Nineteen years is a long time. Measured in terms of a human lifetime, it’s a fair chunk of the years allotted to people. Crammed into that twenty nine years is kids leaving home, grandchildren being born. New homes purchased, old homes left behind.
It’s like a book shelf crammed with stories, but the bookends are today, and a date that looks out from the calendar and serves like a dagger through the heart of the history of our country.
September 11, 2001.
I was working in Denver at the time for a Dental Company that shall go nameless. As a Systems Administrator, I like to get in early, check my systems, and take care of any small thing that might derail the company that day.
I was staying in Fort Collins at the time with my Daughter Tanya, and my Son-in-Law, and so I had an hours drive to work in the morning. we hadn’t purchased the house in Greeley yet, and Julie, my wife, was still in Del Norte. Crystal was in her first year at Iowa State, and Ger was at Ft. Jackson about to graduate from Basic Training. we were to fly out there to attend it.
I arrived at the office a little before 7. I didn’t have a radio in the pickup, and so I had no idea what was going on.
There was one lady how usually beat me in. i greeted her as I came in.
“Did you hear about the airplane crashing into the World Trade Center?” she asked right away.
I’d been rushing full speed ahead to check my systems and her words caused me to stop in my tracks.
“An airplane. It hit the World Trade Center.”
Right away I started thinking of the approaches to the major airports around New York. It didn’t make sense that an airliner could have been one hit it by accident.
But there was that incident in WW II when a B-25 ran into the Empire State building. That was an accident, but that made no sense with today’s technology.
If it were an accident, it was one that was almost impossible to have happened.
“Small plane?” I asked. There’s dozens of small aircraft that give aerial tours around the city. One of them might have gotten a little to close to one of the Towers and ran into it.
“No, a big plane,” she said.
The terrible truth dawned on me. Airliners wouldn’t be that close to the buildings. I put everything I’d ever read on the WTC, terrorism, and emergency planning together in an instant.
“This is no accident. It’s that nut that did the Cole,” I said. “He’s behind this. And there will be more just like it.”
I went in and checked the news. Right there, live and on my computer screen was a live picture of one of the Towers. An ugly black plume of smoke billowed from it. It was clear from the commentary that the news anchors and witnesses were in shock. They were trying to come to grips with it all, and trying to figure out what was going on.
“We’re being attacked,” I remember saying to the screen.
I picked up the phone and started making phone calls. The first was to my wife, Julie.
“Good morning, Love of my Life,” she said. She was in a good, happy mood.
I shattered it with a single sentence. “Have you heard what’s going on?”
She had no clue.
Del Note is in a small bowl shaped valley, and that makes TV reception iffy at best. The only way to get television reliably is satellite or cable. We’d already had the satellite link disabled since she would be moving up here. I did some scrambling to get it turned back on
“Baby, what does this mean?”
“It means we’ll be going to war,” I answered. “If you hear from the kids, try to calm them down. Tell them to stay calm and pray.”
People were starting to drift in, but there were far fewer people than I’d have expected in at that time. Most people were too stunned by the events to come to grips with something as simple as going to work.
I checked my systems and thought about what was going on. As I worked, I remembered my father telling about when he learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was just a kid, and my uncle, who owned a radio, had heard of the attack. He came over and told them what had happened. It was lunch time when he learned about it.
No one, to include my uncle, had a clue what Pearl Harbor was, much less that it meant the world had just changed.
Now I was watching the world change again. Worse, everyone of us knew what the World Trade Center was. Some of us had even been there.
And thanks to the Internet, I didn’t have to wait for someone to tell me something had happened. I could see it happen as it happened.
My cellphone rang and I picked it up.
It was my son, Gerald. As a brand new private in the Army and one that just finished Basic Training, he was a little panic stricken.
“Dad, they’re telling us to get our combat gear together, and to draw weapons. They’re giving us live ammo and we’ll be going out to set up a perimeter around a housing area.
“Is this an exercise. No one seems to know what’s going except we’re being attacked.”
“Calm down, and here’s what I know.” I told him about the two planes that had crashed into the World Trade Center (the second had already hit). “This seems to be a terrorist attack. I expect more plane crashes into government buildings.
“Now if it were me doing this, I’d probably try some low level attacks as well. And they’d be against civilians. They want to make sure the folks who live on the base stay secure.”
He listened, then asked, “What do I do?”
“Pay attention to your training, and listen to your NCOs and Officers. You’ll do fine. This is your first combat mission. Stay calm and cool.” I prayed with him real quick, and then let him get going.
They sent us home about 1 that afternoon. No one was focusing on work and staying there was a pointless exercise.
I drove home, amazed that Denver seemed empty. There were few cars on the interstate or streets around. It felt a little like being inside one of those 1950s end of the world movies.
Looking back, that wasn’t too wrong. It was the End of the World as we knew it.
-As always, continue to pray for our country and that our leaders have wisdom to govern wisely. Pray for our first responders (Police, Fire, and EMS) and that they’re kept safe. Also, pray for our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors who are STILL out there fighting against people who wouldn’t mind making this happen again.-