It was a Tuesday morning and I was at work, of course. I worked at Arthur Andersen, at the Office of Federal Tax Services, at 1666 K Street Northwest in Washington DC. I was on the tenth floor. At some point my boss Bethany came by my cubicle and asked if I had heard what was going on in New York. I hadn’t.
So I made my way down to the ninth floor, to the legislative practice, where they had TV sets, usually with C-SPAN on them. It may have been Rachelle Bernstein’s office, or maybe Andy Prior’s, I’m not sure. Maybe Carol Kulish, now that I think about it. But she wasn’t in the legislative practice, I don’t think. I seem to remember John Rooney being there as well. Anyway, doesn’t matter.
Both planes had hit the World Trade Center by then, but the news anchors or reporters or whoever were still talking as if they might have just been small planes. They weren’t sure yet that they were airliners, that they were hijacked airliners. I went back up to my desk and turned on my little radio, my little ten-dollar radio shack transistor radio, that I had bought to listen to coverage during the recounts in November and December 2000. I still had no idea of the magnitude of what was happening.
It must have been soon after that that I heard about the plane hitting the Pentagon. That was a good bit closer than New York City, just barely over two miles. What was more worrisome, though, were reports on the radio that the Old Executive Office Building, right next to the White House, was on fire. That was 450 yards away. The radio also said that there had been a car bombing at the State Department (a rather safe 11 blocks away) and that there was a plane circling the Capitol. Really was turning into the craziest fucking day.
I went downstairs again to check the television news. I saw that someone had wheeled in and turned on the TV in the main conference room. Nobody was in there watching it, but it was on. And amid the chaos and chatter they were saying that one of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed.
My God. There were tens of thousands of people who worked in there. Tens of thousands dead?
I wandered back upstairs in a daze. I went into Bethany’s office and mumbled that one of the towers had collapsed. She put her hand over mouth and just stared at me. Then she said we were leaving. This was about quarter after ten. I saw Glenn Carrington, the office managing partner, in Jim Malloy’s office. I think it was just a few minutes later when he shut the office down and sent us all home, but we were on our way out anyway.
Bethany, Abbie, and I went across the street to the Metro, to the Farragut North station, on the Red Line. We were under a vague sort of impression, one of us had heard somewhere, that the Metro had shut down, but we went down into the station to make sure anyway. The trains were in fact still running. We hopped on the next train and rode it to Friendship Heights.
I had been in phone contact with my brother. It was at the Friendship Heights station where he told me that the second tower had fallen. He also told me that our sister was not in New York City this particular morning, that she was still at the Coach facility in New Jersey.
I drove Abbie and Bethany to their respective homes, then went back to my apartment, a couple blocks past Western Avenue, just outside the the city line. My girlfriend had moved out the previous weekend, taking her TV with her, so I didn’t have any way to watch any news the rest of the day. And I lived right by a top-forty radio station tower, so all I could get on the radio was that crappy music station, and they weren’t having any news. And by this time phones lines were all jammed, and all I had was dial-up Internet, so no news there either.
So I spent the rest of the day just lying around with my kitty Gwen. I knew that the FAA had grounded all air traffic, so I would get pretty rattled when any jet would come screaming low overhead. They were low, and so very loud. Military fighter jets, evidently.