Monday, September 11, 2006

The Long Ride Home

I got an email from my friend Jennifer last night. We rode home together 5 years old today as we evacuated downtown DC.

She & I, along with our boss Lisa, had started at Imagine a few months earlier. I remember having gotten a voice mail from Larry saying the first tower in New York was hit. It didn’t take long for the staff of 125 to gather around the few TVs scattered throughout the office. Workers balanced the information gathering with little trips back to their desk to answer phones and check emails.

Then second plane hit and all interest in work abandoned. The few people with relatives in NYC began frantically making phone calls.

Then it became real for us. Less than a mile away, smoke began pillaring up from the Pentagon. Outside, buildings forced people out to the streets like a unified fire drill. For all that Imagine wasn’t, it was good evacuations. Management made the speedy decision to close and advised personnel there would be 4 minutes to grab what you needed and leave for the day. We were required to take two pone numbers with us; your supervisor’s and another co-worker’s. A reverse phone tree was created to account for everyone.

Jennifer lived down the street from me so I piled into her car. The status of our metro system was unknown and there were unconfirmed accounts of bombings at the State Dept and planes still heading for DC. The Capitol and White House were still potential targets. Jen & I currently worked one block from the White House.

For 90 minutes, we drove the 6 miles home. Lisa was behind us attempting to drive to Maryland in order to back track to Virginia. Commutes were unheard of that day, but yet no one complained. In fact, more people took in others while traffic dissipated.

Jen frantically called her husband and I put in calls to Larry’s office. Both were futile so we kept leaving messages. We inched along through traffic. When I got home, Larry was there. I had expected him to be locked up in Virginia given they had closed all the bridges linking DC with Virginia. My reputation for not listening continued as he reminded me about his doctor appt. earlier that morning.

Like other cities, DC changed that day. There were Humvees on every corner for weeks with soldiers and M16s in them. We learned that the plane crash in Pennsylvania had been originally targeting a national icon less blocks from where we worked. And people were less trusting, but at the same time, more friendly than they had been.

In a strange twist of fate, my office is moving in May 2007. It has been narrowed down two buildings, their first choice being Vermont Ave… the same building I was in on 9/11.

Imagine, as well as the other tenants, had to leave so the building could be remodeled back in 2005. In the search for new tenants two years later, my current company is most likely signing a lease to fill one of the empty floors.

I will probably be the only person employed in that building who was there five years ago. In some strange way, I will miss not having Jen and Lisa there with me.


Anonymous Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

My father-in-law was driving over the bridge and SAW the plane hit The Pentagon.

The Towers were so much worse that people tend to forget that DC was hit, and that the plane that went down in PA was most likely headed here.

I didn't live here yet, but a lot of my family did. It was a scary day.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Yorkers don't forget that other parts of the country were hit, we just tend to remember those closer to home. I lost friends, people I considered family, on 9/11 and I have family who walked out of those buildings only by the grace of God. Those who survived are still scarred and may never heal, but they will go on. Living in DC, has given me a broader view of the events and how they shaped the lives of all Americans, not just those in places hardest hit.

10:30 AM  

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