On September 10, 2001, I boarded the last flight out of Newark, NJ back to Los Angeles. It was a beautiful, clear evening and I was reflecting on what a great visit I had enjoyed in the Big Apple. As the plane took off and made its circle to the west I looked out of the window and watched the sunset reflecting on the buildings of downtown Manhattan. I took one long look at the World Trade Center towers and then settled back into my seat. Little did I know that would be the last time I would ever see those towers.
Sometime after 6:00am on September 11 my phone rang. I drowsily reached for the phone and heard my girlfriend Cindy’s voice shaking on the other end. “Oh my God, a plane just hit one of the World Trade Center towers! It was one of ours!” She meant that it was an American Airlines plane. Cindy is a PSA for American and was working the morning shift in Dallas. She told me to turn on the TV and see the pictures that were just beginning to come in. No one at that time knew that it was a terrorist attack; speculation was that it could have been a plane off course and was a terrible accident.
I sat there watching, dumbfounded by what I was seeing. I had just left New York the night before! I had just seen the towers and now this. I was staring at the screen when all of a sudden United flight 175 crashed into the other tower. Oh my God, I thought, this is no accident, what is going on!?
My husband was sitting with me and we both felt paralyzed and helpless. All we could do was stare at the screen. “It’s after 9:00 back there; those buildings must be full of people at work!” My eyes started to tear because I remembered that only the week before I was standing on Fifth Avenue waving to the first responders, firemen and police marching in the Labor Day parade. How many of them were now risking their lives to save the people in those buildings…how many of them would lose their lives?
As the morning wore on the news continued to worsen. Another plane had hit the Pentagon, and then finally a fourth one had crashed into a Pennsylvania field. At around the same time the towers started to fall, first the south, then the north. The shocks kept coming, one after another. I don’t think I have ever experienced a day in my life where I felt so powerless.
I was starving for information. Who would do this? Why? What were they planning next? Speculation ran rampant and answers were not coming quickly enough. By 8:00pm President Bush took to the airwaves and I remember listening with my whole family around me that whoever did this was going to pay. There was not an accurate death count at that time but we all knew that it had to be in the thousands. I took comfort in the President’s words, the passion that was coming from him, the prayers, and the request for God’s help to get us through this. I felt that a little bit of balance had come back into my life after hearing him speak. Here was a man who would take action; here was someone who would pull everyone in Washington together to fight back against this attack. Decisions would be made and justice would be done. As I went to bed, I at least took comfort in the fact that the leader of the free world was awake and on guard.
Now, eleven years later, I thank God that we have not been attacked like that again. We are fortunate that the previous administration has put security programs in place and taken out or captured some of the perpetrators of that horrendous act.
Even with all of the surveillance and security that we have today, I feel a bit of unease. Not because of the threats, but because of the action that I feel would NOT be taken. If another attack like 9/11 should occur, I have reservations about how this current administration would respond. I don’t feel that we have the leadership to deal with such an event and it terrifies me.
America is a strong country, but it is only as strong as its people and its leaders. And that is what we need, a leader, someone who we know will be awake and watching over us while we sleep. None of us want to ever wake up to a 9/11 again so it is up to us to make sure that those who wish us harm think better of it because of the consequences that may follow.