Lost In America – 4000 miles worth

Date Submitted: 09/10/2002
Author Info: Joni (Renton, WA - USA) 
Occupation: Sales/Marketing/Advertising
Lived in NY on 9.11.01?: No
Knew someone who perished?: No

Dear All,

I am writing my story of my Week’s experience after the Tragedy that the Terrorists have brought upon the Nation of the USA and The World. I am sure you must all have a story to tell. I just needed to get it off my chest and told in one letter, so I will not have to continue to repeat it verbally. It was exhausting, and continues to add to the emotional state I am in. Perhaps by sharing this with you, it will relieve much of my duress. There are many people out there who care for me, and I am thankful and blessed. I hope this will answer their questions, so that I may try to focus and get back to work.

Tuesday Sept 11th.

I was in Miami Beach, Florida at Material World Trade Show. I was rooming with Cheryl from Toronto CANADA, who is a fellow Sales Rep. We were about to leave the hotel when the phone rang. I was talking with one of my Sale’s Managers, Steve, when he just said,”Oh My God”. I asked what? He said, “The World Trade Center has just been blown up”. I reached for the remote to see The first Tower Smoking and called for Cheryl to come to watch. I could only answer Steve, “Oh My God”. Then the 2nd Tower was hit. “Oh My God”. I told him I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know in what form it would come. We solemnly said goodbye.

I immediately called and cancelled appointments I had for the rest of the week. I called the concierge and asked to get a rental car. Showered and rushed to Convention center to meet up with Boss at Grn Mtn, Marty. Marty had car and Cheryl could drive back with him. Cheryl and I rushed back to hotel, checked out, threw clothes into bags and left hotel. She took cab back to Marty. I took cab to Budget Rental to get car. It was good thing I rushed, as even with confirmation# I got last car, and it was not the mid-size that was confirmed. It was a Trans-am Convertible gas hog!

Left Miami about noon and as I left, got lost, stopped and asked directions, stopped and got map USA. Leaving Miami, where it had been raining since Saturday arrival and been missed by Hurricane Erica, I turned radio on. Started to hear tragedy after tragedy. Towers had collapsed! Heard another Hurricane headed in and FBI searching Miami for Terrorists. Still raining buckets with lightening striking ground all around, I could not get out fast enough. I75 N to I10 W.

By 8:30 pm I made it to Tallahassee, Fl. Checked in Residence Inn. I was told $119 per night. Told girl of my long drive ahead and she gave me room for $99. Asked if they had room service. No, but can order from Steakhouse next door. I said I was just wanting a glass of wine. She got me one and told me if I wanted more to just come back down. She was so sweet. Dragged heavy bag and purse to room, and had sloshed (spilled) half the glass by the time I got to room. Turned TV on, swigged remaining wine, and watched the video of what I had heard all day. I made calls to tell all where I was, downloaded emails. Finally slept by 11:30 pm.

Wednesday Sept 12th

Out of hotel by 8:00 am. Grabbed Bagel, banana, apple, and juice. Called customer in Texas and asked him to try and get me flight from Houston and I would head there. I10 W. Flights were to resume by noon. Radio on. Constant cell phone communications with Family, Marty, Steve, friends, Customers. Crossed Alabama, Mississippi, with no mishaps. Only stopping for gas. Almost through Louisiana, and got speeding ticket 3:30 pm. Officer made me get out of car on Interstate with cars doing 70-90 mph. It took almost 5 minutes to get break in traffic to get out ? Officer told me flights had lifted at noon. I knew this to be untrue, because I had been listening to radio. I have to call a Louisiana phone# to find out my penalty. Made it to Houston, and customer was having no luck at airlines. He gave me directions to Airport Hyatt. Followed directions, thought I had missed a turn, so I pulled in next to a truck driver. Got out of car. Her Truck was running, hot outside, and even hotter when I climbed the two steps up to her widow and had Truck heat coming at me too. Asked her if she knew where JFK Blvd was? She asked,”Were you just on the CB Radio? I’m looking for it myself!”. No, just coincidence? Her partner went inside to ask, and we were just one more light away from it. Truckers are always they nicest people.

Checked in at Hyatt by 6:30 pm. Turned on TV. Downloaded emails, and answered as many as I could. Customer from Far-East had sent email saying how Grieved their Country was for USA. And, she had sister in one of the towers, so she has been crying. More sadness. Looked for room service menu. Found it in a drawer with a small pile of marijuana and some cigarette papers. Was this a gift the last traveler had left for the next road-weary person? Or, did a fleeing Terrorist leave it? Didn’t sleep until late.

Thursday Sept 13th

It was obvious no planes, so hit the road at 8:00 am headed for Dallas I45 N. I meant to head West but due to Detours and Construction, lost again and heading I35 N. New plan to get out of Texas, go through Oklahoma, get to Kansas and then head West. Driving, reading map that was blind to me (even with glasses on), calling people to keep in touch, people calling me, RADIO on to Tragedy and talk shows, Construction Detours everywhere, watching road signs, speed limits constantly changing, becoming very tired and wanting to get as many miles in a day as I could, was wearing me down.

After 9 hours I hit Oklahoma City where construction and traffic was very bad. Impossible to do speed limit with cars pushing you. White pick-up in front of me breaking a lot, so I looked left to merge to left lane which was open. Looked back to signal, and Truck slammed on breaks jack-knifing into right lane as I slammed on brakes and jack-knifed into left lane. This was to avoid car in front of truck that was doing 35 mph in a 65 mph. I almost lost control of cat and my adrenaline was racing. This must have been where I missed the Detour sign for I35 N!

Then, Blue Sedan with no front license plate tail-gating me. Looked like businessman with suit hanging in back of car. I pulled over to let him pass. He pulled right in back of me. I could not loose him. It is very frightening to travel alone as a woman. Steve said, “Put the convertible top down and enjoy yourself.” I said I would burn to death. He said, “Buy a hat.” I said, oh yeah. There are already truckers honking and waving at me, and when I stop at a light I can just let anyone hop in with me? He understood, but he was always trying to be positive and kept checking on me. Like when I called him after speeding ticket in Louisiana, he said, “Get some shrimp.” That made me laugh. Then he went on to discuss a famous restaurant I should stop at. He was doing all he could to support me and keep my mind off of Tragedy.

So I think I am still heading I35 N as I enter small town of Edmond, Oklahoma and hit stop light after stop light. Blue Sedan still behind me. Motorcycle cop pulls in behind me and I am just exhausted and thinking I am just In Trouble. His lights come on and I signal left to pull into empty park lot. Blue Sedan follows him in. I just start crying at once, and don’t have seat belt on as it was killing me to be pinned in seat and not be able to move to get comfortable. I am not even thinking clearly anymore as I just roll the window right down! The man from Sedan approaches car and shows me his FBI Badge and picture and says he is Special Agent so in so, and wants my drivers license. I figure I am in so much trouble, I would kind of like someone to just handcuff me and take me to jail and take care of me.

I get out of the car and am told to remain in the car. I ask if I can stand by car and stretch? No. Remain in the car. Another police pulls into lot. Finally, the motorcycle cop says I can get out of car and come back. I am crying. FBI says he stopped me because I almost ran him off the road, was exceeding speed limit and the license plates on the car do not match the make of the car. I explained the white truck that jack-knifed, and I was keeping up with traffic that was pushing. I am a woman traveling alone from Miami and I just want to get home to Seattle as my family and friends are very worried about me. Then the questions start.

FBI: Where did you come from? ME: Trade show in Miami Beach. FBI: What was name of Trade Show? ME: Material World. FBI: Where have you been since then? ME: I stopped Tallahassee, Fl at Residence Inn, then Houston, TX at Airport Hyatt. FBI: I noticed you when you almost ran me off the road and when I checked the plates they do not match your make of car. ME: It’s not my car. I rented it from Budget. FBI: It’s a rental? ME: Yes Sir (still crying). I’ll show you the papers. FBI: (reading papers) Where did you rent this car? ME: Miami Beach on Collins Ave. The Windham Miami Beach Resort Hotel got it for me. FBI: (shows me rental agreement and asks if that is my signature on agreement. ME: Yes Sir. FBI: I thought you said the hotel got it for you? ME: Yes, the hotel reserved it for me, but I had to take Taxi to Rental place to get it. FBI: What is address of the Budget Rental? ( Now, the Louisiana cop nor the FBI nor myself could find the address on the agreement) ME: I might have it in some notes in the trunk in my computer case. Can I get it? FBI: Yes. ( I open trunk and every time I do the stupid horn honks twice, start looking trough receipts and notes, and that is when FBI sees the piece of paper marked “CITATION”. FBI: What is that? ME: (Totally resigned I hand it over) Louisiana. ( I start showing him fabric samples of what I sell) FBI: (Gives it back) What is your Social Security Number? What is your date of Birth? Who do you work for? What is their address? What is your bosses name? What is their phone Number? ME: ( I answer all) FBI: Do you have anything illegal in the car with you? ME: No Sir. FBI: Do you mind if we search the car? ME: No Sir. (At that point the police start searching the car. They go through my Purse and in the front seat, Look through inside car while lifting up back bucket seats, pick up my Bags, Computer case, in trunk and look under , but, do not open my Luggage or Laptop Computer). FBI: Where are you headed? ME: N I35 FBI: Then why are you here? This road dead-ends in two miles. ME: I guess I am lost again. I saw you tailing me and I was scared and you would not pass so I missed detour I guess. FBI: Are you headed for Wichita? ME: No. FBI: I35 N heads to Wichita? ME: Wait, can I get the map and show you? (Lost in America, I get the map) Oh Yes, Wichita, Oklahoma. I had it confused with Wichita Falls, Texas to the west here where I was going to originally head. FBI: ( Goes with other cop to talk).

The Motorcycle Police asks me if the FBI told me why he had pulled me over? I am sobbing now and say Yes, because he thinks I am a terrorist and the plates don’t match the stupid car that eats gas and and I just need to get home. I guess I have convinced them that I am not a terrorist because they are just going to let me go. Yet, I am Tired, broken, scared, and know I have many miles to go. The motorcycle cop tells me if I have family at home who is worried about me, it is my job to travel safe to get to them. He gives me directions to get back to !35 N.

ME: So how do I get this car back to Seattle without getting pulled over constantly? FBI: Just drive the speed limit.

I drive away shaking and crying. I find !35 N and do the speed limit. I know I need gas again and food, or I will collapse. At Wichita, I pull off to gas station. I am still shaking and look for my Credit card I have used on this trip. I can not find it. I search everywhere. It dawns on me That I did not get any of their names or cards? Who were they? They searched my purse and have all of my information. I use another credit card to get gas. I pull across to McDonalds and park. I call American Express and cancel the card. I call operator and ask for FBI. I get Wichita FBI and tell story. I get Supervisor (un-named here). He says I would have to call Oklahoma City FBI. I do and get to a fellow that says the FBI is not pulling people over. I say it just happened to me. He says he is sorry, but there is no record and I should call Edmond Oklahoma Police. The Police were not writing anything down, just FBI. I call Edmond Police and explain. The dispatcher checks records from 3:00 pm until 8:00 pm and there is no record of me being pulled over. I go into McDonalds, get food, and zombie back to car. In my back pocket is my credit card (I never put it back there. I always put it right back in my wallet. It must have been during FBI confusion when I was digging through everything for them). I call Wichita FBI and get same supervisor. I tell him I found my card and tell him Oklahoma FBI and Edmond Police have no record of incident. He says he will do what he can but it is out of his jurisdiction. He takes my cell phone number again. By nomy cell phone is burning a hole in the side of my head it is so hot. I drive on to try to make Denver. I call Boss Marty to let him know the FBI might be calling. I Try to call Budget Rental Emergency roadside Phone. On hold 15 minutes and cuts off. Call again, and after 15 minutes I hang up. I am stuck with this car. No flights.

I am not angry with the FBI. I am glad to have them in this State of Emergency. It dawns on me, “Oklahoma City”! The place of the last terrible Terrorist attack. That attack was tragic as it harmed many Children and Infants. And, innocent people working at their jobs. Just like the innocent workers at the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. When I first visited the Twin Towers in NYC and went to the restraint at the top: “Windows On The World” back in the late 80’s, I could only look out and see lights as far as my eyes could see. I realized how miniscule I was in the whole world. I cried then too.

By 8:00 pm I must pull over and sleep. Determined to make it !70 W. I make it as far as Salina, Kansas. Touch base with everyone to let them know where I am. Realize I am not going to get home by Friday, and maybe not until Sunday. I watch TV and Tragedy I have listened to on Radio all day. I am traumatized. I have stopped checking emails.

FRIDAY Sept 13

Up and out of Comfort Inn by 8:30 am. Another customer is checking out and doing same thin as me. She has map. Her trip is coast to coast and is shorter. Her spirits are still high. She has not been stopped by FBI. I don’t even shower. I have not lugged my bags in. I just throw on yesterdays clothes, wash face, brush teeth. I70 W to Denver, Colorado; to I25 to Cheyenne, Wyoming; to hopefully, Salt Lake City, Utah. Radio on. Seek new channel through all cities. I call friend to see if their is shorter route. He looks on computer and says no, go to Denver. I am having hard time knowing if it is Thursday, or already Friday. As I get to Denver Airport, I see the first plane in the sky since I started this trip. I cry again. I call Steve and he invites me to stay in Colorado with his Family. I say I would love to, but it is only 2:30 pm and I still have time to travel. He guides me with directions to get to I25 N. My cell phone has not had signal from Salina, Kansas. When I reach Denver the Phone starts Ringing. I keep having to hang up on one call to get to others incoming. Last one is Supervisor FBI.

He tells me he is sorry, but he has tried Oklahoma City and Edmond. No report. No Luck. I say Thank you. Were these imposters? Were these Terrorists? My mind is really running on overload and I tell myself my imagination is running away with me. No cell through Wyoming. Just Radio. Tragedy, Talk Radio with local’s reactions, Preaching, Patriot Songs, Popular music that reflects words of what our country is feeling. All Sad. All places there are US flags at half mast. I am so alone and sad. I keep telling myself, God is carrying me. My Angels are protecting me. I am not alone. I keep the faith. 12 hours driving the sun has gone down as I witness another beautiful sunset almost out of Wyoming. I am not making it to Salt Lake. I make it almost to border and stoprd at a Super 8 Hotel in Evanston, Wyoming. I call everyone I have been in touch with to let them know where I am and ok. My Mother is worried half to death (as Mothers do), and I am afraid she will have a Heart Attack again over this. A spider crawls across the bed. I smash it. I call my Sister, and she wants me home so bad safe and sound. I can not sleep. I take a shower that I had missed. I am there for 3 hrs and leave at 11:30 pm.

SATURDAY September 15

I like to travel at night. There are only trucks out mostly. They are polite drivers. They live in a community of their own. The stars are out. Every time I see a UPS or Federal Express GROUND Truck, I cry. God Bless the Truckers. I know in my heart, that if I had to, I could stop at one of there trucks, and they would probably offer me some space to sleep.

I84 W. At 1:15 am I stop for gas in Tremonton, Utah. My Grandparents lived there and we visited them every summer. They are no longer living. Due to construction blinding lights I get lost again. A construction worker has let me turn into the wrong lane. Those Orange Barrels with Reflective tape are more of a danger than a help. They have been in my way the whole trip. Sometimes I have to dodge them as they are out of place and in the road. Another construction worker stops me and helps me turn around. I am now safe and heading I84 W. I stop in Boise, Idaho for more gas. I am in familiar territory. I am like a horse whose nose has smelled the hay back at the barn and I am headed to the Barn. Determination firmly takes hold. Sheer Determination. Exhaustion stays with me. I couldn’t take anymore Tragedy Radio, so I kept myself going with some very good rock music channels to give me energy. A lot of Country Western too.

I head into Eastern Oregon. It is dark and I am in The Blue Mountains. Dangerous turf. Curves, climbs, steep grades. Several times I almost hallucinate that I can see a tunnel ahead. I dip my head down and it seems a third eye whips into gear. I am guided safely. I am about ready to stop, when daybreak begins. The lofty clouds are starting to take on some light. I am energized and everything is very lovely in Oregon. I used to live there. I have been here before.

I can not wait to enter the State of Washington. My Home State. As I cross into Washington, I notice truckers picking up their CB radios as I pass. The car looks like it has been through a bug-splatter-war, it has Miami plates, and the driver looks like she has been through a war. I think they knew. I had passed many trucks several times, as I had stopped for gas and they had gotten past me.

I always thought Yakima, Washington Area to be a desolate place. I had anticipated and dreaded that known drive. But, as I entered Washington State, everything was so pristine and beautiful. It finally really hit me how our country was being attacked. I cried some more. This Beautiful Country is bound to be changed in the future. No doubt. All driver’s Road Rage is mostly gone during this trip, except for a few. When I saw the first SEATTLE 148 MILES sign, I cried again. Washington is a small state compared to others. A mere 148 miles out of 4000 to go. Stop for gas and I my body is shaking. My arms are fatigued. If were not for Cruise Control on cars, I would not have lasted.

As I am leaving Yakima, I see two WA. State Troopers on the median in the highway monitoring traffic. I pull over. I get out. I am sure I scared them. I asked them if they could run the License Plates on this car to see if they matched the car descript I told them the FBI Story. I still had the need to know. They ran the plates and checked the Vin# on the car. NO, the plates did not match the car. They assured me I had a short way to get home and told me to drive safely. I felt great relief. I was never so happy to see Washington State Patrol in my life! I headed home through the Cascade Mountain Range. Beauty surrounded me.

I called Mother, Friend, Sister, Steve, to let them know I was now 80 miles out of Seattle. My sister was to meet me at Budget Rental in Bellevue to return car and take me to Renton HOME. She found address, and we were to meet there. I know Bellevue very well. I just did not know the Car Rental was in a Hotel. So, I was home, but now, I was lost in Bellevue, WA. So was my sister, although as I stood at the Budget booth in the Hotel, she found me. She stopped at Denny’s and fed me. She had cleaned my bathroom, made my bed and watered my plants and yard. My Son had mowed my lawn and stopped in my office to check faxes and send on.

I am home. Thank you for hearing this story. It has helped me to tell it. I don’t want to have to Verbalize it over and over again. Forgive my spelling errors, ha! Thanks to Marty, Steve, Erin, Max, Greg, RC, Leslie, Mom, Cheryl, Nancy, and all. Thanks for guiding me home and keeping my spirits high. Sorry if it was long, but it was a long road criss-crossing this Country.

My goal is to focus next week and get back to the task of my job. I know we are facing tough times ahead. All we can do is to keep flexible and keep going. My Heart goes out to the Victims and Families of Terrorist Attacks in NYC and The Pentagon. My prayers are not just for this Nation, but for the world and Mankind.

Joni Job


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