Where Were You On September 11?
Energy was positive. I was bustling around my apartment in Dallas, getting ready for the day. In a few minutes, I would walk outside to my 1994 burgundy GMC Jimmy and head eleven miles south, into the heart of the design district. There, for nineteen more days, I would be employed at a small furniture manufacturer.
I had lived in Dallas for four months, moving there right out of college. I’d sent my resume out to every residential interior designer in the area who had been mentioned in House Beautiful within the past three years, eventually landing a job with a furniture manufacturer. The idea had been that I would design furniture pieces, help with consultations at their retail location, and then to just generally do whatever it was that needed to be done. I was ok with that. I was good with that.
It hadn’t been easy, though. I had moved to Dallas at twenty-two years old, not knowing a soul. I figured I would meet people, somehow. Church or something, you know? But I was a bit of a wall-flower, and definitely an introvert, and church was hard to get to by myself. My mom would tell me to go, that the “fellowship will be an encouragement” and so I’d go to the Sunday service, and then leave before I got sucked into some awful singles’ group. The term “singles’ group” annoyed the fire out of me, in fact. What awful terminology. The very name reminded me how alone I was in the world, and I didn’t want much part of anything that was such a constant reminder.
After three months, instead of meeting people, I found myself lonelier than ever before. My aunt and uncle lived in Arlington, and I’d see them on the weekends, but that left empty hours in the weekday evenings. The manager at the retail store location was extremely kind to me. She had daughters around my age and she’d take me to dinner and we’d talk. I appreciated her friendship and company, but I’d still head north to my apartment every night and cry myself to sleep. There was a girl who was a friend of my aunt who was also moving from Missouri to Dallas that fall, and according to my aunt, she didn’t know anyone either. Assuming that was good, I looked forward to meeting her, and pressed forward with my very unglamorous schedule of 8 to 5, then home to scrapbook and sleep.
About three months in to this new job and new life, and exactly eleven days before, my boss had shaken her finger at me, told me I was a “steamroller”, that it wasn’t working out, and that I had to find a new job. So I had. And on October 1, I was going to begin my second full-time job as a furniture sales person at a retail showroom down the street from my apartment. Which left exactly nineteen days at current job left to finish out. I was looking forward to the change, if only because it meant I was going me meet new people.
My morning routine was simple: sleep for as long as possible. The radio on my stereo system in my armoire would come on as an alarm clock. Shower. Check email. I had a television, but it wasn’t plugged in. Breakfast of some kind, probably toast and jelly or cereal. Coffee from the cheap little coffee maker in the laminate-slathered kitchen. Jump in the car, drive downtown. Apply mascara during drive.
That morning, the radio had come on, and woken me up, but for some reason, I hadn’t turned up the volume. Shower, dress, breakfast. Email check returned nothing. As I was heading out the door, the thought occurred to me that I hadn’t heard a song on the radio that morning–they’d been talking an awful lot. I swung past the armoire, twisted the knob on the radio volume, and heard that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. Realizing this was not good, but assuming it was an accident, I spritzed on a bit of perfume and jumped in the car.
It was on the Dallas Tollway that Dan Rather told me, over the radio, that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and that “our country was under attack.” I immediately pictured a wave of attacks rolling over the country, from east coast to west, and wondered if I should turn the car around. By the time I arrived at the furniture manufacturer’s showroom downtown, towers had fallen. My boss was nowhere to be found, but Jesse, the gal in charge, shook her head and said she was going home. “We’re living in one of the largest cities in the United States,” she said. “I’m not sticking around.” The other gal in the showroom agreed. So I got back in my car, headed back to my apartment, and called my mom, who told me to keep a full tank of gas in the car and to pack a bag and keep it in the car.
The world had changed.
I plugged in the television at my apartment and watched horror unfold. My boss eventually touched base and gave me rights to leave for the next couple of days, and by that afternoon, I was on the road back to Oklahoma. Headed home, back to my family and my heart. No one knew what was going on, so why stick around Dallas? For all we did know, the world was ending.
September 11, 2001, was pivotal in all of our lives, but I think, for me, it signified so much more than just a shift in our mindset as a society. For me, it was the culmination of much loneliness, frustration, and feeling completely misplaced in the world. It left me longing for home. It made me realize, as it did millions of others, that life is short, that there are no second chances, and that there really isn’t much time for loneliness, and there definitely isn’t time for self-pity. You’ve got to create the world you want to be a part of. You have to design the life you want to live.
So this is the beginning of my story. Of course, there is a lot that happened in my life prior to September 11, 2001, but in hindsight, those moments don’t seem to matter as much as the ones that came after September 11, so we’re calling this the beginning. September 11 set the stage for change for so many of us, and I wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass me by. No, I was about to grab change by the horns and hang on for the ride of my life.
I’m committing to tell a little bit more of the story each Thursday, as sort of a blogging ritual, rhythm, and routine. Tuesdays will be newsletter day (you can sign up in the side bar) and Thursdays will be story time. Tune in next Thursday to find out what happens next.
Just for conversation’s sake, where were you on September 11? Let me know in the comments.
I was in Dallas as well. Still am, lived here most of my life. I was in outside sales at the time and one of my customers was the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. I had an appointment that morning, at that point the first tower was hit and I too wrote it off as being an accident by the time I was in the parking lot the second tower had been hit. I went in to the fed building dropped the donuts and literature for my meeting and got out of there as soon as I could. I listened to the radio the horror that unfolded next. Never will forget that day.
I was in school in Ireland, I was with my friend walking in an empty hallway during class when her older brother ran up to tell us what he had just heard on the news – an attack on the twin towers. I remember watching the footage on Irish TV that evening with my family. Scary for us but I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be living in the USA at the time.
I was a junior in college and remember being at the school’s chapel crying my eyes out in fear – being thousands of miles away from home and uncertain if I would ever see them again (my family lives in Europe). It was a life changing moment for all of us!
Whitney, I love this. On September 11th, I found myself in my dorm room at the University of Tampa. Like a lot of college students, I was sleeping when the towers fell. My mom called. She told me to remain calm, pack a bag and she’d come for me if need be. She was in Chicago and the magnitude to which she was speaking didn’t make sense to me at the time. But nonetheless, I was awaken to a different world that morning. A world that I would soon know to drive me… towards my family, to follow my dreams, and most of all, drive me into the depths of my heart. Where would I go from here? That day I decided to drive home. I transferred to art school not long after and changed my life. To me, September 11th signifies moving forward…. like you- I started following my heart that day. I’ve never looked back. I admit I haven’t given much thought to it since, but reading your blog today really stirred me up. I wonder how many other artists/entrepreneurs found their calling on this day as well? Thanks so much for the reflection/remembrance of this moment in time… can’t wait to hear what next Thursday brings 🙂 t
I remember this year more than any year I have every lived, but Sept. 11 was actually the second part of the reason this year will forever be remembered. Just one month earlier, two days before my birthday and just a few days after I had returned to Oklahoma City for my third year of law school, my dad, age 44, passed away from a heart attack…almost instantly. I remember getting the call that my dad was in the ICU. I had just talked to him that morning and he had went to work out. That was the last time I heard his voice. I immediately tried to get home, but there were no available flights back to Indiana until the morning. My heart ached. Something inside of me told me I had to get out that night, but I couldn’t. I took the first flight out the next morning. I had a layover in St. Louis and I will NEVER forget the phone call I made to the hospital. My aunt answered and I said “How is he? Is he still breathing?” My aunt said, “I am going to let you talk to Heidi (my sister.)” She got on the phone and said “Heath, he didn’t make it.” I immediately dropped the phone and started screaming “No, no, no…this can’t be happening!” I was in a pure panic! I ran to the bathroom and started hyperventilating. A sweet lady from Oklahoma held my hand and said “Is everything okay sweetheart? Can I do anything for you?” I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see…I was in a state of shock. Somehow, that lady helped me on the plane and sat by me on the plane and held my hand the whole flight as I wept. I remember my family greeting me with tears and hugs when I got off the plane, but that is about all I remember until I got back home. I never got to see him alive again. I remember demanding that they take me to the funeral home and let me see him the next day. I spoke to him like it was my last chance. He was lifeless, but that moment, just him and I, changed my life. I promised him that I would take care and look after my mom and my sister. I promised him that I would finish law school, because I knew he would want that. I promised him that I would live my life without regrets and be grateful for each day. Wow…life stopped for awhile.
I returned back to school in September and that week was the week of Sept. 11th. It felt like somebody was playing a trick on me. What? How is this happening? That year, although VERY painful, gave me strength to live each day to the fullest, imperfections and all. About a week after Sept. 11, I first met my husband at law school. He was and still is my miracle. Now tears are flowing and it feels like it was yesterday. Wow, that year changed my life forever.
I was living in San Diego, and my god mother was working at the Pentagon. I hear my mom yelling at my step dad because he couldn’t get on base. (We’re a military family since the civil war) I was half sleep in bed and I was greeted by my mom with the news of the attacks instead of Happy Birthday.
I was a high school senior on September 11th, and that year I was driving my two little next-door neighbors (12 and 10 at the time) to their school on the way to mine everyday.
Like most 17-year-olds I woke up a solid 15 minutes before I actually had to get in my car, so I hadn’t turned on a radio or a TV. When the girls rang the doorbell that morning, the younger one started rambling on about planes crashing into New York City – complete with sound effects (“REEEEEEEERRRRRCRASHHHHHHH!”) and flailing arms. She had an adorable habit of NEVER making any sense, so I figured she was talking about a movie she had seen or something. I brushed it off and she didn’t bring it up again for the rest of the car ride. It wasn’t until I got to school that morning that I realized she was talking about something that really happened.
We stayed at school (except for the few students who knew people in NYC), but we didn’t have regular class. We just stared at the news. And each time the bell rang for the next period, we walked to the next period like silent zombies, and sat back down and continued to watch the news. Counselors were available all day that day and all day for weeks afterward for students that were really traumatized by the events. It was just beyond awful.
I was on Capital Hill IN Washington, DC on Sept 11. It was a horrible day, and it was a bit scary. We evacuated the Capital complex and we watched the horror unfold from home after we evacuated. Life has never been the same since….
I was on a plane from Athens to Bangkok and when we landed everyone’s mobile/cell phones were going off…it was 4am in Bangkok and my husband and I were in our hotel room glued to the TV – unbelievable scenes and feelings from across the other side of the world – I could not imagine how it would feel being in the USA during that devastating day and days after…
thanks for sharing your story…