SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
September 11, 2001 was a beautiful day. The morning was cool, clear and crisp--still summer but feeling like autumn. As I drove through the countryside to Valparaiso, I was listening to a book on tape. To this day, I don't remember the name of the book but it was about a handful of survivors of a plane crash in Georgia--or was it North Carolina?
When I arrived at my destination, I didn't even notice the gloomy faces that greeted me. I think my cheerful greeting told them that I didn't know what had happened. And so they told me that a plane had flown into one of the buildings at the World Trade Center. Terrible I thought! We gathered around the radio as the second tower was hit. My thought was that something had to be wrong with the air traffic control system in the NYC area. It wasn't until the newscaster, in a voice filled with disbelief, said that there were reports that a plane had flown into The Pentagon. That was the first time I realized something terrible was occurring.
As most people did, I spent the rest of that day and the next and the next glued to television, radio, computer. I didn't want to hear more, but I was afraid not to hear.
And while all the news and images were beyond belief and horrible, I felt the most connected to The Pentagon. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west side of the building. It tore through three of the five rings: rings E, D and C. All aboard the plane perished as did over 100 people in The Pentagon. It was exactly sixty years to the day after ground was broken to build The Pentagon.
I worked at The Pentagon--Headquarters USAF--as a civilian legislative analyst for over five years. My last office was on the E ring--the outer ring, the first one penetrated. I could, in my mind's eye, see the destruction that I wasn't seeing on television. I could imagine the horror. I wondered if those present when the plane hit thought, like I had, they were working in a place that would never be threatened. A place impervious to attack. One of the safest places on earth to work. And I felt a deep sorrow for all the lives lost in all three places. And I will never forget.