I woke up this morning and was reminded by my phone of the date. Life is so busy lately with three teens that all have their own schedules, it seems the days just pass me by. I can't believe we are almost half way into September already! As I noticed the date on my phone, a flood of memories and emotions came over me when I remembered the anniversary of this date. As I sit here writing, I glance out the window in front of me, looking at the clear blue sky that resembles the one on this date seventeen years ago. I want to write down all my memories of that day which are still so vivid in my mind, so I never forget.
Seventeen years ago I was working at O'Hare Airport for United Airlines. I had been there two years working in customer service - everything from ticketing, check-in, and my favorite, the gates. I loved the challenge of preparing the flight, boarding the passengers and getting it out on time. I worked really well multitasking under pressure and my flights almost always made it out on time. I was good at that job and enjoyed it. My last year there, I became pregnant with my second child. Since by September I was already eight months pregnant, my supervisor moved me to the customer service counter, for "light duty,” where I could sit on a stool while working.
September 11 began as any other normal work day. I got in at 6:00 a.m. and made my way to the C Concourse customer service counter. The airport was fairly empty and quiet, with very few passengers needing assistance at our counter. Just the way we liked it, since it meant it would be a stress-free day, but nothing is guaranteed in such an environment where anything could go wrong at any minute. The sun was out, the sky was perfectly clear, without a cloud in it. It was going to be a good day.
About two hours into my shift, I start noticing on my computer that many flights were being delayed and cancelled without explanation. Minutes later, lines start forming in front of the customer service counter. This was all very odd as we weren't given any news from our superiors. My colleagues and I began assisting the passengers to the best of our ability. We booked them on different flights and tried to help them get to their destinations as early as possible. It was increasingly difficult as people were becoming angry and demanding information we were unable to provide. We began to realize something was off and tried to gather information from the control tower and anywhere else we would normally call with questions. No useful information was given to us and our frustration began to mound since we couldn't do our job properly and the lines in front of us were becoming endless.
At one point a passenger came up to me to inform me of the first attack in New York. He has been in the first class lounge waiting for a flight and heard the report on TV. Things began to make sense and finally after all this time had passed, United informed us of the real reasons in the delays and now cancellations across the board. I was shaken and scared after hearing what was happening. I couldn't handle all the stress at that point. I took the rest of the day off and went home.
My husband and I spend the rest of the day glued to the TV, horrified, while watching everything unfold. Outside was the most perfect late summer day with an unusually clear sky. It was very still and very quiet but most of all eerie. That's the feeling that overwhelmed me and the word that best describes how it felt to step into the silence that was all around me. No planes in the sky, very light traffic and almost no people around.
I think the fear I felt that day left me very unsettled and I had a hard time going back to work after that. The emotions I was feeling were taking a toll on my body and my pregnancy. I took a little time off and a fews weeks later, gave birth to my daughter. I quit my job and decided to stay home and raise my kids. My husband and I had been contemplating this decision for a while but I think the events that happened that day really made the decision so much easier.
So many lives were impacted and forever changed that day. This is my story and my
experience. What is yours?