I was 23 and working at a bank downtown in the tallest building in Milwaukee. It had been a normal Tuesday morning so far I’d had half of my cup of coffee and fought rush hour traffic listening to Bob and Brian. They had Steve Czaben to do sports and Ted Perry that morning because Kerry was off. Steve innocently asked the guys if they had CNN on while they were talking because The World Trade Center was on fire.
The guys in classic Bob and Brian started making jokes about how they don’t watch the news and giving Steve a hard time, but they switched the channel and then I suddenly heard silence. After a pause Ted got on the mic and stated in a classic news anchor voice, that they had just witnessed a plane hitting the other tower. He emphasized that at this time they didn’t know what was going on and described what they had seen. Bob, Brian and Steve all stated it looked like a commercial jet to them, but Ted again stated that at this time they did not know.
Ted did a wonderful job that morning, looking back I am amazed at how cool and professional he was from the moment they witnessed the plane, United Airlines Flight 175, slamming in to the south tower. Generally when he’s on with the boys he’s silly and less buttoned up than he is on the evening news. That day he wasn’t.
Ted talked me through what was going on until I arrived at work. There was a calm surface to the chaos that we felt that day. Most other businesses in the tower sent everyone home. There was still a plane missing, United Airlines Flight 93 , and while the Firstar building isn’t a high priority the local FBI office was concerned that it would become a secondary target if primary targets were empty. It was confusion, no one knew who’d done this (though in my car I kept saying “Osama, Osama” over and over) or what their targets were. Were they going for finical centers? Government buildings? Were there more planes?
The bank stated we’d be open for business as usual and a security guard, seeing I was scared told me not to worry, the FBI was on the roof, my response was something along the lines of would the FBI be spitting on the planes. My bosses boss wandered downstairs from the 3rd floor executive offices (where the CEO and the CFO and other big wigs had decided to “work from home”) saw me crying and wanted to know what was wrong. What was wrong? People were flying planes into buildings full of people to prove a point.
By 10am people were finally being sent home from the bank. I understood then, and now, that there is an obligation to keep banks open in times like that but I still resented being made to stay when the world had gone mad.
I don’t think we turned the TV off for weeks afterward. Jason and I moved that weekend to our own apartment after living in the DHH for 5 months. I packed watching people placing victims on stretchers, covering them with the flag and slowly carrying then up to waiting ambulances to go to the morgue. In between loads of our things being hauled from the DHH to the new place I light a candle that Friday night. Every year on 9/11 I light another one.
As each generation moves from actual memories of that day to learning about it from parents, grandparents and teachers the horror, the feeling of being lost, the sheer fact the world we’d known had been thrown not only upside down but inside out, will be lost. It will be come an objective lesson, much like Pearl Harbor is for myself and my generation. I do hope, though, in this digital age we’ll have more people’s memories of the events, from the news footage, raw and uncut, to blogs like this; that my son and his peers will be able to remember too each year on 9/11.