I never thought I'd be in a position to write about where I was during such a horrific and influential event. I say influential, because what happened on September 11, 2001 not only shaped out opinion, but impacted our lives.
Having only just moved to the DC area less than a year prior, I was an idealistic 24 year old with dreams of working on Capitol Hill. At that time, I was working for a special interest lobbying group and our office was located near the Capitol. I remember going into the office that day, business as usual, when my boss called me to her office to inform me that the Twin Towers had been struck.
About half and hour later, we were informed that another plane had crashed, this time it was the Pentagon in Arlington. Being a small office, I was immediately instructed to go home - before the official evacuation had been ordered. Everything seemed to be happening so fast, we still didn't even know about the other hijacked plane headed towards Pennsylvania. On the news, there were reports that there was a possibility that the next plane was going to hit the Capitol.
Scared and confused, I got detoured several times and ended up in the really seedy part of DC (the section you always see on the news). I was so scared that I wouldn't be able to leave and that no one would be able to direct me out of there. After shedding a few tears, I finally found an open ramp to I395 and headed home to Alexandria, VA.
The implications of what had occurred still hadn't sunk in, I was so focused on getting out of there. Until I saw the smoke. In order for me to get home, I had to drive past the burning building...the Pentagon. That's when the smoke from the building came filled my car through the open window. I was devastated. This time, I wasn't fearful for my safety, but for the lives that had been lost.
Finally, I'd made it onto GW Parkway, than runs alongside the Potomac River. From there, it was only a couple miles to my house (the distance between my office and house was only about 5 miles) when I came upon a sea of cars that weren't going anywhere. The news on the radio was still speculating about that other plane...would it hit the Capital? The White House? Reagan Airport (which was visible and to the left of me)?
I sat in traffic for almost 6 hours. Only two miles from my house and I just sat there. I didn't have a cell phone, so I couldn't call anyone, not that anyone was getting through. It was a hot day, so I was sweating up a storm since I had turned my car off to conserve gas. Not once in my life had I ever felt so terrified, confused, sad, and desperate all at the same time.
After I got home, I didn't know what to do. But I knew I didn't want to be alone. My roommate and I decided to go over to a friends house and watch the news coverage. There, in our friend's living room, people with different political ideologies, faiths, and opinions, all crowded in front of the TV set and watched in silence. We put aside our individual beliefs for a moment and became united.
Every now and then when I pass the Pentagon, I still remember that day. I can't believe that was 10 years ago. I don't work in politics anymore, I live further south of the district, and I have a greater appreciation for those that continue to fight for our country - thank you.