It was a beautiful day – clear blue skies, no clouds, warm temperatures, and a gentle breeze. During my commute to work, I drove from Shelby Township to Troy, Mich. The intoxicating smell of donuts frying at Yates Cider Mill made my stomach rumble. It was a seemingly perfect end-of-summer day.
When I arrived at work, I stepped into the elevator. A co-worker shared the ride up and enlightened me on the news. An airplane had flown into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. For a moment I reflected on the people on board the plane and about the people on the ground commuting to work. I thought about how their lives had ended in such a sudden way; no time to say last words to loved ones and no time to really comprehend that life for them was ending. What about their spouses, children, parents, girlfriends/boyfriends, sisters, brothers, extended family and friends?
Once at the office, I organized my belongings and went for my first cup of coffee. Around the coffee station co-workers and I discussed the first airplane. Other co-workers had turned on a TV in the training room next to the break room. A second plane headed for the other twin tower. In seconds the plane – like the one before – rammed it. Smoke and fire were escaping the tower hit before.
Just imagine. All these people arrived at work just like I did. Some probably contemplated playing hooky. On a day like that, who wouldn’t? It would have been the perfect day to escape to Central Park or to some outdoor café for some people watching. But, moments before – just like me – they made the decision to go to work that day. They arrived, got organized, drank coffee, and started to their days. In an instant the world changed forever.
A feeling of unity — albeit fleeting — took hold. Co-workers and bosses gathered. Together, we watched as the two towers eventually collapsed. Everyone in that room had family members, friends, colleagues or acquaintances in New York, D.C. or Pennsylvania. The company we worked for had an office in the Wall Street district as well as clients there. All employees had to be accounted for. But, phone and cell communication was unreliable. Co-workers traveling on a flight to Las Vegas became stranded since all flights were eventually halted. Messages from former co-workers and colleagues I had not spoken with in years flooded my e-mail inbox.
Silence as deafening as the thunderous explosions of those jets gripped the nation. A few days after 9-ll, my husband and I were at a friend’s home for a bonfire. It was in a rural area. We and the other party guests took in the stunning night sky. All noted the absence of air traffic noise; and how unnerving that absence was.
In the days that followed, people stayed home. My husband and I did not. We felt it was important to continue going out and doing what we enjoyed: dining out, attending football games and concerts, and traveling. I even continued with plans for a girls’ day with my sister in NYC that October. In addition to touring the WTC site, we also attended shopped midtown, nursed some wine in Little Italy and attended a Broadway show.
It was clear. The U.S. needed to make swift, significant changes to correctly discern intelligence data, protect its borders and people, and to distinguish friend from foe. But, there has not been anything swift. In fact, as years continue to pass it becomes clear that government leaders are slow — and even reluctant — to act. Most of this is due to increasing bureaucracy, which leads to sluggish and befuddled decision-making.