It started off as just another day. I actually don’t even remember much of the morning, so it must have gone by without any significant events. At the time, I was still living in Germany and preparing for my move to the US that was supposed to take place in five days. I was staying with my parents- my then husband had already flown to the states. My brothers and I were having lunch. We were watching an episode of Seinfeld on video. One of my brothers had to use the bathroom, so I paused the tape. He told me not to bother waiting for him, but I figured I would briefly check the news.
There it was. One of the World Trade Center towers was burning. At first, it was just a breaking news flash, then it turned to full coverage. Everybody seemed confused. There were people everywhere in the streets just looking up in astonishment. A few eye witnesses reported seeing a plane crashing into the building. It was very strange, thinking a plane could have flown into the tower. People were speculating on how this accident could have happened.
For some reason, I was immediately panic stricken. I called my father at work, crying. He told me not to worry, that it was very probably human error. Maybe a glitch in the air traffic control. I told him that I was afraid the tower might collapse. My father assured me they were built to withstand practically everything.
I continued to watch the news in shock, praying for all the poor people who were trapped in the fire. Surely most would be rescued soon. Suddenly, there was what looked like an explosion in the second tower. Was it caused by the fire in the other tower? Was there a bomb? The camera angle wouldn’t let us see what had happened. But very shortly we saw- a second plane had crashed into the other tower. What was happening? How could this be?
I called my father again, beside myself. He tried to calm me down, still suspecting a glitch somewhere. He must not have been willing to believe that someone could be doing such things on purpose… I was crying hard. I was praying hard. Then the news went crazy- there were reports of dozens of planes missing, possibly hijacked. The American sky was suddenly full of enemies. There was speculation as to the next target. Nobody had to speculate long- the Pentagon was hit. A fourth airplane crashed to the ground in Pennsylvania.
I called my husband in the states. He was angry at me for waking him and couldn’t understand why I was upset. He went back to bed.
We stared at the television in disbelief. There were two burning towers in front of us, full of people who had gotten up in the morning to go to work, expecting just another day. I remember papers flying everywhere. Millions of pieces of paper floating through the air. And smoke. Thick, suffocating smoke that could be seen for miles on the sunny clear day. Human beings started jumping out of the buildings. It was impossible to watch. What scenes must have gone on in the buildings that jumping out was the preferable solution…
Honestly, I still had hope. Though I feared the towers would collapse, I thought that there must be some way of getting everyone out safely. Where were the helicopters, I wondered. There must be a whole fleet of helicopters ready to rescue people. Of course, that was a childish illusion. No helicopters ever came.
My husband called me back and apologized for not having understood the severity of the situation earlier. Since he was in the Army, he was ready to report if necessary.
It was my farewell party at work. Even though my husband had asked me not to go, I felt I needed to get out of the house. I had bought pretzels and drinks for everyone, surely I couldn’t let them go to waste. In a daze, I walked to the bus stop and got on the bus. The people on the bus didn’t know yet. Their world was still normal. The entire trip there, I felt like screaming at them, warning them of what they were about to find out. America had been attacked! And nothing was the same anymore.
I entered the stock exchange. The usually bustling lobby was still, the giant screens full of news broadcasts. Everyone was staring, speechless. The first tower fell.
I made my way up to the office. Everyone was surprised to see me. Why had I come there during this tragedy, with pretzels and drinks? They all hugged me. Sorry for me because this was supposed to be my new home in a few days and it was burning. We stayed in the office together in silence, watching the news. The second tower fell. I collapsed into a chair. It was more than I could take in. Everyone was crying. Then we were evacuated. The stock exchange wasn’t safe- nowhere was safe anymore.
I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. It was all news, every waking moment. More facts were found out. More pictures were shown. People covered in dust, injured. People running in the streets, running for their lives. Beautiful sunshine with thick clouds of death. A gaping hole in New York. Rescue efforts and a few survivors. The severity of it was impossible to digest.
Honestly, I don’t remember the next few days. I said good-bye to everyone I loved and got on the first flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta after the catastrophe. The sense of doom and dread was deep inside of me. I didn’t want to go anymore, wanted to call the whole thing off. But I couldn’t.
11 September 2001 saw the end of so many precious lives and the world changed forever. It was also the end of my life as I knew it. I didn’t see the sun shine for a very long time afterwards.