Ironically I was getting my oil changed. I was in the waiting room at the car place when I glanced up to the TV in the corner and saw thick black smoke covering the screen. The sound wasn't on; nobody else was watching. I watched for a few minutes, until just after the second plane hit. Then my car was finished and I went down to pay for it. I remember asking the guy what was going on in New York and he said he really didn't know, he'd been half-watching the TV coverage but all the internet news sites were jammed.
I got in my car and drove the few blocks to the bus stop. I flicked through the radio stations. Most were playing music or their regular morning shows. Finally, on an 80s station, there was jumbled chaos and snatches of news as their staff tried on-air to figure out what was happening. I got on the bus and rode for 45 minutes. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and since I didn't know anyone), I didn't say anything.
When I got to school, I went immediately to the library and tried to get more information on the internet. None of the news sites would let me in. I went to class, and the professor didn't say anything. I thought about saying something to her or the class, since the mostly-undergraduate population seemed oblivous, but didn't, deciding it was the prof's call. (Turns out, she didn't know). Class was 90 minutes and when it let out and I got on the campus shuttle bus to go to my office, the university was in an uproar. (It must have been about 11 am Midwest time.) A student on the bus told me that all the classes were cancelled because the White House had been hit by a plane. Others confirmed that the classes were cancelled and that planes had hit the WTC. Apparently no one knew about the towers' collapse.
I contemplated taking a bus home but at time of day I would have a transfer in the downtown of a major metropolitan area. It didn't seem particularly safe, and my office was on the ag. campus in a home-ec building. Seemed much safer.
Once I got to work, I learned the rest of the story. Someone had a TV set up in the lobby and people were watching. My boss told me I could go home, but I stayed. Didn't really work. Watched the news. Read the internet. Did some class work.
Later that day, I bought a ticket for the following month to Washington National Airport. I emailed a colleague in DC to tell her of my reservation and at least had the sense to ask her how she was doing and what was happening in her part of DC.
How could I have bought a plane ticket? to DC? on that day? I think I was incredibly naive. I didn't understand that the future had changed. I thought it was an abberation - a horrible tragedy - but not something that would set us on the course to a world-wide war on a vaguely defined enemy. I was young, just out of college, and I had grown up in a period of relative peace and security. I had vague memories of the first gulf war - but that was in 6th grade - and it was over quickly.
I'm not sure when it sunk in - maybe that evening. I think so. I remember feeling very alone (BusinessMan was visiting his parents) that night. I remember scattered emails over the next few days from friends on the east coast, checking in, and letting me know the status of mutual acquaintances. A friend who worked in my alma mater's alumni office let me know that our class had lost several members and had several near misses.
The effects of that day have been indirect but significant. I didn't really know anyone who was killed and I can't imagine the pain of those who did. But I lost some of my innocence that day and the in the days that followed. I took part in my first anti-war rallies. I put up with tight airport security. I have had nightmares about terrorists. And now I worry what sort of world I am bringing my child into. I hope that he or she can have the same innocence I did. But I doubt it will last so long.