I remember 9/11 vividly, as I’m sure everyone else in America does. I was working at a glass manufacturer as a product manager. My company was working on purchasing another glass company so our CEO, vice president of sales, and several other of our officers and managers were in Washington DC in the FTC building, which is situated right next to the FBI building.
I was working on a project. I don’t remember which; perhaps it was the upcoming November trade show in New York City, when I heard someone near my desk say, “did you hear a plane hit the World Trade Center?” As everyone else, I thought it was a small plane, like a Cessna or something. At the same time, I thought how could someone hit the building? How does a pilot not see the World Trade Center? Then about a half an hour later, word came again that another plane hit the second World Trade Center building and that it was an airliner, as was the first plane.
It then occurred to us all – our country was under attack.
Several of us from the marketing department were huddled in our boss’ office watching the coverage on his tiny, portable Sony TV.
Then the Pentagon was hit. The first thing we did was try to contact our company’s leaders in DC. A horrible thought hit me. What was next? How many other planes flying all over the country would be smashed into buildings?
Our CEO’s daughter lived in New York City. He couldn’t get in contact with her and was frantic. She had just moved into a new apartment, and he had no idea where that new apartment was in relation to the twin towers. Amazingly, my brother, who is a friend of hers, called her that morning just after the first tower was hit and spoke to her. I put our CEO in touch with my brother so he could reassure him that her apartment was on the other side of Manhattan and that she was safe.
Another co-worker who lived nearby the office went home and brought her 13″ TV in so we could all watch the coverage. I remember screaming “Oh my God!” as the first tower fell. We were all devastated.
Then United flight 93 went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
By the time the second tower fell, I was numb…with shock, grief, anger, fear.
No one in the office could work. We just milled around the office, watching the coverage. At around noon, one of the vice presidents held a company meeting and said all the Libbey officers, managers, and lawyers who were in DC were accounted for and safe and were trying to get home. Then he told us to go home and be with our families. He said that day was not a day to focus on work. It was a day to be with the ones we loved. I will always appreciate that.
Two months later, November 9, 2001, I was in New York City for the International Hotel/Motel and Food Show at the Jacob Javits Center. We arrived several days early to set up and to experience a bit of the city. Our hotel was in Times Square, so I took the opportunity to see some sites. As I was walking down Fifth Avenue, I came upon a very large group of men in uniform standing in the street in front St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was a funeral for one of New York’s fire fighters, one of the heroes of 9/11, Captain Patrick J. Brown.
Unfortunately, Captain Brown’s body had not been found, so a flag shaped flower tribute was placed on top of the fire engine in commemoration of his life and his sacrifice. His firefighter brothers were there to pay their respects as they had done many times before and so many times after that day. I’m sure then-mayor Rudolph Guiliani was there, too.
Later that day, several of my coworkers and I went down to Ground Zero. We wanted to be there. We wanted to say a prayer for those who were lost. Hundreds of others were there as well to do the same thing. There were so many messages of love and prayers for those who were lost and for those who were working to dig the lost out of the rubble.
These messages were placed exactly where the rescue workers stopped, whether to sleep, eat, or just get a reprieve from the emotional pain they must have felt, at the old church, only about a block away from the fallen towers, that miraculously survived.
As we got closer, the remains of the World Trade Center came into view. I couldn’t help but choke up as I saw the shards of the building jutting up from the rubble. All those lives, those precious, precious lives were lost right there in front of me.
I was also struck by so many of the shops. They were left exactly as they were on that day, abandoned as those who worked in them ran out outside to find out what the horrible sounds from above were, only to run for their lives a short time later as the twin towers collapsed. Everything remained exactly the same, just covered in dust.
After witnessing all that, I felt a sense of emotional relief and a sense of pride when I saw this flag draped over the pillars of the New York Stock Exchange.
To this day, these are still my favorite photos of the American flag. When I see them, a deluge of memories of that day in NYC and of 9/11 floods back. I am still overwhelmed by them.
The trade show at the Javits Center was smaller than usual, but I and the others who attended were so proud to be in New York City on that weekend to support the city and its citizens.
Unfortunately, on November 12, 2001, another tragedy hit New York City as I sat on the tarmac at LaGuardia airport waiting to take off to go home. After several announcements from the pilot that our take off was delayed, we got word that all flights were indefinitely cancelled. I got on my cell phone with my mom to hear that a plane, American Flight 587, taking off out of JFK at 9:14am, crashed in Queens. Again, the memories of 9/11 came back.
In spite of all the terrible events of 9/11, I have positive memories associated with it, too. On March 11, 2001, the six month anniversary of 9/11, I was reflecting on the sadness of that day. I was going home for lunch because I just didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel sick; I felt funny. All morning I told myself it was the overwhelming sadness and fear that I was reliving in my mind. But after I got home, I found out that it wasn’t that at all: I was pregnant with our first child.