1,000 Miles Away; Right Next Door
Date Submitted: 7/12/2016
On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I was working for SW Guaranty Trust Company in far west Houston, Texas. I had a meeting downtown later that morning, so rather than go into the office, I was heading downtown from my apartment in west Houston and was in rush hour traffic on Interstate 10 near the Memorial City Mall heading east, with the radio news channel on. It was a clear sunny day.
It was in my car that I heard about the first plane hitting the World trade Center. It was around 8:00 am Central Time. I remember thinking that it must have been an accident and that the plane must have been a Cessna or some small tourist sightseeing plane. Then, a short while later, the news said that another plane had struck the towers. I was chilled to the bone and realized that this was not an accident. I remember looking at the other drivers around me, many who were clearly hearing to the same story given the shocked looks on their faces. I called my assistant to tell her to go home, and then called my appointment to tell them I would not be making the meeting. I rushed home to turn on the television. When I turned on the news, I saw that a third plane had struck the Pentagon, and I immediately called my mother, who then lived in Katy, Texas. In tears, I told her that the country was under attack and she was incredulous. She didn't believe it. I told her to turn on the news, and within minutes the South Tower collapsed on national television. My mother started screaming with grief and horror. We just wept.
After gaining our composure, I begged off so that I could call my father who worked in a high-rise in downtown Houston. I could not get him on the phone. No one was answering the phones in his office. I finally was able to get him on his cell-phone and he told me that he was safe; that almost all the buildings in downtown were being evacuated, and that he was heading to his home in West University.
My boyfriend then came over and we just watched the news coverage for hours, in shock and disbelief and I railed against the terrorists that had brought their war to America. We tried for hours to get through to his sister who was in Baltimore, but to no avail. Only that night did we finally hear from her. She had been actually boarding a flight home to Texas at the Washington DC airport from where the plane left that hit the Pentagon, when the attacks occurred, and all air travel was halted across the entire country. She could not get home. We tried to find her a way home and I was able to eventually get a car rented for her so that she could drive home which took her two days to get back to Texas.
I distinctly remember realizing for the first time that day that there was true evil and hatred in the world, and that we, as Americans, were the target of that hatred. I remember feeling that our innocence as a country and as individuals was over and that the future would never be the same.
...in the aftermath, I attended an interfaith prayer meeting that left me in awe. And I know now that though there might be a few incidents no one is proud of, we have come a long way in the fight against bigotry.
Cinthia (story excerpt)