20 Years Ago Tomorrow
It’s hard to believe 20 years have passed. To many of us, it seems like yesterday, that day when everything changed.
It was a gorgeous, cloudless Tuesday morning here on the east coast, but I was still groggy from my flight back from Chicago, where I’d spent the weekend at PRINT 01. When I overheard the guy in the cubicle next to me on the phone exclaim, “No way! Both of them?” I perked up. He mentioned a plane. What the heck was he talking about?
It’s hard to remember how inferior our 2001 technology was. Cellphones still flipped, and the Internet was a ponderous place to find news. When I went to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s website, I saw only yesterday’s news at first. But a short while later, the first blurb appeared. A fire in the twin towers? Huh.
I tried to keep working. But I kept checking back. Then the first picture appeared, and I knew it was bad. I left my desk to see what others had heard and discovered every office and cubicle was empty. I found the entire company in a meeting room, clustered around the only TV set. No one spoke.
We all know the story, the thousands of lives lost. We all have our own tale from that day. I talked to the in-plant closest to the towers, at the New York Stock Exchange, where staff heard the planes hit the towers and felt the ground shake when they collapsed. "All the dust and the smoke came over here, and we couldn't even see across the street," recalled former manager Jeffrey Allen.
The in-plant at Trinity Church, just blocks from the towers, told me a similar story: "We pretty much were trying to find a place to breathe for the first 10 minutes," said Lynn Brewster, manager of Design and Production Services at the time.
Of course, their hardships pale in comparison to those of the people working in the towers, of the firemen climbing to their rescue, of the horror felt by those trapped above the flames, and the unimaginable outcome that still brings tears. Think of the 2,977 souls who died in New York, the Pentagon, and Shanksville that day as you go about your day tomorrow. They were guilty only of getting to work early on Sept. 11, 2001. They never knew how drastically the world would change after their deaths, nor even who was responsible. They were taken from us far too soon.