Ten years ago today, I was headed to Raleigh for a one day meeting. I was VP of Sales for a start-up technology company and it was not unusual for me to make a quick trip down there for a meeting and head back home the same day. But this day was very different. Of course, it seemed pretty routine at the time. I drove to Laguardia airport from my home in Connecticut. I parked my car in short term parking (after all I thought I was returning the same evening), and checked in to the US Airways Club. I was always greeted by name at that time because of my weekly trips to Raleigh. It was a pleasant start to the day.
The plane was on time. I boarded a little after 7 am, oblivious to the fact that other people who would never reach their destination were boarding planes at the exact same time. We were all oblivious to the fact of what evil was taking place in the exact same airspace we occupied.
My plane landed around 8:35am in Raleigh just before the first plane hit the World Trade Center and just before the forced emergency landing of the thousands of planes that were in the air that day. There but for the grace of God as they say.
Of course, our nation and the world changed forever that day. People were frightened and didnít know which way to turn for comfort. Stuck in Raleigh without even a toothbrush or change of clothes, my CEO and I quickly grabbed one of the last rental cars available and drove home. I dropped him in New Jersey and headed to CT. Still in shock, I drove over the Whitestone Bridge and could see the horrific cloud of smoke where the towers once stood. I was shaking and crying but somehow made the solo drive to CT.
Laguardia was closed off and on for weeks. My car was towed somewhere and it would be a couple of weeks before I could return to the airport to pick it up. During those weeks, many of my hours were spent glued to the television set watching the aftermath and trying to cope with the tragedy that had just occurred; trying to deal with the fact that all these people were boarding planes the same time I was and it seemed like another routine day for them as well. But it was their last day.
Weeks later I was flying home from Raleigh and remember vividly flying over the remains of the World Trade Center. It was the first time they re-opened that flight pattern over the site. There was a smoldering hole in the ground. The lights were on at night as thousands of workers were clearing †debris and looking for the remains of fellow rescue workers.
It remains a hole in our hearts today as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Though it is a time to remember and a time to heal, for me it is also a time for gratitude. I am forever grateful that I am here today to write this blog.
My love and prayers go out to all those who lost family, friends, and co-workers that day. They too believed it was just going to be another routine day. All of our lives have changed forever.