No one will forget where they were on 9/11- just as those of us old enough will never forget what we were doing when we heard J.F.K was killed. Since this was part of my Flight Attendant experience, I'll share my story with you.
I was indeed on an airplane, an A320- heading from Detroit to the west coast. We had boarded our people, I had made the announcements, and we had taxied to the end of the runway. We were about half full of people.
Rolling down the runway, I believed the day was going to be pretty much routine. All at once the brakes came on- we swerved slightly, and pulled to a stop. My first thought was "mechanical difficulty". We sat for a few minutes. Then the Captain called me to the cockpit.
He informed me that the airport had just been shut down. Not this particular runway- but the whole airport. I asked if we had just lost an airplane. (Normally the airport doesn't close down unless there's been a crash). He said "sort of"- and my heart sank!
The First Officer, meanwhile was very busy on the radio. The Captain asked me to stay in the cockpit for a bit, while he got more information. After a few more minutes, he told me that an airplane had just crashed into the Twin Towers in New York! And another was missing off of the radar!
What went through my mind at that moment? Well, it didn't make any sense! One aircraft accident I understood. But what was going on??!! The Captain made the announcement that the airport was closed down. At that moment he didn't share anything else. The reports coming in were too sketchy.
I went back to the first class cabin. People were already on their cell phones. I gathered the fellow flight attendants in the galley and told them what was going on. One of the flight attendants had a daughter who worked at the "Deutsche Bank" at the Twin Towers. My heart sank for her! What a mother's nightmare! She ran to her bag, retrieved her phone, and tried to call her daughter. There was no answer.
Next came a call for me to return to the cockpit. A second aircraft had hit the other Twin Tower Building, one had gone into the Pentagon, and yet another was missing over Pennsylvania. My heart was fluttering a bit by now. It was obvious something horrible was happening, and aircraft and human life were being used as weapons!
The Captain made the announcement: We are returning to the airport terminal. All air traffic has been closed down. I can't remember for sure, but I think he informed them of the crashes. And asked for prayers for all involved.
Once back in the terminal, quiet chaos surrounded us. People were everywhere. Huge crowds were hanging out at the bars, where the T.V.s blared the latest- showing over and over the Twin Towers being crashed into.
Down at inflight, where crew members report, there was a quiet "shock", as everyone waited to find out what the company wanted us to do. A supervisor came in and announced we were to go home. Those crew members who were not from Detroit would be put up in a hotel until alternate transportation could be found. My Flight Attendant who's daughter worked at the Twin Towers was sitting in the corner, very quiet. (she had seen the images on the T.V., and had to deal with the possibility her daughter didn't make it out.) I went over and gave her a hug- telling her I would be thinking of her and praying for her daughter. What else could I do? I felt totally inadequate to comfort her.
I drove home. At some point I called my roommate, who was at work. That is when I broke down. She offered to come home from work, but I needed a bit of time to pull myself together. The horror of the situation had reached my heart. I sobbed all the way home.
For days, the T.V. stayed on. Stories surfaced of Flight Attendants calling their supervisors, reporting a high jacking, then, while still on the phone, realizing they were going into a building! "Oh my God!" was all I kept saying to myself. Eventually I had to turn the t.v. off. I was totally saturated in the situation. I had kept it on during the search for any survivors in the rubble.
Then I had to give myself some time- time to grieve for the crew members, the passengers, all the people who lost their lives in this horrible act of terrorism. Chilson Hills Church in Brighton, Michigan had a memorial service. All the Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Politicians, and Crew Members in the area were invited to attend. One person from each group was asked to light a candle, in memory of those lost. I lit the candle for the Crew Members and Passengers.
Story after story poured forth of unbelievable bravery, of personal tragedy, of survivors fighting for their lives in hospitals. One happy moment- the fellow Flight Attendant who's daughter worked for "Deutsche Bank" indeed survived. She was literally stuck on a subway car. The conductor wouldn't let anyone off, and it saved her life!
I don't often reread the events that happened that day. I know what they are, and reliving them is as painful as when it first happened. I do, however, light a candle every September 11th.
I light it for the Crew Members lost, for the Passengers, for the Bravery, for the dedication of First Responders, and for all who fell.
And then I light another candle.
This one is to remind me that every day is precious, that life is tenuous at best, and to take nothing and no one for granted.
I light it to remind myself to tell those dear to me that I love them, while I still can, and while they can still hear it.