I usually didn’t arrive to work until about 9:30 am. Typically I would listen to the radio during my highway commute, but on the morning of September 11th, I’d decided to leave it off. I hadn’t yet learned of the attacks.
There was something strange with the behavior of drivers around me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Everyone seemed to be moving more slowly and driving more politely than I’d ever witnessed.
When I arrived at work, I overheard my co-workers talking about the World Trade Center towers. Logging onto my computer, I tried to access MSNBC.com and noticed how incredibly slow it was to load the website. The headlines there made it clear that we were under attack.
Most of the major news websites were rendered useless and inaccessible due to the high traffic overwhelming their servers. I tried some foreign news sites like the BBC and was able to get more information there. Some organizations were already speculating that the attacks had been the work of Osama Bin Laden.
Eventually we all began to huddle around a small TV in a spare cubicle of the office. By this time, the South Tower of the World Trade Center had collapsed.
When I returned to my desk, my mother called me and asked if I had heard the news. Her sister –my aunt– lived in and worked near New York City. Fortunately, she was not in Manhattan at the time of the attacks, but knew plenty of people in the towers. Mom cried for a moment before we said our goodbyes…it was important that we all made this connection with the people we loved during such a horrific time.
My girlfriend and I exchanged brief emails. I remember her writing, “I am scared.” So were we all.
Throughout the work day, most people milled around the office like zombies, running through the motions of their daily tasks but spending the bulk of their time tuned into the TV, on the web or speaking on the phone with family and friends.
There was a rumor spreading that gasoline stations had been driving gas prices to upwards of $7 a gallon. As I drove home, I witnessed many gas stations with lines spanning around the block. Obviously, many people had heard the same rumor, though the gas hike never really happened. Price of gas at that time remained around $1.36 a gallon.
That evening, all major news stations broadcast and re-broadcast video footage of the attacks. It reminded me of both the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt and the space shuttle Challenger disaster.
The effects of that day have never really worn off, even after nearly seven years. Our world is forever changed and it’s clear future generations will never understand a pre-9/11 America.