9/11: Where Were You?

Believe it or not, it’s still difficult for me to talk about this. Never in my life did I think a single moment in history could resonate so deeply within me for close to 20 years. Not like this. Come to think of it, next year will mark exactly 20 years. Maybe I’ll be able to do a full write-up about the entire story and how it changed America.

Why is it hard for me? Because the rage I felt has never left. How someone or group could commit such an evil, yet cowardice act is beyond my level of comprehension. There were DAY CARE CENTERS in those buildings!

I’m sorry. I’m getting angry already. Let me stay focused…

Ok, so September 11, 2001. I was working for Kellogg Company at the time and we were sitting in a morning manager’s meeting. If you knew the climate there, you’d know that unless we had an ammonia leak or the building was on fire, you did NOT enter the room and interrupt. Well, interrupt it – they did. One of the line supervisors burst through the door, causing me to jump up, ready to run to the First Aid Room, being the Safety Director. “Turn on the TV! You gotta see this!” he yelled.

The Plant Manager gave him a threatening look as we turned on the television. We didn’t need for him to tell us what channel because the first thing we saw was the World Trade Center with smoke arcing with the wind from near the top.

“What the HELL?” was the simultaneous response from just about everyone in the room. It took a few seconds before we realized that a plane had crashed into one of the buildings. At the moment, the word “accident” was what we commonly shared. We continued listening to the reporter for another few moments when out of nowhere, the second plane struck.

(It hurts to share this, but we can never forget.)

I slowly raised my hand to my mouth as another manager yelled, “Oh my GOD!” Another manager screamed, “Is that another PLANE???”

It didn’t have to be said, but I instantly knew, as we all knew, we were actually witnessing a terrorist attack.

Being the Team Leader of the Crisis Management Team, I watched for a few more minutes before tearing myself away to my office to gather my team. Even though we were in Zanesville, Ohio, we knew that preparedness was paramount in this most bizarre and unexpected situation. When I say unexpected, I mean of this magnitude and nature. Who crashes a plane into a building?!?

As the day progressed, we learned of the other attacks and despite our shocks, relaxed our proactive movement just a tad as we tried desperately to make sense of a senseless situation. As far as we knew, every major city was on red alert, as were the surrounding areas. We were an hour away from Columbus, but I had already given warning of a possible shutdown and evacuation notice because we were the second highest user of Anhydrous Ammonia in the Kellogg Corporation. An attack on our location would be disastrous.

Thankfully it didn’t hit our area or the remainder of the country, but that gives zero comfort when I think of the 3,000 lives that were lost that day. I later volunteered to travel to New York to assist with the cleanup and disaster response, but my management team felt that I, along with the others wanting to go, were needed here, in case something else unexpected occurred.

I can never describe how much anger and sorrow I felt that day. I know I never got over it. I also never realized just how much it affected me until I visited “Ground Zero” years later, while the memorial was under construction.

As I stood there, looking at the location where it all happened, I went through the same out-of-body experience that I had when I visited the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. All I could see and feel were the screams and terror the victims might have felt as they desperately fought to escape to the bottom floor. I could only imagine what it was like for those trapped in the floors above the impact, unable to descend.

I also remember being jolted back to reality when I saw the two young ladies, posing for a picture, smiling and laughing during flash.

I felt it best to bite my tongue and walk away. I told myself that different people process things in different ways and that I should mind my own business. Yet and still, the angry stares of other onlookers pretty validated how I felt.

It’s been two decades since that horrific day and I have yet to watch any movies about it. It’s still too fresh and raw in my gut.

No, I will never forget that day, or where I was. And I will never forget the lost, their families and those courageous men and women who fought on the planes and during the rescue attempts on the ground.

God bless you and keep you. I love you.

And I will l never forget.

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