HolyCoast: My Recollections of 9/11

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Recollections of 9/11

Here's the timeline of events from that day (from September 11 News.com):
7:58 a.m. - United Airlines Flight 175 departs Boston for Los Angeles,carrying 56 passengers, two pilots, and seven flight attendants. The Boeing 767 is hijacked after takeoff and diverted to New York.

7:59 a.m. - American Airlines Flight 11 departs Boston for Los Angeles, carrying 81 passengers, two pilots, and nine flight attendants. This Boeing 767 is also hijacked and diverted to New York.

8:01 a.m. - United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 carrying 38 passengers, two pilots, and five flight attendants, leaves Newark, N.J., for San Francisco.

8:10 a.m. - American Airlines Flight 77 departs Washington's Dulles International Airport for Los Angeles, carrying 58 passengers, two pilots, and four flight attendants. The Boeing 757 is hijacked after takeoff.

8:46 a.m. - American Flight 11 from Boston crashes into the North Tower at the World Trade Center.

9:03 a.m. - United Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the South Tower at the World Trade Center.

- U.S. Federal Aviation Administration shuts down all New York area airports.

9:21 a.m. - Bridges and tunnels leading into New York City are closed.

9:25 a.m. - All domestic flights are grounded by U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

9:45 a.m. - American Flight 77 crashes into The Pentagon.

10:05 a.m. - The South Tower at the World Trade Center collapses.

10:05 a.m. - The White House is evacuated.

10:10 a.m. - A large section of one side of The Pentagon collapses.

10:10 a.m. - United Flight 93 crashes in a wooded area in Pennsylvania, after passengers confront hijackers.

10:28 a.m. - The North Tower at the World Trade Center collapses.
Like most of you I'll never forget that day. I got up at about 6:10 am PDT and as is my custom, turned on the computer. When AOL connected the headline said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. My initial reaction was that it must be some type of terrible accident. Maybe the weather was bad in New York and some poor guy ran into the tower as had happened to the Empire State Building back in the 40's. Figuring that this was probably on TV, I turned on the set and was shocked to see the image of both towers on fire. It was pretty clear that this was no accident.

I sat there transfixed and watched the coverage. At 7:05 one tower appeared clothed in smoke and a cloud was rapidly spreading out from the base. At first the commentator didn't know what he was seeing, but having watched numerous shows on Las Vegas, including many which showed hotel implosions, I immediately knew that a collapse had occurred. At that point I had to take my kids to school. I remember telling them that school might be very different today because there had been an attack on America.

By the time I got back home the second tower had collapsed and Brit Hume began talking about an explosion at the Pentagon. He also said there was a possibility of another plane on the way to Washington. Smoke was visible in the distance from the crash at the Pentagon.

The coverage was chaotic but very professional. I had planned to work in San Diego that day but ended up watching the coverage non-stop. At lunch time I headed over to pick up a sandwich, and in that same center was a Red Cross Blood Center. Someone in the Togo's line mentioned that there was a 2 hour wait to give blood. America was responding.

The rest of that week is a bit of a blur. Non-stop coverage from New York, the memorial services, the famous scene of President Bush with his arm around a fireman and talking through a bullhorn to the rescue workers.  The terribly sad family members holding pictures of their loved ones hoping someone had seem them.

My office at the time was right off the end of the runway at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA. We were used to regularly hearing jets take off almost right over our heads, but for several days there was an eerie quiet in the office with the entire nation's air traffic system shut down.

One of the memories that will stick with me was the Saturday following the attack. We had some free tickets to Magic Mountain that expired after that day, so we took the family up there. The crowd was down and the music they were playing in the park was all patriotic music. I remember hearing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and thinking that it won't be long until Johnny starts marching again.

The next day (Sunday) my quartet had a couple of concerts scheduled. The morning event was in Brea (CA) where the pastor didn't make it to church because he was stranded in Washington State by the flight cancellations. He didn't make it back for a couple of days.

That evening we were in West Hills (San Fernando Valley) and as we were setting up, a demonstration was forming in the parking lot next door. A group of Muslims and members of a Jewish synagogue were trying to organize some sort of march. Things were a little confused over there, and appeared to be getting a little tense. The cops showed up, along with the media, and the thing fizzled out.

As bad a day as September 11th was, for a brief moment it brought the country together. For at least a few days there weren't any Democrats or Republicans, just Americans. I wonder if we'll ever see an attitude like that again in the US?

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