I got caught up in all the news shows and documentaries over the course of the last several days, and many focus on the fact that all of us can remember where we were that morning.
My aunt had died on that prior Thursday, and I had rushed home to California from Wisconsin to be with my mother. I was a medical student on my Family Medicine rotation, so I only could miss a few days. The funeral ended up being scheduled for later in the week, so I caught the Red Eye from Los Angeles back to Wisconsin on Monday night. I arrived for my connecting flight in Chicago about 6:30 a.m. CDT, and we took off about 7 a.m.
I landed in Milwaukee about 7:45, and by the time I got to my car and the radio came on, my usual morning show was talking about smoke from the World Trade Center. If you remember, there was a light plane that flew into a building in New York just a couple of months earlier, so I didn't really think anything about it. I got home and turned on the news, just in time to see the results of the second plane having hit the second tower.
I called my mom to let her know I had made it home safely, but the phone just beeped with an "All Circuits are busy" message. I remember listening to Peter Jennings on ABC reporting, and I wondered what was going on in the world. I thought of friends I knew in New York, and something made me think of a jewelry vendor where I had bought a silver ring who had his stand just at the foot of the WTC steps. I wondered if he had escaped or was injured. I know, random thought.
Over the next several hours I attempted to get a hold of any family member, but the phone lines were out. I watched and listened as the Pentagon was attacked, and I thought of military friends I knew stationed in the D.C. area. I heard about the downed plane in Pennsylvania. And, I watched in disbelief as the first then the second tower collapsed.
I went to the clinic at noon as scheduled. I think we saw all of three patients even though the clinic had been booked solid. A portable television was playing in the office, and would continued to play non-stop over the next 2 weeks. I got sent home early since there weren't any patients, and my TV at home was on the news non-stop.
I finally got a hold of my mom later that evening, and she told me that family members had been calling her about me because they knew I was traveling cross country. Had I made it home? Had I been diverted? Had she heard anything from me because there were plenty of rumors about other missing planes?
In the weeks that followed, friends and I had philosophical discussions about the choices people made on that day. Would I have jumped from the burning towers? Would I have voted yes to try to retake a plane held by terrorists? Would I have run up the stairs to help others inside while everyone else was running down the stairs?
I know that ten years later I still have a kind of combination of morbid curiosity and PTSD surrounding the events of that day. I cringe watching the video knowing what the outcome will be, but yet I want to hear the survivor stories, the "I could have been on the plane" stories, all the stories. Because in a special way, we have all been affected and united by this event. And those are stories that are going to be told over and over again for a very long time.