September 11 in Boston dawned a beautiful day. It was a wonderful late summer day as I headed to work that morning. I thought to myself what a great day it would be to have off. As I walked down Boylston Street to work, I looked up and saw a jet flying out of Logan Airport, flying low over the South End. I wonder now if I caught a glimpse of American Airlines flight 11 or United Airlines flight 175 on its way to its doom.
After sitting at my desk for 45 minutes, I got up to use the men’s room. While I was there, I heard someone mention to someone else, rather non-chalantly, that he heard a report that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York. At the time, I thought, as I am sure everyone else who first heard it, that perhaps it was a small Cessna. I remember reading that a WWII bomber had once flown into the Empire State Building in 1945.
As I walked back to my desk, I noticed a large group of people gathered around the television on our floor. I walked over and realized the magnitude of what happened. There was a gaping hole in the North Tower with smoke and flame billowing out of it. We had no sound on the television, so we couldn’t hear what was happening” just look and wonder among ourselves. Suddenly, there was a huge explosion. One person in our group said, “I think I just saw another plane hit the other tower.”
From the angle we were watching on television, unless you looked quick, none of us, except this one person, saw the second plane. I remember saying, “No way” it has to be jet fuel from the first plane or some secondary explosion in the North Tower.”
Moments later someone who was listening on a radio confirmed that indeed it was a second jet that had hit the South Tower. And at that moment, I am sure everyone in that room instantly knew that this was a deliberate act of terrorism!
Since there was no sound available on the television, everyone who had a radio in the office turned them on. We got much more information from them than from what we could see on television. I immediately called my girlfriend at work. Shoot!” she was in a meeting all morning. I left her a message to call me IMMEDIATELY. I also left her an email to call me ASAP! I then called my parents; it was about 9:15 now. My father answered and I told him to turn on the television” .NOW! He started to make inquiries but I told him to turn on the TV” ..all his questions were answered by the sight he saw. We spoke a bit about what was happening and I told him what I knew so far, I told him I would call later and hung up.
I went back to the television and watched a little more, thinking to myself, “Those poor people in those buildings” .God help them.”
It may sound strange now but I actually tried to concentrate on getting some work done, but it was difficult. Radios all over the office kept an up to the second account of what was happening,
The reports on the radio started coming in minute after minute” .all NYC airports shut down, all bridges and tunnels into NYC closed. An underlying sense of panic started sweeping the office. If it happened there, what is there to prevent it from happening here in Boston. I don’t think anyone even thought about work the rest of that morning, everyone just wanted to know what the HECK was going on.
Of course, all sorts of reports started coming in ” an explosion at the State Department, a car bomb on Washington Mall, the White House and the Capitol being evacuated. Some was true and of course as we found out later some were false, but it simply added to the growing sense of panic at the office. A kind of mass hysteria started sweeping the office as any bit of news was twisted from the actual facts. Someone started saying that the MBTA and commuter rails had shut down. I called and discovered this was not true. I had to stand up and announce that the T was running and even tell one man to stop saying the T was shut down and not spread that kind of information. But that is the kind of panic that was beginning to take hold. And if it was happening here in this office” ..what was going on in the rest of the country?” in New York?
Then reports came in that the Pentagon had been hit by American Airlines flight 77″ .and pandemonium set in. People to my left and right were wondering what to do next.
“Do we get out of here before a plane hits our building?:
“Maybe It’s over?”
“How do you know?”
“There could be dozens of hijacked planes out there!”
I’m a pretty levelheaded guy, but I just remembering thinking, “What the HELL is going on?”
It was difficult not to panic, to give into the fear. Some people were distraught, others outwardly calm, but I’m sure everyone had the same thought” ..Whats next?!
While we were all thinking what to do next, we continued to monitor the radio and television. Nothing but bad news rolled in as our trepidation grew with each report. All flights in the U.S have been grounded” all incoming flights to the U.S diverted to Canada” .the South Tower has collapsed” another airplane has crashed in Pennsylvania (United Airlines flight 93)” people fleeing Manhattan and Washington” the North Tower collapses” .you can understand why people were in a PANIC” everywhere in the US. Personally, I thought we are at war” that moment! Where would the next attack come from? Airplane? Car Bomb? The imagination ran wild.
Shortly after the North Tower collapsed, my girlfriend called and said 2 words, “Whats happening?!”
She had just had her meeting cancelled by an officer of her company who told them the WTC buildings had been hit” and of course they had a thousand questions. I told her all I knew and she relayed the information to her co-workers. I told her that we may be evacuating our building soon and I wanted her to leave and go home with me as well. The stock market had shut down, so no work would be completed that day. We agreed that we would both leave and I told her to meet me at Back Bay Station. Although I advised her against it, she thought it would be best to walk over to Copley Square (a little over a mile from her office).
We finally did get the notice to leave the building at about 11:00 AM. From what I could hear on the radio, EVERYONE was trying to get out of the city. I tried calling my parents again and there was a noticeable delay on the phone before I could get a line. Obviously, EVERYONE in America who had a phone was using it that day. And the Internet?” .Forget it!” I couldn’t even log on the volume was so high! I got through to my parents and told them we were heading home. From what they heard on television, most of Boston was being evacuated. I told them I would call as soon as we got home.
Since I knew it would take about my girlfriend a good 20 minutes to reach me, I meandered about trying to figure out what was the best course of action. Obviously, the commuter rail would be the fastest way home. But then I began to think, what if some terrorist with a bomb decides to blow himself up on the train or the platform. That’s when I really began to become tense. That this could happen anywhere, at anytime.
I went out to Copley Square at 11:30 and immediately noticed how quiet it was. Of course, no planes were flying out of Logan, but I noticed a definite pall in the air. No loud voices, no honking horns that you would normally hear in Copley Square. It was as if everyone was observing an extended moment of silence to those who had fallen. My girlfriend showed up and we hugged and headed for the train station. I didn’t tell her my worries (until after we got home), no sense panicking her. As we walked to the train, I told her everything I had heard and knew. She is pretty emotional and was getting upset by what I told her so I changed the subject. Luckily for us when we got to Back Bay Station, they had added extra trains, so we were able to leave immediately. It was a quiet ride home, with people speaking in hushed tones.
Once, we got home, we watched the continuous coverage of the disaster. My girlfriend at times cried as she watched, I think I was too stunned to feel anything. We both called our respective parents to let them know we had made it home alright. At about 6:30, my girlfriend received a HUGE shock. Her best friend’s brother in law had been on Flight 11. Now, the tragedy really hit home. I later received a call from my boss to tell me not to come into work the next day, as the stock market would be closed. We talked about the day’s events for a while and expected to be back to work the following day. I watched the news until early in the morning, maybe hoping I would wake up from this national nightmare. My girlfriend expressed hope that maybe some survivors would be found in the WTC. I grimly replied that no one would be found alive in that carnage. But the day’s events really didn’t hit me until they started reporting that scores of firefighters had perished that day. The enormity of what had happened September 11 now set in. This was no nightmare or horror movie, this was very real.
I can’t help thinking, that until the day I die, whenever there is another beautiful September day, I’ll stop and think to myself
“This is just like September 11.”