I work for a trade association about six blocks from the White House. When I heard on the radio about the first plane hitting the tower, I thought it had to be some horrible miscommunication between the control tower and the pilot. When I heard about the second plane, I knew something was very wrong, but I continued working until our network went down (not uncommon, as they were building an addition to our building at the time). After that, we were standing around in my coworker Torrie’s cubicle talking about how they might as well send us home because we couldn’t do any work anyway. Then a listener called in to the radio show she had on and said that he had just heard a plane go overhead and a loud explosion. He’d gone out to his balcony and seen a huge cloud of smoke coming up from the Pentagon. I heard a voice say, “I want to go home,” and realized it was mine. Torrie said, “Amy, your face!” I have no idea what it looked like at the time, but I could think of a thousand places I wanted to be right then, and work wasn’t one of them.
It took a while for them to decide to shut down and let us go home because the people with the authority to do so were all either still in Maui, where our fall Board of Directors meeting had ended the day before, or in transit. Once they did announce the closing, I called my roommate at her work and told her I was leaving and would call her when I got home. She asked why I was leaving because the store where she was working didn’t even have a radio, so she had no idea what was going on. I explained what we knew at the time; there was a brief pause, and then she said, “You’re making it up!” I told her to go out to the car and turn on WTOP, and that convinced her I was serious.
When I left the office, I was struck by how normal everyone seemed to be acting — until a jet went overhead (probably one of the fighters that had been scrambled) and everyone looked up at the sky. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get home because I wasn’t sure if the Metro would still be running, but in the event, it actually took me less time than it had the previous winter when it had snowed.