Ten years ago, this week. It feels like yesterday and a million years ago, all at once.
I remember thinking, on my drive to work that Tuesday, just how very beautiful the particular day was. It was the type of morning you just want to clone for the entire month. The sky was bright blue and the air was crisp and it was just right for my new denim jacket. Sunny, but brisk at once. Perfection.
I was working in the advertising department of the now out of business Hecht’s department store and Jeff was working at the US Capitol building. We were newlyweds, living in downtown DC along with Penelope, who turned one that morning. The day began with doggy cupcakes at the park and we had big plans for a special dinner for her that night. (No, I’m not kidding.) Life, at the time, was totally selfish and easy and revolved around the three of us.
Once the first tower was hit, word spread around my office and we all poured into the break room, watching the horrible accident. I saw the second tower hit in real time, and it became clear that this was, indeed, no accident. The office became silent, as we just watched in horror. I remember the sight of people falling from the buildings. People who went to work, just like every other day, suddenly having no choice but to fall from the sky. It was incomprehensible. It still is.
Newscasters were reporting that DC was the next target and I was unable to reach Jeff. I frantically left the office and started the drive home, in hopes that he would make his way there, too. I remember thinking that it seemed like a movie and I was just playing the role of a nervous new wife. At the same time, Jeff was told by the police to evacuate the Capitol and run for dear life. He made it through DC, a mass of racing business suits and arrived home while I battled traffic on the Key Bridge. Hours later, I finally reached our apartment, to find him waiting there. Once I hugged him, I never wanted to let go. We just held each other and cried. It felt like the world was ending.
I was glued to the TV for weeks. I sobbed for the widows and the parents and the siblings and the children. All of those innocent people, gone. I constantly played the what-ifs in my head. What if the last plane hadn’t been brought down in Pennsylvania? What if Jeff never made it out? What if it happened again?
Helicopters circled the sky above us as we tried to fall asleep every night. Restaurants with previously endless wait lists were empty. Stores opened their doors, but nobody shopped… Why would they? We all just sort of sleepwalked through our days. I vowed, upon reading about a neighbor killed in the Pentagon crash, never to have children. Why bring people into a world where something this horrific would happen? It just seemed unthinkable.
But, then again, everything seemed unthinkable at the time.
Ten years ago.
And, here we are.