Monday, September 11, 2006

It's Been Five Years and Yet It Feels Like Yesterday

The time was a little after 8:00 and I had just poured myself a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Normally I would have been at work but the week before I had been laid off from my job of five years and was now currently unemployed. Although the computer industry that I had just worked in during the previous week was suffering, the economy and other engineering sectors were going strong. I had been paid almost two months severance pay and I intended to make that last for a couple months before I started looking for a job. In fact, my only pressing task of the day was to cash the check at the bank after breakfast.

I pulled into the bank parking lot around nine and as I made my way into the normally hushed interior, I was taken back by the noise. A television was sitting on the desk in front of the vault blaring away and there was a group of people standing in front of it. I could hear the reporter talking about all the water rushing down the stairwells but quickly unfocused myself from his voice as I made my way to the counter. A few minutes later, I walked by the blaring television and went back to my car.

I filled up with gas and grabbed some breakfast on the way back to my apartment. As I pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex and got out of the car, an old woman came tottering out of the doors shouting that planes were slamming into buildings all over New York City. Not knowing the proper response to someone who was obviously many cards short of a full deck, I simply smiled nodded and went inside. Yet when I got inside, I felt the odd urge to turn on the television just to make sure that the world was still sane, that revelations hadn’t yet begun. I turned on the television at 10:05 and as the screen popped into focus, I watched the south tower of the World Trade Center collapse, live on television accompanied by the startled shouts of everyone within microphone range.

Even then, I still thought it all was some movie clip that was being previewed on the morning news until the startled reported gathered their senses and stated the obvious, the south tower had indeed just collapsed. I too collapsed numbly into my chair still not comprehending the gravity of what had just happened. Half an hour later after the north tower collapsed, I finally gained some of my senses and started calling people. First were some fellow co-workers who were part of the 600+ people that were laid off with me. Then some of the co-workers who were at work. As it turned out, they weren’t working either, merely sitting in the cafeteria watching it unfold on televisions and wondering the same things as me. Is the world coming to an end?

When my girlfriend at the time, working in England, was off from work, I called her. I let her know that I was safe and we talked for a while, all the while my eyes kept watching the events unfold live on television. The Pentagon had been hit and another plane had hit the ground in Pennsylvania. Tens of thousands were estimated dead. It was overwhelming.

It was probably five or six in the evening when I realized that I had sat in my chair watching television non-stop all day, not even breaking for eating or drinking. Only to field an occasional phone call from someone needing to reach out and touch someone in a time when tomorrow wasn’t a guaranteed certainty anymore. By then I had realized that things were serious, not only for our country but for my personal livelihood. Here I was unemployed in a nation that had been attacked on the same scale as Pearl Harbor and I knew then that I would be lucky to find a job by the end of the year. Nobody hires people in a world as shocked as America was today, September 11, 2001. Despite it being early evening, I turned off the television and went to bed. I didn’t want to be awake anymore in this world.

I started sending out resumes the very next day and in a job market that would have yielded me a half dozen jobs to choose from within a week pre-9/11, it would take me two months one job offer which I took begrudgingly just so that I could continue to eat and earn money to fly overseas to see my girlfriend.

Even to this day, I only have to close my eyes and I can vividly relive that day five years ago. I can still remember being annoyed at the loud television in the bank before I had realized that hundreds of people were already dead and almost three thousand more would die in the next two hours. I can still remember the very first picture on the television showing the south tower collapsing live for the entire viewing world to see. I can still remember thinking that tomorrow might never come again. It’s been five years and yet it feels like yesterday.

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