9/11 Bird’s Eye View

Ten years ago, on that crystal clear morning of 9/11, I was in our offices, which were then located in Rosslyn, Virginia and had large windows to the south and west.

The TV was on when the first plane hit the building, and then the second. We all gathered around open-mouthed and then grabbed the phone to call family and friends. A few staffers actually ran down the 11 floors to get back to their families in case this was the start of something much bigger. Wilson Boulevard, the main drag in Rosslyn, was streaming with cars and panicked people.

I stayed and stood gazing out my window wondering why there was a lone plane buzzing around National Airport. I figured the airport may have placed the plane in a holding pattern, though it was the only plane in the sky at that time.

I turned away for about two minutes to talk to my colleagues and then something made me turn back to the window. At that moment there was a fireball in the distance and the plane was gone from the sky. I shook my head, not yet understanding the connection. It was only a few minutes later when Peter Jennings announced The Pentagon had been hit, that I realized I had been watching the plane just before it slammed into the building. Needless to say, I was in shock.

And even after ten years, it’s still shocking to see the replays of the planes hitting, the tower falling and New Yorkers covered in ash, running for their lives. It makes everything else in my life seem downright petty.

It also gave then New York Mayor Giuliani, who was about to be run out of town, the spotlight and the chance to become a decisive, post-terror, hero. The media is fickle. They can tear someone down or build someone up in a matter of hours or days. And that’s exactly what they did with Giuliani.

My take away from this experience is that life is precarious so live it to the fullest. It’s sad this anniversary finds the country so divided, but my greatest hope is that we’ll grit our teeth, take a deep breath and find the strength to make a difference. We’re the greatest country on the planet, and if every one of us who is capable of it lends a hand, we’ll surely make it through.

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