It’s now 730 PM; about exactly 5 years to the minute from when I returned home on 911. This was the first time I had seen the actual images after spending the past several hours returning to the Chicago area from Indianapolis.
That morning, a beautiful clear September morning, I had boarded a plane at O’Hare for a meeting in Tampa. It was about 10 to 9 in the morning (Central time) when we took off. A few minutes after reaching our cruising altitude, the pilot came on and announced a clear day and no weather between Chicago and Tampa, so that we should have smooth sailing. About ten minutes later, the plane banked fairly sharply to the left, a manuever that seemed out of place with the smooth sailing our pilot had announced. A minute later, the pilot announced something like “ladies and gentlemen; the FAA has ordered all planes to be grounded. As a result, we are diverting to Indianapolis and will be landing there in about 20 minutes. There is no problem with this plane.”
Everyone kind of looked around and everyone assumed it was some massive computer gliche. There was a general groan of inconvenience, but not much more of a reaction. The pilot came on again; “Ladies and gentlemen; I’ve got no more information for you, just that there’s been an incident in New York and all planes are being grounded. You may see other planes on parallel vectors to Indianapolis, but I want to assure you that there is no specific threat to this plane.”
Well, that last statement seemed very peculiar. There weren’t any airfones on the flight, so no one around where I was sitting had any clue what the statement meant or what the incident in New York was all about. We landed shortly thereafter and taxied to a remote place on the tarmac, as the pilot said we will be disembarking one plane at a time at the terminal. I asked the flight attendant if it’d be OK to use my cell phone and he said OK. I called my wife and she told me what was going on in NYC. When I said, “Oh my God”, everyone around me grabbed their cell phones or asked me what had happened. I told them that the WTC had been hit by airplanes and Tower 2 had collapsed. No one could fathom exactly what that meant.
I called a car rental place and reserved a car to Chicago, just in case, and then waited on the plane for about a half hour until we taxied to the terminal. The terminal had been emptied and I scrambled for the rental car shuttle. I got to Hertz and waited for about an hour and a half for a car to become available. I regret not inviting others to hitch a ride with me to Chicago.
On the 3 hour drive back, I listened to the radio and got more up-to-date information (and misinformation) about what was going on all over. In addition to the information about NYC and the Pentagon, there was some concern about a flight going unaccounted for around Seattle. Nothing I heard could really describe what was going on.
I returned the car to the rental car facility at Ohare where there were dozens of people waiting for the next car to be returned. I retrieved my car from the deserted parking lot at OHare and drove home. Only then did I see the images on TV and the horror of the day became more real.
I don’t remember if I hugged my kids or my wife then, but not a day has gone by since then that I haven’t thought about that day and all I have in my life. I recently saw the made-for-TV special about the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania and barely made it through. to the end.
I won’t get into ideologies; all I can comment on is the truth of the day. This was murder, plain and simple. No ideology can justify what took place or the thought processes behind it. It’s frustrating that this kind of hatred can not be offset with love.