Slightly Ahead of Behind the Curve

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Sep 11, 2015 - 3 minute read - Comments

Reflections on 9-11

I don’t think I’ve ever written down my experiences on September 11, 2001. Since I broke down in the shower this morning, I think I probably should.

It was a Tuesday morning, bright and clear like today. Tuesday morning rituals for me at the time were wake up from an overnight ambulance shift at the fire department, unstaff the ambulance, drive home, shower, drive in to work at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in old town Alexandria. I recall hearing news on the radio on the drive in to work that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. Everyone was very confused and there weren’t many details. I was just left with a “how awful.”

By the time I had reached the convenience store for the traditional morning caffeine jolt, the second plane had hit. I found out from the Muslim man behind the counter. “They hit us again.” What?

I was in the Alexandria office when Flight 77 struck the Pentagon. Some of us went up to the roof and could see the column of smoke to the north.

Fuck.

I spent some time re-wiring the Center’s training room presentation system to get the news on the big screen. A bunch of NCMEC folks crowded in to try to keep up with the news. I told my boss that I was leaving the office to head back to the fire department. Then I started what turned into a three hour haul back out to Manassas as I joined everyone leaving the city. [UPDATE: Wife corrected me, I didn’t text. I stopped by the library at which she worked to check in and let her know I was headed back to duty. I remember cell network was overloaded.]

Stonewall Jackson, Prince William County station 11, was a rally site for County resources that day. Equipment was brought in. Fresh-faced recruits from the academy were staged there. Expressions were a mixture of stunned, confused, worried and determined. We staffed three transport units, career and volunteer. My ambulance crew assembled some medical gear and gathered it in the station’s banquet hall in case some other mass-casuality incident happened way out in our area. We had no idea what to expect for the rest of the day, so we were trying to be prepared.

But mostly we were gathered together in the station day room—career, volunteer, recruits, veterans—watching the days events on repeat, hoping nothing more was coming. All of us wanted to get down to the Pentagon to help. We were all quietly picturing ourselves in the boots of our sisters and brothers on the ground at the incidents.

The county around us was abnormally quiet, like our citizens were glued to TVs and therefore not busy hurting themselves or locking themselves out of their cars. The ALS ambulances ran a couple calls, one as mutual aid into Arlington for an illness unrelated to the incident at the Pentagon. Glebe Road. Holy crap that’s a lot of empty dues between us if we’re the closest unit to Glebe Road.

Eventually that night response status in the county de-escalated. I went home Tuesday night exhausted. Not from doing any real work, but emotionally from watching my brothers and sisters: fire-fighters, EMTs, law enforcement, and citizens. People. Worrying for them. Wanting to help.

“Never Forget” is what we’ll read a lot today. Imperative. Imperative is not my style.

“Never Forgotten.” Said like a promise. Those are my words.

Thanks, Nick, for inspiring me to share.