9/11 – The Day that Time Stood Still
If you are a fellow baby boomer, there are probably three world events that are the most memorable in our lifetime: 1) the shocking news that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963, 2) the excitement and elation seeing the moon landing of Apollo 11 in 1969, and 3) the unbelievable series of news flashes that the New York Trade Tower(s) were under attack in 2001. It is almost certain most of us remember where we were and what we were doing when these significant events occurred. Time seems to stand still as we pause to reflect on the impact these events have on our lives.
September 11, 2001, started off as just another workday, but everything changed by mid-morning. Although many of the instant messaging technologies common today were not in place at that time, cell phones spread the news to anyone who couldn’t crowd around a TV. News of a seemingly bad accident of a plane crashing into one of the New York Trade Towers grew worse. A second Trade Tower was hit, followed by a plane crashing into the Pentagon, and finally the loss of Flight 93 in the Pennsylvania countryside. Was there more to come? All of us stopped and listened to the news of emergency efforts in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. This wasn’t just “interesting” news, but events that were too appalling to fathom. These events affected all of us, resulting in a feeling of helplessness and vulnerability that we as Americans had never faced. Phone usage was at an all-time high, as multitudes of people called their loved ones, to let them know they were okay.
As each of us struggled to accept the unbelievable, the FAA began to take unprecedented action to get all planes back on the ground. This meant that over 4,000 planes needed to land at airports, many far away from their intended destination. For days after the event there were no flights in the United States. If you had been traveling by plane on 9/11, you may have been stranded away from home. Rental car companies quickly ran out of vehicles for one-way trips. There were also reports of people buying cars just to make a return trip, and some people even rented U-Haul trucks to travel.
It was eerily quiet, not only in the sky but throughout our towns and cities as everyone tried to cope with the aftermath of this incomprehensible disaster. It truly felt like time was standing still, and at least for a while we were united, as we stopped to consider what it meant to be an American.