Which is why I think that day is stuck beneath my skin, trapped below the pores where it can't get out.
Because while the nation was bleeding, and crying and suffering, I had to work and so all of that sorrow got stuck beneath my skin, where it still sits today.
9/11/2001 I was scheduled to work nights. It was a primary election day in Detroit and I was planning on making my way into work at 2:30pm.
I woke up in the morning and went for a run and when I returned noticed several missed calls. I called the station first because the assignment desk had left several messages on my cell.
When I got through to my boss she told me to turn on the Today show and get downtown asap.
I flipped on the TV moments before the second plane struck.
I grabbed the phone and called a close friend in New York to make sure he was safe..thankfully, he was ok.
I spent the day at Detroit metro watching passengers walk around in shock. No one could make sense of what was happening in NY and everyone was concerned what was going to happen next. Would we be safe here in Detroit? What about friends and family members in Washington, Chicago, LA? It was such an uncertain time.
After a long day on the job I came home after midnight and stayed glued to the coverage watching it most of the night.
As many times as I saw the images from NY and Washington I still couldn't believe what had happened.
I had a vacation day on Sept. 11th, 2001.
I was getting some work done in my home office, when my wife called from work telling me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
I knew that the weather was crystal clear on the East Coast, so my first inclination was severe mechanical failure to an aircraft either shortly after take-off or on final approach into LaGuardia.
I turned on the Today Show, and a chill went down my spine the instant the second plane hit the other tower: I knew right then and there that the United States was under attack.
My next thought was one that I guess only an amateur historian would have at that moment: so this is how my parents felt when the first reports of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor were heard on December 7th, 1941, except that they huddled around a radio trying to picture what was being described, while we saw the event unfold live on our televisions (and immediately after on the internet).
Like most people, that morning was spent trying to get as much information as possible about what was happening. At some point, it was erroneously reported that our school district was sending kids home early, so I rode my bike up to my kids' elementary school, only to be told that it was a mistake. A few of us parents chatted outside, and let other parents walking up know that school wasn't being let out early. Some of them took their kids out anyway, and I remember all of us standing out there agreeing that this was the wrong thing to do. I now understand why some parents did this, but at that moment I didn't understand why parents would want to disrupt their kids' daily school routine, and perhaps scare them even more as a result.
One postscript: the Sunday after the 9/11 attack, the late Tim Russert interviewed Vice President Cheney on Meet The Press in a secret, secure location. That interview was exactly what this nation needed?candid answers to questions in more than just the quick "sound-bite" format we see in typical news stories. I had the good fortune to meet Tim Russert a few years later, and I told him that his program that morning was one of the most important moments in U.S. television history, and I feel even more strongly about this today.
9/11 literally hit home for me because one of the strike points was essentially my hometown of Washington, DC. After resting from my late night shift, I was awakened by a frantic phone call urging me to turn on the television. That was when I first witnessed the horror of the Twin Towers on fire and a fifth of the Pentagon's outer ring in smoke.
Without listening to anyone, I knew exactly what it was and my heart immediately went out to the lost souls on the plane and in the buildings along with their families and loved ones. It is unimaginable what it must be like to begin a sunny September morning and end it with no mother, no father, no son, no daughter, no brother or no sister.
Then I thought of my own family and friends. My mother worked across from the National Naval Medical Center at the National Institutes of Health. Although her office was neither directly involved with the American Military nor economy, worry continued to fill my mind because all bets were off. Concerns overflowed when it became impossible to get through by phone because all lines were jammed. All I could do and did do was leave messages, hope and pray.
In addition to my relatives, I had several friends and colleagues from childhood to adulthood, former classmates and workmates. A friend of mine was on a business trip to New York City, staying in a hotel across from the World Trade Center where she was due for a meeting but had been running late. Fellow journalists from all of networks and local news stations were covering the disaster and covered by it. The images of them plastered in what looked like ash but was really pulverized concrete, office materials and fellow human beings remain seared in my memory.
I thought of how lucky I was to not have many people close to me perish and to avoid the catastrophe by a day because I was on a flight from Washington, DC to the Midwest just the day before, Monday, Sept. 10th.