I will never forget that day. It was a beautiful September morning here in Albany and I was at my desk, interviewing an applicant to Manpower where I had worked for several years. We were nearly through with the interview when the receptionist interrupted me to say my mother was on the phone and said it was really important.
I knew it must be because she was aware of the nature of my position and always left a message if I was busy. I picked up the phone to hear her say “a plane has crashed into one of the World Trade Towers”. Well, obviously it must have been a Cessna or similar plane and perhaps the pilot had a heart attack, were my immediate thoughts. She said that CNN would soon have pictures from there. I wondered if anyone in the tower had been injured.
Many years ago I had lived in New York for about 6 months and watched the construction on the first tower and wondered what it would be like. Over the years I became familiar with the new skyline of New York City.
A short while later, Mother called me again, speaking with very somber tones, only to say “it was a passenger jet apparently loaded with people” were the words I heard. I remember thinking to myself, “Why couldn’t the pilot see something as large at the trade towers?”
I tried to find news on the internet, but no one seemed to know what was happening. That was when mother called again only to say a second jet had hit the other tallest tower. All I could think of to say was “Oh my God! What is happening?”
My son called me a short while later to make sure I knew what was happening. It looked like he was getting to see history made first hand…again. Some years earlier when he was still in school, he was at home the day Christina McAuliffe and the Challenger crew died, in living color as people all over the world watched the shuttle explode shortly after take-off.
A second call from Tom said “The tower is gone.” My response was “What do you mean, it’s gone? How is it gone?” He responded with “it collapsed.” I was unable to wrap my mind around that. How could thousands and thousands of tons of steel just collapse. While I was still sitting at my desk having the first of many panic attacks that day, the phone rang again. Once again it was Tom telling me the second tower had fallen.
Those events took place over the course of a couple of hours, but in my mind now, it happened very quickly.
As I write this, the tears are flooding my eyes yet again. It still breaks my heart every time I think about that fateful day, when the world turned upside down.
All in the world I wanted to do right then was to pick up my purse and go home. Home was safety. I HAD to get there. My co-workers thought I was being silly, of course, but I didn’t really care what they thought. I did take an early lunch and immediately turned on the TV and was seeing the second plane hit…over and over again.
Over the course of the next week or so, I watched CNN all the time I was home, seeing the first responders combing through the wreckage of the buildings. At first, I had hopes they would find survivors in the rubble but as time went on, I realized that wasn’t going to happen.
After 11 years, it still seems like yesterday that this happened. The world has changed dramatically. Wars in the Middle East and Africa. American soldiers, sailors and Marines dying by the thousands, thousands of miles from home.
I came of age in the ‘60s and I was against the Vietnam War and even against those who fought there. I still considered myself patriotic though.
In the last couple of years I have matured into old age somewhat and I realize we were all wrong for blaming those who fight wars. We should have blamed all those who sent them to fight and die on foreign soil. And I am much more patriotic that I used to be.
But 11 years ago today my world, your world, and everything in it changed. It will never be the same. I look at my beautiful grandchildren and wish for them a world like I grew up in. I doubt it will ever happen but I still wish for it to be true.
Bonnie Jefferson is co-owner of the Albany Journal and has been a resident of Albany since 1956. At one time was a reporter for a local daily newspaper.