I lived in Seattle at the time, and had a young 2 yr old daughter. My MIL, who lived in Houston had a bad habit of forgetting about time zones, so she would call us at 5 and 6 am regularly, after she had been awake for hours. Anyway, she called that morning at 630am PST — 930a EST — and I remember how annoyed I was that she had called us early again. But then my wife walked into the bedroom, and told me that her mother told us to turn on the TV. So we did.
For the next hour, we could barely grasp what we were seeing. We watched the plane hit the second tower in horror, the aftermath of the Pentagon, the falling of both towers, and the news of the crash of United 93 somewhere in the Pennsylvania countryside. We both wept repeatedly as images after images came onto the screen, seeing the stunned reactions of bystanders, of the reporters, the first responders, the international media.
I owned my own design studio at the time — so I had to go into the office eventually — we had deadlines to meet. But as soon as I got in and joined my staff, I turned on a small TV we had in the conference room, and we all huddled around the conference room table and watched news coverage till early afternoon. One of my staff was from NY, grew up in Brooklyn, had worked in a mailroom in tower one as a teen. Then we found out that a client — an investment banker we knew, a kind and funny man — was visiting Stanley Morgan in tower 1 that morning. We looked up their office and it was above the crash zone, which meant he might have been among those poor people hanging out the windows, desperate for help that would never come, or making one last act of courage and leaping into the hands of God. We later found out that our client, that kind man, left behind a loving wife and four young children.
I eventually sent everyone home around 130p when it was clear no one could work or be productive. Everyone wanted to call their family. Everyone wanted to ground themselves with loved ones and grieve together, and at the same time, cherish what they had.
At that moment, that time, we all were united as Americans. My business partner wanted to go out and buy a flag to pin up in our large office window. Many offices downtown had done the same, an act of true patriotism that I haven’t seen since. We drove to Home Depot, Target, everywhere looking for a flag, but all had sold out. So we headed back to the office and found a pic online and tiled and printed it out as big as we could and taped it up on the windows. We also sent the pic out to all of our clients and contacts — in case anyone else couldn’t get a real flag. As it turns out, that printout was enough. Everyone who saw it knew that we were all grieving, all Americans. Since then, I’ve had a flag flown in front of my house every single day.