It was a bright blue morning. Crisp, for late summer. There was a freshness in the air that made people here in the DC area a little bit more perky. I had been back to work for about a week after a terrible August*. My boss and I had a horrid day-long deposition to take/defend for one of our stupider clients who shall, obviously, remain nameless. I had gone to work a bit early to get ready and was listening to the radio. And the news started. And I called my boss at home and told her to turn on her tv, which we didn't have in the office. I found some internet video news site. We watched the news about New York, horrified. And then we found out about the Pentagon. And then we had to abandon the vigil and go deal with the stupid deposition.
I didn't get a chance to see the news again until late that afternoon. And the photos and videos of smoldering buildings, and clouds of debris, and people hanging out of windows fifty stories up while the building behind them went up in flames will stay with me for the rest of my life.
My sister was working near the White House at the Court of Federal Claims. She saw the plane that hit the Pentagon fly near her building, which is in a no-fly zone. She saw it from the window of a conference room where several had gathered to watch the news. She elected to evacuate prior to the "official" decision. She had to walk out of DC because the Metro had shut down. She had on heels for work as a law clerk. She walked six miles out of DC, mostly barefoot. Cell service was intermittent, but thankfully I was able to contact her once or twice to be assured of her safety and to call my parents and let them know she was "on the road" so to speak.
I have a friend who was working in the Pentagon at the time. I called his office and cell and got nothing. Nothing all day. I didn't seriously panic because I had a vague memory that he had told me that there was an off-site meeting all day. He had been several miles away from the Pentagon when the plane hit, three doors down from his office. It took him all day to get back to his home in Maryland and phone me to let me know he was ok.
When everything shut down at the Federal level, the local counties did the same. Our deposition was right across from the Fairfax County Courthouse. I walked outside on a break and marveled at the absolute stillness. There was no traffic. There was no one around. There were snipers on the roof of the Courthouse. There was still not a cloud in the sky. The air was still cool and crisp. Birds were chirping. The world smelled fresh and clean.
But everything had changed.
We were attacked. We were at war. We were, and still are, hampered by the fact that there was no clear nation-state to respond to. But we were attacked by fascists just as determined to destroy our way of life as the regime which sent the kamikaze pilots to Pearl Harbor. And though we didn't want to destroy the Japanese people, or the German people for that matter, we NEEDED to respond. We still do. The enemy is more elusive this time. And hides in a religion. And while most Muslims are quick to distance themselves from the extremists, few step forward to identify those extremists. And the attacks keep happening. I have no answers, but I am pretty sure that one answer is NOT to stop pursuing.
*Story for another time. Suffice it to say, I was full up on grief BEFORE 9/11.