Saturday, September 09, 2006


I don't want to hog any glory on September 11 this year. So I will recount my story early and devote September 11 to Thomas Fisher.

5 years ago today

I was a student at Georgetown University in DC, across the bridge from the Pentagon. I woke up late and had to run to my 10 AM class, ignoring bunches of students talking about bombs that went off in New York and at the DC State Department.

My professor told us about the planes in New York. She said, "If any of you have friends or relatives you want to check on, please feel free to leave now and come back when you can, we'll just be here talking about Gilgamesh." I ran outside to get in touch with family that lived literally in the shadow of the Towers. Cell phones didn't work. I returned to class in tears and don't remember what we talked about.

My next class was cancelled. I spent an hour crying to my cell phone for it to work. I was convinced the Towers fell on my family, that my parents were in New York on business instead of in Jersey, that all my uncles had meetings in the Pentagon (they are all military), and my brother at school in Pennsylvania was standing in that field. Don't ask. I was crazy with panic.

Finally I found out that the land lines in the computer center were working. I waited in line and finally talked to my mom. I was almost the last to check in (one uncle was caught in traffic near the Pentagon). Everyone was okay. My family in New York was ash-covered, but an emergency worker gave my infant cousin a jacket for protection. He refused to give my aunt his name so she could return it. They walked to Jersey where my mom picked them up.

My dad was on a different phone line, and my mom relayed messages between us. He was in Georgia, no idea when he'd get home since he flew there on a private jet. (He ultimately rented a car with another executive and drove, non-stop, trading off driving for 17 hours to get home). I was told to stay at Georgetown, not to risk the chaos of DC traffic or to cross the bridge into Virginia, until we could get further information. And no, my brother was not standing in that field.

My Boston friends and family was not flying anywhere. They were safe.

Friends of friends and family were lost. Scratch that - they were murdered. But no one succeeded in murdering my uncles or my infant cousin or investment banker uncle (though his office I think collapsed) or my military uncles.

Or me. Georgetown students were panicking because our school looks kind of magestic from the air, especially to a lost terrorist who can't find his original target. I screamed when I realized I was hearing planes and shouldn't be (planes fly over Georgetown constantly on their way to National Airport. We were so used to them the silence was eerie). An Air Force ROTC pal ID'ed them as ours and named the model. I don't know if he was right. It didn't matter - I felt better, knowing they were there and they were ours.

I went home that weekend to feel my family, to literally touch them and know they were alive. I swore vengence, if if were possible for me, in gratitude and anger.

I relive that day whenever I think about it. I could have lost everything. But I didn't. Others weren't so lucky.

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