I had surgery on my knee on September 6, 2001. I had torn my meniscus in my left knee and had a little over 2 weeks out of work. I had just dropped my daughter at the daycare center and made a cup of coffee.
As I sat on the sofa, the phone rang and it was my mother. She told me a little plane had hit the World Trade Center and was I watching the news. I replied no, and hobbled up stairs with my coffee to get comfortable with CNN. While I waited and spoke to my mother, the replay of the aircraft impact was played. I yelled to my mother ” that was not a small plane, that was a jumbo jet!” I then proceeded to explain the difference in size and structure to her when watching a live shot, saw the second aircraft make impact with the second tower. I screamed, ” Mommy, that is not an accident! I gotta call (my husband) and go get the kids! I will call you back! “
I hobbled back down the stairs, grabbed my keys, hand bag and all of our passports. I stopped at a gas station to fill up the van. There was dead silence. All of the drivers were sitting in their cars, listening to the radio… I remember no cars moving on that busy street. The attendant stood in the doorway of the office frozen in place. I remember him finally coming to me and filling my tank. When I arrived at the daycare center, a teacher asked if I was going to be home, in case of emergency, and I replied, “yes”. She then asked if I could be an emergency safe place for any of the other children in our neighborhood if the situation became critical and I said “yes” and left my number. I picked up my daughter and then went to get the twins. Their school had been locked and the kids assembled in their “shelter” There was a sign on the door that said they were in “emergency” procedures and if it was not life threatening, please wait to pick up your child. I left, since the school was only 4 blocks away…
I finally reached my husband. They were on the roof of their building watching events unfold 8 miles away across the Hudson River. I asked when he would be home and he said the highway was blocked with emergency equipment on its way to New York and he did not know. I got the baby to take a nap and sat clutching my stomach and suppressing bile for the rest of the morning. I was scared, I was terrified. I was sure we were under attack and was planning how and where we would go in case of nuclear attack. We were only 17 miles from Manhattan…well within the fallout range. My thoughts then went to my co-workers…Standing there with thousands of travelers trying to wrap their brains around this senseless tragedy, while keeping emotions in check…desperately wanting to leave and pick up children, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers…wondering if the man in 33a got up graded on board after you denied him. “Could I have been kinder to him? Did I remember to order the kosher and veg meals at the last minute…?” Was there something I did that made this all happen?”
I knew the airport was in lock-down. There was nothing I could do. I decided to see for my self. I picked up the small one, strapped her in her car seat and drove to the corner made a right on to Routes 1&9…as I got to the top on the street, there in front of me were two dark pillars of smoke and clouds. The World Trade Center was no more.
All I could do was cry. I cried for the lost souls. I cried for the fear that polarized me and left me unable to think about returning to work. I shared grief and sadness with coworkers and friends…all of us immobilized by the fact that something we work with everyday…loading, unloading, catering, fueling, packing cargo and filling with customers: had been used against us. I was hurt, I was devastated. I was scared…How could I continue to do my beloved job for over 18 years after seeing the death and destruction brought about with something I lived and breathed every day of my adult life.
In college, when I went to an interview for (what was then) Mellon Bank, the manager asked me what I wanted to do if I could have any job in the world. I paused and said,” I want to bring in big airplanes with the bright orange sticks I want to connect the truck to it and move it so it can fly away.”
$45,000 in student loans for a degree, nothing to take away my dream.