Where Were You When...
December 8th 1941
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."
November 22nd 1963
"In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas...President Kennedy died at 1:00 P.M. Central Standard Time, two o'clock Eastern Standard Time."
September 11th 2001
Andy Card, White House Chief of Staff
"A second plane has hit the tower, America is under attack."
September 11th 2001
Michelle, My Wife
"Wake up honey, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center."
Waking from a dream into a nightmare. My mind flips through aircraft systems failure, intoxicated pilot, whatever, some poor air jockey had a really bad morning.
Make coffee. Making coffee. Turn up radio to see what happened to this unfortunate Cessna pilot in New York.
WHOA! Not a Cessna. Big plane. I'm awake now!
Oh man, this is bad. How can an airliner hit a skyscraper? A B-24 once hit the Empire State Building. We got GPS now, laser inertial gizmos and all that. It doesn't make sense at all. What happened?
Then another announcement, "A second plane has just struck…" I can feel shock starting to grow from my gut. This is really bad. I walk to the living room as the shock lays siege to my chest.
Turn on the TV. It doesn't take long all broadcasters are in sync. There they are, both towers on fire and spewing that black smoke. This is no accident!
Shock smashes through to my brain probably about the same time Andy Card tells President Bush what is happening. We are under attack! At that moment George and I, along with 260 million other Americans, share a sense of disbelief and horror.
Who could have, what the, why did they, dammit! I keep watching the news. I keep expecting more horror. The Cold Warrior in me thinks, "Is this a prelude to an ICBM attack?" China? Russia?
I get ready for a business meeting scheduled for this afternoon. Why do I even bother? Is anyone even going to show for my presentation?
With one ear cocked to the news, my beloved wife helps me through my meeting checklist. God bless her. We both are red eyed and scared.
What? Now the Pentagon?!! Back to my spot in front of the TV again. This is really nuts now. I finally get some measure of relief when FAA orders all air traffic be grounded.
Now my blood is really up. We have been attacked. Someone has killed civilians that I had previously sworn to protect and defend. I'm ready for war.
Now I realize how scared my wife really is. "You won't be long will you, honey?"
I give her a strong hug and tell her, "You know where to reach me. If anything happens, I'll be right back, I promise." Then I head downtown where there are thousands of people and dozens of skyscrapers.
I watch the skies and listen for the tell tale noise of jet turbines. With every block I spy out escape routes and safety shelters. In the underground business causeway, people are crowded in front of common televisions. I join them for a moment but only at the fringe. I keep one eye on the TV and one on the unobstructed exits. I promised my wife I'd be home.
The meeting starts and I know it's going to flop. Everyone is visibly shaken. There are no questions to my presentation. I'm not sure they are evening listening. I look at the clock and realize no one has spoken in the last three minutes. Everyone is just staring bleakly at the table. Screw this mess. I'm going home!
My wife, Michelle, seems so far away. I can feel danger around every corner and behind every cloud. Last night it was so peaceful at home. But that was a different lifetime ago.
There are no words when I walk to Michelle's waiting arms. We hold each other and cry with sorrow and relief.
It's 2006 now. I want to remember every detail of my life that day. I want to tell it to the next generations.
I was 36 years old then. I will only be 54 when the young men and women who weren't even born then, begin to serve in Our Beloved Corps. And they shall hear from me first hand where I was on September 11th, 2001.