I’d just arrived at the park lodge. It was a beautiful day, and we were going to have an offsite meeting for our department. All of the administrative assistants were there to help set up. Instead, everyone was gathered around the TV. “The World Trade Center got hit,” someone said. Mesmerized, we all stared at the TV for what seemed like hours. I don’t remember anything the commentators were saying. But I do remember thinking “Wow, they look like match sticks. Oh God, those poor people inside.”

The first tower began to smoke like crazy. I watched in shock as it collapsed. So neatly. A gentle-looking tumble–definitely contrasting with the horror inside. All of our jaws dropped. And yet, we stared, still mesmerized, at the TV.

Panic grew as more and more reports of attacks came through. The Pentagon. The plane in Pennsylvania. And then, the second tower collapsed. I could no longer control the tears. Sod this “professional image” I was supposed to have. I was scared, and I was feeling sorrow, and I just wanted to be with my husband and my cats. A coworker and I embraced and cried in each other’s arms as the horrors continued to unfold on the TV.

People began arriving for the meeting. Incredulous, I watched as some people went on like it was business as usual. How could they think of WORK at a time like this? I left the room to sit on the porch and pray quietly, holding my rosary.

The facilitator of the meeting, an AVP, said a few words, said a prayer, told us to have lunch then go home. There would be no meeting that day. We had lunch, and some people acted as if things were somewhat normal. Most of us ate slowly, in shock. I do remember that the food was good. Many people remarked on that. Most were intent on gobbling down their meals and going home, I think. I didn’t have a ride, and as Chris was in transit and did not have a cell phone, I could not get a hold of him. The person I’d have normally rode with; my carpool partner, was insistent on staying until everyone else had left. I couldn’t have cared less about everyone else and that job; I was terrified and wanted to be with my family.

Another one of my coworkers drove me home. Chris had gotten home just a few minutes prior. We spent the rest of the day watching coverage on TV. He listened to my tearful voice mail and teased me about it. He deals with that kind of stuff with humor. I just stared obsessively at the TV, working myself into more and more panic.

It was eerily silent outside. We never knew how loud planes were and how many were flying at any given time. So when a very loud and large plane (Air Force One) came roaring through the sky, we rushed outside to get a look. I went to bed that night dreading work the next day. I was scared and sad and knew I would not be focused. Many of us walked around in a daze the next day.

Healing came, and normal life started back up eventually. I haven’t visited the site (from what I hear, it’s eerily silent there), but I’d like to someday. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones. To those who still mourn. To my friends who saw the smoke drift over their homes for months after it happened. To everyone whose lives it touched. Even to those terrorists who hate us so much that they rejoice in this kind of killing. My prayers to all of us affected by that day.

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