September 11 Remembrances: Washington, DC
Xenophon Strategies, Waszyngton, DC / PRGN, 12.09.2011
Shortly after 9:00 am on September 11, 2001, I had just dropped off my six-month old son at day care in Old Town when I heard radio reports that a “plane” had just crashed into the World Trade Center. “Strange,” I thought. As I pulled up to my office a few minutes later, reports came that another “plane” had hit the World Trade Center. “Even stranger,” I thought and too strange to be a coincidence.
Despite these reports, I hopped into a cab and headed off to Capitol Hill for scheduled meetings, thinking that the events in New York would have no bearing on me in Washington. On the way up the GW Parkway toward downtown, I noticed a very thick black smoke out the left hand window. It looked to be coming from the Pentagon. “The Pentagon,” I thought and remarked to my driver, “it’s got to be a bomb.” He flashed me a horrified look. Nonetheless, we kept driving, like fools. We made it to roughly The Holocaust Museum and Independence Avenue N.W. Finally, when we observed people running in all directions and heard frantic pounding on the window of the cab from people wanting to be let in, we turned around! It all began to make sense. America was under attack – women, children, all of us. “I have to do something!”
The cab took me back to the office but on the way I made about a hundred phone calls…I called Tiny Tots and Little Folks to check on my kids and these center’s plans, I called my husband, my office, my sisters, my dad. My boss was stuck at National Airport with thousands of others and we needed to get her out of there fast (she was not one to stand in line or wait around, so, honestly, helping to do that was my first priority). We needed to figure out exactly what had happened, what was happening and what our role in it all was. And then we needed to act swiftly and calmly to ensure our safety.
I remember assembling around the TV to watch live footage and coverage and just shaking my head, thinking this can’t be real. I knew it was though. The smoke from the Pentagon was rolling right past our office (which happened to be situated right on the Potomac River). The air was filled with a terrible burning smell that I will never forget. That’s really what I think of first when I think of September 11 – that smell!
Ever since then, wherever I am, I always have a contingency plan. If something happens, I think, “what will I do, how will I get out.” I have an emergency kit in my car that includes a knife, a compass, matches, flashlight, duct tape and essential first aid so that if I had to cut and run, I could survive. We’re not wired to expect the worst, but if you’ve experienced trauma before, vigilance becomes a part of life.
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