Monday, September 11, 2006

Where were you?

OK, just about everywhere I've been today the topic of conversation has been "Where were you five years ago when the planes hit?" I figure I might as well post it here and point everybody to it rather than keep rehashing it over and over.

At that time I was working as a contractor at the Owens Corning world headquarters in Toledo, OH. Though not a smoker I would frequently walk out with my friends to "the bridge" (there was no smoking permitted on OC property so smokers had to go out to the bridge that served as the entrance from downtown to the OC parking lot). As we came back in one of my coworkers had up on his screen and I could make out a picture of a skyscraper with some smoke. He said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, and the impression everybody had was that it was just a small private plane or something. Then word quickly spread that another had hit and that it was a terrorist attack. Many of us congregated in one of the meeting rooms with a large screen television and tuned in to the coverage. They were just getting the first playbacks of the second plane hitting at that point. We were all stunned. I sat watching for quite awhile, unsure what to make of it. I ran to my desk to call my wife just to make sure she knew what was going on and that she was not too shaken up. I went back to the conference room and continued watching, and saw live as each of the towers fell. The rest of the day is mostly a blur. I remember going to lunch and congregating in the common area outside to pray with several others. I remember telling my supervisor that I might leave soon to head to the Red Cross and donate blood in anticipation of a shortage caused by such a disaster. I definitely remember it being many days before I could shake the constant nagging of the images I saw at the back of my mind. One other thing that I will never forget is the looks on the faces of the Middle-Eastern contractors we had working there at that time. Of all those standing there watching those buildings fall, nobody's face was as distraught or devastated as one of them in particular, who was a great guy. Another one of them, Mandeep, wore a blue turban as part of his religious position. For many weeks after that, he wore a blue baseball cap instead and was very afraid of the anti-Muslim backlash he feared would result from the attacks.

There are two major events that I remember vividly...two "JFK" moments my generation has: January 28, 1986 (the Challenger Disaster) and September 11, 2001. Those two are quite enough to last me a lifetime.


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