Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago...

Like most everyone, I cannot think about September 11th without my mind taking me through every sight and thought that I experienced ten years ago today. Knowing it was only a minor inconvenience for me is humbling when I think about the thousands who lost their lives less than 10 miles from me.

I've wanted to write this down for a while and remember that day as if it was yesterday.

While I thought for sure I had lost this, I just came across my flight rotation of that day while I was looking through boxes in the garage this past week.

This is what flashes through my mind.

-Woke up at the Sunrise Hotel (I had commuted in from Oregon to NY the night before).

-I clearly remember the crisp, clear sunrise and the brisk air as the pick-up van drove me to LGA. It was a beautiful day.

-Checked in at 7:00am for a three day rotation (first leg Nassau, Bahamas).

-Delay in boarding due to maintenance issue.

-Boarded the plane and pushed back at 8:30am.

-Remember talking to passengers (pax) about vacation plans (What a great day it was going to be - we were heading to the Bahamas!)

-Noticed we were taxi-ing for longer than usual. Went to rear of plane to talk to another F/A. We were 4th in line for take-off.

-Captain called on interphone and reported a fire in one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Asked if we wanted to view from cockpit. [North Tower was hit at 8:46am]

-I enter the cockpit and first thoughts are what a large office fire it must be - maybe the restaurant? The Captain says reports are coming in that it may be a small plane that hit the tower, but we can't believe that since we had such a spectacular and clear view from Queens over to Manhattan that a small plane would have never accidentally hit the towers. I can see smoke rising from the tower, but no fire. I head back to the cabin to swap with another F/A.

-Pax at this point had mostly dozed off or were well into reading their books or magazines and at this point no announcements had been made.

-F/A meets me 3/4s of the way down the aisle and I tell her what I saw. Still, no alarm, just a point of interest in our day.

-At that moment, we look out of a window on the right side of the airplane and in that second see an explosion. [South Tower was hit at 9:03am]

-Immediately, cell phones of pax start ringing. Captain calls all F/As to cockpit immediately. He confirms both towers have been hit by commercial airliners and for the first time I hear someone mention "terrorism". Captain says we must return to the gate, evacuate passengers and airport. We are asked to walk through the cabin and visually make eye contact with every person in case we are asked to id anyone at a later time. We are on a 757 like two of the planes hijacked that day.

-Captain makes announcement we are headed back to gate. Some pax were beginning to be aware of what was going on, but most were truly in "vacation mode" so only groaned and assumed it was another mechanical issue. We were told not to say anything as our first priority was to maintain calmness and safety at getting everyone off the airplane and out of the airport.

-I duck into the lav to call Simon who was sound asleep in Oregon since it was only after 6am Pacific. I told him I was fine, to turn on the news, call family and that I would call him later.

-We blocked back in at 9:35am and the gate agent announces that the airport was evacuating and that all pax needed to take their belongings and head outside.

-We did a quick visual sweep of the plane and entered the terminal. The airport was chaos. Everyone was exiting but not knowing where to go.

-We head down to an already full F/A lounge and immediately hear that another plane has hit the Pentagon at 9:40am. I go into the hallway and call Simon.

-It feels like the lines are busy forever and my battery is getting low. When I get through, he tells me that that one of the towers has just fallen [9:59am]. I tell him he's wrong since I just saw both towers upstairs with my own eyes and he assures me that he is watching it on tv with his own eyes.

-I hear someone exclaim "Not another one!" and find out that United Flight 33 has gone down in PA.

-Everyone is now gathered around a tv and is watching what was unfolding around us.

-An announcement is made that we, too, must evacuate the airport and I laugh to myself. I remember thinking, "I live in Portand, Oregon. Where exactly am I supposed to evacuate to?"

-At this point, I don't see my crew anymore, but follow the crowd of uniforms out to the front of the airport.

-From this side of the airport, we cannot see any of Manhattan, but see lots of smoke drifting high in the air and someone wonders aloud if airports will be bombed next.

-Taxis and rentals cars were long gone so we make our way across the street to a nearby hotel hoping there is room for many of us to stay since about 90% of all NY based F/As are commuters living in other cities.

-No luck.

-Knowing I'm in Queens at that I had formally lived in Kew Gardens as a new F/A I was aware of several crash pads and one of the F/As offered for anyone to crash there.

-Unsure of actually how to get there, one of the F/As waved down a random person in a van who offered to take myself and others to where we needed to go. (This didn't seem strange at all at the time!)

-Spent the rest of the day watching news coverage like the rest of the world and checked in with Simon.

-The next day I found 4 other F/As who were heading to Atlanta and since I had no idea how long it would take me to get back to Portland, I decided to head South so I could at least be around some family.

-On September 12, we drove out of Queens and headed South.

-I stayed there until airports reopened and I arrived back in Portland to Simon on Sunday, September 16.

I think it is so very important to remember this day and while such a vivid memory for me it is hard to imagine that none of my four children were alive when this happened.

Here's my journal entry from that time:

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EMILY said...

As I was read this I totally remember your mom coming down to recount your story & let me know that you were glad you posted this :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey...just read this...and don't think I remember you telling it in such detail. Weird to think that you were in NYC just miles from the towers and I was in DC just miles from the Pentagon on that day.

Love you.

Anonymous said...

Hey...just read this...and don't think I remember you telling it in such detail. Weird to think that you were in NYC just miles from the towers and I was in DC just miles from the Pentagon on that day.

Love you.

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