sunny day on the east coast. How could a plane possibly have hit the building? Was the pilot disoriented, sick, unable to fly the plane? I hollored down the stairs to John to turn on the news. It just didn't make any sense. Then reports started coming in that it was an airliner of some sort. I knew what the talk was going to be about at work all day and started wondering how something could go so wrong that controllers and pilots would all miss it. Just before we were ready to go out the door to work, the second tower was hit by another plane. We now knew that this day would be like no other and had no idea what to expect when we got to the control room. We listened to the news as we drove to the control center. By then we knew that America had been attacked. It was a sickening feeling to hear that Americans had been attacked and killed on our own soil. By the time we got to work the order to clear the airspace had been issued. There had been more reports of hijacked planes and every precaution possible was being taken. I signed in and began helping get the rest of the aircraft cleared to an airport for landing. I could remember practicing this in training, but no one ever dreamed that terrorism would be the reason we'd have to do it. When our airspace was empty, it got real quiet in the control room. I think we all were a little shell shocked and just waited to see what would happen next. There was an electronic board on the wall above our heads that showed all the air traffic in the United States. It was an eerie feeling to watch those targets disappear until there were only a few left. Only the military was flying and they were doing it on their own with no help from us. It stayed that way for two weeks. We had to stay fully staffed because we never knew when the air space would be opened again and we'd be called to duty. We worked a mid-shift configuration 24 hours a day, but with next to nothing to do. Two hours after hearing the first report I was sitting in the work cafeteria watching the reports when the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell. I was horrified and in disbelief. I think that was one of the most difficult moments for me because I saw it as it happened. Private aircraft were grounded much longer than two weeks and the Cessna Skyhawk we owned at the time waited patiently in her hangar to fly again. John waited not so patiently and because we lived near a major city the restrictions on private airplanes remained longer than in other areas.
Six years ago we happened to be in New York on September 11th while we were on our way to Russia. We were able to spend the day at the World Trade Center site and be there for the memorial service. The name of each victim was read, one by one, many of them by family members who brought photos of their loved one. The reading of the names has been done every year. I hope it will continue. It was a sober reminder of all the lives lost and the unified response of America to the loss. The joined hearts on September 12th, 2001 was an amazing response by America. I hope someday we can find that strength and hope again and keep it!
That time will always be ingrained in my mind. It was so divergent from normal, so unexpected, and so life changing. That day took so much away from us. In a way it took our innocence, our innate belief that these things didn't happen in America. It happens somewhere else. That day we learned differently and we can never go back. We can never again take for granted that being in America will keep us safe from evil. We've had to make changes in the way we do things, but I hope we'll never stop doing them. I won't, because if we do...evil wins.