Tuesday, September 11, 2001, started off as a normal day for me. I was working for Jacobs Engineering at the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR). Within a short time of arriving at work, I knew this wasn’t going to be a normal day, however.
Two Nights Before
On Sunday night, Sept 9, 2001, I flew from Knoxville, TN to Logan Airport in Boston, MA. We flew directly over NYC. The reason I remember this so perfectly is that it was the first time I ever saw Central Park from the air. The city looked so peaceful, and the park looked so dark. The illuminated buildings outlined the park and I remember being surprised by how big the Park was.
I remember walking through Logan airport, collecting my bags and preparing to drive to Western Cape Cod. There was no way for me to know that one day later, the terrorists would show-up at that airport to wreak havoc on us. The fact that I was so close to this world-changing event in both space and time still gives me the shakes.
It Started Off As a Normal Day
On a normal work day, two military jets took-off outside my office, sometime between 8 and 9 am. The jet engines caused the trailer we were working in to shake. I remember the feeling very clearly.
On 9/11/01, however, a whole bunch of jets took off. Engine after engine roared to life and the building kept shaking for what seemed to be an hour. As I sat there unaware of what was happening in New York City, I wondered why all the jets left at one time. I had never seen that happen before.
It didn’t take long for me to understand the situation. Toni (my wife) called me to tell me about what she was seeing on TV. I quickly made the connection to the jets leaving MMR and the situation that was unfolding in our country. It turns out that those jets that scrambled outside of my office were trying to track down the plane that hit the Pentagon. Unfortunately, the jets weren’t quite fast enough to catch that plane before it hit its target.
Once the shit hit the fan, the security level at MMR was raised to Treatcon Delta (Figure 1 and 2).
Once Threatcon Delta conditions were applied, we were locked-down at MMR. We were not allowed to leave. What happened next is the reason I am writing this story.
Watching TV at The Golf Course
Several members of our Jacobs Environmental team made our way over to the golf course clubhouse to watch live TV coverage of the events. Also in the clubhouse were the remaining jet pilots and other military personnel from the base. As we watched in silence as the World Trade Center towers toppled, the intensity in the room was overwhelming. I think testosterone, sweat, fear, anxiety, and disbelief all combined to form one giant concoction of intensity. I could taste it and I could feel it. Nothing I have experienced since has even come close to this intensity.
I think that every military person in that room was emanating tangible energy, as they were so willing to go out an kick some ass. At the time, however, I remember Peter Jenkins and Tom Brokaw and the other reporters speculating on who could have perpetrated such an attack. The enemy was unknown at the time. It was only later that we learned about the evil people that created and unleashed this attack. The unknown enemy caused a great deal of frustration for the military members in that room at that time – they didn’t know who to fight.
Finally Going Home
We were eventually allowed to leave the base that night. My muscles hurt for days after that because of the stress hormones released in my body during that intense time at the golf course clubhouse.
About five or six days later, I rented a car and drove the 20 hours back to TN. As I approached, NYC I had to make a decision. Did I want to go see the carnage, or did I want to avoid the bad air quality that was spewing from the site? I chose to avoid the scene because I knew the risks. I also knew that the brave recovery workers were going to be dealing with health issues in the upcoming years.
Sure enough, that has been the case. I feel bad each time I hear of another one passing from this event (Figure 3). Unfortunately for some innocent bystanders like Marcy Borders, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her life was shortened by many years by breathing in the toxic dust of that day.
I finally got to visit NYC this year. I saw a new beginning. The monuments to the fallen are beautiful. The new tower is magnificent (Figure 4).
Out of carnage rose a new vision and hope for a better future. Sometimes good things can happen, even after the most evil people unleash their fury upon the world.
Finally, here is a story that you must read because you probably haven’t ever hear it before, as shown in Figure 5. It will give you chills.