I was travelling a lot at that time. Eight weeks out of ten on the road travelling all over the world. So it was somewhat strange for me to be home that day.
I got up about 5.45 am, got ready for work, went down to make coffee, ironed a shirt, chatted with our dog Gus gave him his grub, read the paper, answered a few texts from colleagues in Europe. The phone rang when I was just about to leave for work. Janice answered. It was her mom calling from Canada.
Her first question was, “Where is Dan”? Janice answered, “He’s here and just about to leave for work.” She said, “You should turn on the TV, there is something terrible happening.”
We turned on the TV to CNN. Given we were in California therefore three hours behind New York time, we looked on in disbelief as the reports, chaos, and speculation of what was happening flashed across the screen. When the plane crash reports came in from Washington things escalated fast.
It was surreal. Could the United States really be being attacked? By whom? Why? What would happen next?
I felt the need to get to work. We had staff in New York and 100’s of others travelling.
As I jumped in my car and proceeded to the highway, traffic was moving slower than normal. You could literally see other drivers listening to their radios and shaking their heads. In spots where the traffic slowed to a near stop, people had their windows down and were comparing notes.
When I got to work, the management team met and spoke about what we should do. We decided to gather the staff for an all hands meeting, speak to the fact that we were busy contacting all staff who were travelling (most all were already accounted for), and that anyone who wanted to could go home.
Staff were visibly shaken. There were all kinds of rumours of other potential targets. Our building was near an US Air Force base and some folks wondered if we were safer as a result or not. We had a moment of silence. It was the most silent minute I have ever experienced.
I can remember a guy at work that day speak about Afghanistan and the Taliban. I had never heard the term Taliban before. I can remember wondering how he could know this. Others began to get more and more angry, looking for revenge, but toward who?
Most folks, including me, headed home around noon.
Like most, Janice and I were glued to the TV for the entire day, seeing those twin towers fall and the reruns of the planes hitting the towers over and over.
Stories of colleagues stranded here and there, and the stories of strangers pooling together to rent cars to drive in some cases 1000’s of miles to get home were common.
A few days later, I can remember talking to our folks in New York City from our office on Broad Street. They told us about how when after the first tower fell, their windows were covered in grey soot in seconds. Many of these folks walked for hours to get to their homes in New Jersey etc.
Up and down our street in San Jose, US flags flew on every home.
I can remember being very proud of Canada for being so hospitable to stranded passengers.
I can remember business travel basically coming to a halt.
I can remember watching planes approach their landings into the San Jose airport and being hyper sensitive to what looked like any strange moves.
I can remember commercial flights starting back up, and how people stared at each other especially people who looked different.
In November 2001, I travelled to New York City on Business. I can remember being totally shocked by the buildings whose windows were blown out and boarded up. I can remember walking down the street and feeling some kind of airborne dust in my mouth.
As I look back at all this, like 100’s of millions of people around the world, I was only an observer from a far. A person not personally affected in terms of lost love ones or friends. Yet so many others were directly impacted that day or the days, months, and years later.
The world changed forever that day.
Thoughts are with all those who were affected that day and since.