For our parents, it was Dec 7, 1941. Until September 11, 2001 for we Babyboomers, it was always November 22, 1963. For GenXers, it might always be 9/11. I don’t know if I will get through this post without crying and I don’t generally talk about it.
It was an oddity of timing for me. My sister was in for a short visit and I was to take her to Baltimore to fly back to Houston. Hubby was at Headquarters, Army Materiel Command where I also worked part time as a contractor. He and some others were scheduled to go to the Pentagon for a meeting that morning. Sis and I tend to chatter from the time we get up through the day and after Hubby left for work, I turned the television off having seen the weather report for what was a lovely September day. Sis and I were leaving early for the airport because I wanted to take her by Savage Mills, an old mill complex converted into a great area of shops and restaurants. We didn’t have the radio on in the car. Sis had a meeting the next day and when we stopped at the Mill, she called into her assistant to check to see that something was lined up for the meeting. I heard her say something like, “No, not at the airport,” then “What?”, “Bomb, Pentagon,” and not much after that. She obviously looked shaken and I said, “Someone finally got through the Pentagon with a bomb?” That’s when she told me and we jumped back in the car to turn the radio on. It was pure lucky timing she even got the call through as there was a nationwide jam on most cell towers.
At that point, I didn’t know if Hubby had gone to the Pentagon. She couldn’t fly out of course and we were about 30 minutes from home – well, had traffic been normal. Our route back took us within sight of the Pentagon where the black column of smoke was still rising. We got to the townhouse and I already had a few voicemails waiting, none from Hubby. We had the TV on by now and the phone literally wouldn’t stop ringing. One of the calls was finally from our son, who was at university. After he made sure I was okay, he said, “Sorry Mom, but the first time I called I think I accidentally erased a voice mail dad left you.” Okay, that at least answered that question.
Maybe an hour later Hubby did get through to me. They were preparing to leave for the Pentagon when the news came through. They immediately activated the Emergency Operations Center in the Headquarters and they tapped him to come back in for the night shift. He came home for about an hour to get his stuff and tell me as much as he could at the time. None of our personal friends who worked in the Pentagon were injured although we of course knew some of those who died. What most people didn’t realize was the plane at least hit mainly in the section that was undergoing renovation and so was not populated. That is why casualties were lower than would have been under normal circumstances. Even more importantly, it was on the side away from the on-site day care facility.
It took two more days I think it was for (might have been three) for Sis to be able to book a flight out.