It’s been three years since I it happened. As America suffered the atrocious attacks on September 11, 2001, my wife and I were living in Washington, DC. Little that we knew, that morning, which quietly started as many other mornings before it, was going to rapidly turn into a real-life nightmare.
With this post, I just wanted to pay some tribute (in a small way) to all those who lost their lives and all the victims of September 11th. May God bless them all!
Here is my short story of that day. As I said, the day started monotonously quiet. As it was my custom, I drove my wife to work. Around 7:50 am, we were ready, and we drove off. Traffick was congested, as it usually is every morning in the metro area. Our every morning drive usually took us through route 123, where the CIA main building is. We usually passed by the place where on January 25, 1993 a terrorist shot people in their cars who were stopped at the traffic light in front of the CIA. Many of them were CIA agents.
While we were still stuck in the morning rush-hour on Canal road, we were listening our usual radio show, “Diamond in the morning”. All of the sudden the music is interrupted and the first news alert comes in. The report says a plane had just crushed into one of the twin towers in New York. We look at each other and think, what the .........., that is one freak accident. However, there is nothing yet unusual. These things happen here in the US. In my mind I was thinking that was very likely due to the height of the towers and the air traffic around it.
We keep driving through. Short after nine a second news brake interrupts the music and that is when we learn that the second tower had been hit. At that moment we knew, without a doubt, that this was no accident. Someone was attacking us. I am already getting a bit nervous. Finally, we get to our destination. The location is about three or four blocks from the White House, right in the heart of DC. I drop my wife off and head back home.
On the way back I keep my ears close to the radio. The reports keep pouring in. The two towers were hit and people were being rushed to exit the buildings. My way back usually took me through the Key Bridge, which connects Rosslyn, VA with M street, DC. From this bridge, normally, there is a beautiful view of the Potomac river, the Capitol, Washington Monument and the Pentagon. On this morning the only view was a fiery and smoking Pentagon. That is when I hear in the radio that another plane crushed into the Pentagon. By this time I am more than alarmed. I keep on thinking what is going on. I can see the restlessness on the streets already. People looking disoriented as if something were going through their minds.
I get home, finally, and I head straight to the TV. As soon as I turn it on, I can see that even the anchors are alarmed and disoriented. There is a bit of chaos on their reports too. They keep on covering the news and in between they keep on getting new reports. Interrupting what the are saying they keep updating the public as soon as they can. At this time there were unconfirmed reports that the Department of State was being evacuated due to a fire. The next report is that the White House is being evacuated and that perhaps there is also fire. They don’t know at this point whether the fire is due to a hit, a bomb or any other cause. As I am watching these reports, live, all I can think is about my wife who is somewhere in the middle of DC, very near to the White House. The next thing I do is call my wife. She tells me that they were also watching the reports and no one was actually working. Every one was stuck to the TV watching live what was going on in New York. She also tells me that they were told to go home.
By this time I am already very alarmed and decide to go pick up my wife from work. She tells me the work day was suspended because the federal government is closed. When the government is closed in DC, there is something serious going on. So I grab my keys and get into my car.
As soon as I turn the corner, I find the streets were somewhat empty but the people were driving as if they were nervous and in a hurry. I think about which route to take best. I decide that the usual rout through route 123 is best. The other ones get too congested and it is difficult to get off of them. Of course, I know at this time that the chance the streets are full is big. Once I cross the Chain Bridge and head down on Canal road, once again, I hit a wave of cars heading the opposite direction. The people are coming back and trying to get out of DC. To make matters worst, the road had been closed to traffic bounded towards DC and was only for traffic getting out of DC.
Time is running out and I get more nervous. Then I see this guy driving directly down Canal road against the traffic. I decide to follow the car and the rest of the cars behind me decide to follow me too. Next thing I know we are driving against traffic, towards DC. Once we get into the city, we find that the traffic is truly chaotic. There are no traffic lights, there is no order, there is no law. Traffic is paralyzed and no one can move. So I park my car and go on to meet my wife on foot.
Everyone in DC is on their cell phones trying to talk, but no one is able to reach anybody. The waves and the system are overloaded and blocked. People are walking here and there, at times seemed to me, without sense or direction. I kept on walking through the streets until I reached my wife. Once I had her on my side I felt much better and calmed. Everybody were talking about an attack to New York and DC. One could really see that people were scared.
Luckily, traffic cleared significantly and we were able to drive out of DC relatively soon. Once we got home, we were glued to the TV for the rest of the day and the following week.
It was terrible to have lived through that time. Even though we were relatively safe at home, watching how the towers collapsed and all that happened afterwards did not make it easy. In fact, after a while, we could not watch anymore and we had to turn it off.