On the morning of 9/11, I was late for work (I worked at a law office in the Loop, downtown Chicago, just a few blocks from the Sears Tower). My husband was a stay-at-home dad at the time and was sick with the flu, so I took our infant son over to my mother’s for the day. As I stepped out of the shower, I heard my husband shout “Oh my God, a plane just crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City.” He watched the entire thing happen on t.v. but I missed it because I was showering. What he said to me didn’t impact me at first. I didn’t comprehend what was happening; I had a screaming infant to get into the car and drive to my mother’s house so I was concentrating on getting both of us ready for the day.
Once we were in the car on the way to my mother’s house I was tuned into the ‘Mancow’ radio show in Chicago. All of a sudden Mancow broke in with
“A second plane just crashed into the Twin Towers – folks, this may be the beginning of World War III.” I remember stopping the car, gasping for air as I listened to him. I drove pretty fast after that, trying to get to my mom’s house.
Once at my mother’s I took the baby inside the house and we all watched the t.v. coverage, totally stunned. However, I still thought I had better get myself to the train station and go into the Chicago loop so I could make it into work. My mother told me not to go, but I went. I boarded the train in Waukegan IL for the one-hour trip. All along the way, conductors were walking the traincars telling people to get off at the next station and take the train back to where we came from. I didn’t listen, though, I still had it in my mind that I had better go to work.
When I arrived at the train station in Chicago and stepped out of the traincar, the scene was something I will never forget. Hoards of people, droves of people mostly running, some walking fast, were coming towards the arriving traincars looking panicked. I stepped out and was frightened that I’d be stampeded by the onrushing crowd. Somehow I elbowed my way against the tide and made it inside the station. The conductors now were pacing back and forth between the tracks with megaphones, shouting “take any available trains out of the city right now – immediately board any available trains, there will be no fare charged, please find an available train and leave the city immediately.” What I didn’t know was that the Loop was being cordoned off by law enforcement officials and officially evacuated.
I made my way to a pay phone downstairs, where I saw that law enforcement personnel were locking the train station doors and not allowing anyone to leave the station and enter the city. They turned everyone away. The commotion was so loud I could not hear myself think. I tried in vain to call my office, I think I was just in shock or something – of course no one answered because no one was there, they were all evacuated. I felt panic coming over me, but I made myself walk one foot in front of the other until I was on my way back to the tracks.
I headed back upstairs to the tracks and boarded a train bound for Waukegan. Inside the traincar it was standing room only. I rode the entire way, one hour, standing on the train holding a handle which hung from the ceiling. The cars were packed with people.
The entire ride out of the city was silent! A pin could drop on this overcrowded train, that’s how quiet and in shock everyone was. There was a rumor that terrorists were targeting the Sears Tower, and that was why Chicago was being evacuated.