Today is September 11th, 2009. Where were you on September 11, 2001? I know where I was.
On September 10th, 2001 I flew home from AG. I was living in Seattle, and had been to and fro from AG back to Seattle 4 times in about 5 weeks. My grandfather was really sick, and so I’d come down for vacation, gone home, come back, gone home, and then came back again for his funeral. On September 10th, I flew back. My flights were all screwed up, and I got the last seat on the last flight out of SLO to LA, and then got the last flight from LA to Seattle, and got home late to Seattle.
I woke up on September 11th and turned on the TV to see the massive devastation. I couldnt believe it – I called into work, and was told not to go. We worked in a building that was in the shadow of the Bank of America building, and they thought that was the biggest target in Seattle. Our whole office was folks from out-of-town, and we ended up meeting at a diner somewhere for breakfast. Well, let’s make a correction, all of us except for Steve.
Steve was in Boston, he’d just finished staffing an event and was due to fly back that day. None of us knew what flight he was on or wasnt on, and we hadnt heard from him. Neither had his parents. Steve was one of about 30 people from our small company that was due to fly out of Boston, back to many parts of the US. We didn’t know which of any of them were on a flight. Steve’s parents had gotten ahold of me and we spent some time trying to get ahold of him, but cell coverage and phone lines were really spotty. Steve and I at that point had been friends for several years – all the way back to highschool… and I was in a bit of a panic as I tried to find him. I finally did – in a hotel bar, along with every single other person from our small company that was on that event. They’d had their own adventure and were taking refuge in a bar while they tried to figure out what was going on and what was coming next.
I was in a bit of shock, I think. I was trying to find Steve, and talking to his parents, trying to get ahold of my parents, and watching the news – watching buildings I’d been in 2 years previously. A friend of mine worked in Rizzolli’s a book store in the base of Tower 2, and I had spent several hours a day for about a week hanging out at the Twin Towers, in the book store, taking the PATH in and out, and got my hair cut in a really bad bob at a hair salon in that building. And now – 2 years later, I was watching it on TV – un recognizable.
We ended up at breakfast for a couple of hours, watching the news coverage – and then we went our separate ways. I ended up going back to Carries for the rest of the day as we sat and watched all the news coverage about what had happened. We checked our work email, and got status updates on our co-workers, and vendors. We had a 3-Day coming up… the NY 3Day, actually – and we ended up pushing that out for about 6 weeks, and donating all of our booked supplies – toilets, kitchens, showers, laundry, tour busses, supplies, tents etc to the recovery effort at Ground Zero.
Somewhere in this timeline, we heard that one of our long time staff members, and longer time volunteers, had started volunteering at Ground Zero. John McGee was supposed to have surgery that day – back surgery. He was supposed to have surgery at a local hospital, and instead parked his car – texted our VP and said – if I go MIA for awhile, it’s because I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m a trained red cross volunteer and they need me. And, so he cancelled his surgery, checked into the Red Cross and started doing what he was trained to do.
As the days crept by – we heard stories of friends and families that had lost friends and family members in the September 11th crisis. Our co-workers determined they’d have to wait weeks to fly out of Boston, so they rented vans and drove cross country – or cross country enough to get a plane home. I think Steve waited several days and flew home. We learned that John McGee had done a fabulous job for the Red Cross – he was a disaster relief captain, and worked tirelessly for a couple/three weeks to support the red cross, and was rebooked for surgery. It was crazy. We learned that we were going to reschedule the NY 3Day for about a couple of months later – and on and on.
Being 8 years out, it’s a bit of a blur – somewhere in there John’s surgery was rescheduled. We all knew about it – we all loved John. He was a big teddy bear of a man, who did fabulous things for people. Lots of people. We all knew he was going in to surgery, and we were all shocked when we heard he’d died. on the table. at age 44. Man – it was awful. Makes me teary to think of it now. He was a great man, really really fantastic. I’ve always associated September 11 with his death – even though he died a couple of months later. I think I always will.
We ended up doing the NY 3Day. The next year, I went to the NY3Day – via the Atlanta 3Day. We drove from Atlanta to NY on the tourbus, and it took 2 1/2 days… but as we pulled into NY, and headed out to where we were starting, we drove on whatever freeway drives past where the twin towers had been. I saw, first hand, the giant. huge. empty. hole. in the ground where those gigantic buildings had been. I’d been in those buildings, I’d hung out there, and now there was a just a hole. The bus had been ROWDY and I distinctly remember the silence as we drove past Ground Zero.
So. I’m not sure why I felt to blog about all this – except that it’s September 11th. I know where I was then, and I probably always will. I know that today I’ll be at the ceremony across the street from my house to honor those that were lost, and those that are in the war against terror. I choose to be thankful to those people, and take the opportunity each year to remember why they are there… politics, and beaurocratic crap aside. I’ll also remember my friend John McGee – and all that he gave, truly a man of service.
So that’s my story. What’s yours?