On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was in my car trying to beat traffic on my way to the Pitch office. Pitch is an alternative newspaper, and I was temping in their accounting office. My duties including fun projects like filing and answering the phone, but it was a week of guaranteed pay, something my recent-graduate bank account needed desperately.
The radio station I was listening to must have had a TV nearby, because they began talking about the first tower being hit immediately. At first, I wasn’t concerned or even interested. It seems crazy to think about that now, but the truth is, I didn’t realize it was such a big deal. Quickly, I realized this was not a “normal” accident and that something bad was happening.
Now my heart was pounding, and not just because I was late for work.
I told myself to calm down. After all, I was going to the best possible place – a newspaper office. Surely, if anyone would know what was happening, they would.
But when I got to the office – yes, a few minutes late – nobody had heard. And when I tried to tell the people in the accounting office, they didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation. I even suggested that we turn on a radio, but they didn’t.
I realized then how silly I’d been, thinking of this as a regular newspaper office. I wasn’t at a major daily; I was in the accounting office of an opinion paper.
They finally realized what was going on and did turn on the radio. As we heard about the second tower and the Pentagon, I sat on the floor of the office and filed, numb and scared. A few people started crying and called relatives or friends who lived in New York and DC. One girl found out that her cousin had missed the train and therefore, was late to work. He was supposed to be in one of the Towers, but he wasn’t.
As I covered the receptionist desk over lunch, I sat glued to the radio. I looked online for news, but back then, the information highway was just a four-lane, you know? I listened to the radio news announcers tell us what the President was doing, and I wondered why they would share that information with the whole world.
And I sat there, wondering if I should ask my temporary co-workers if they’d like to pray. Sure, I didn’t know them and they worked for a newspaper that has very different values than I do. But maybe today would be what it took for them to turn to God. And maybe I could be the one to show them the way!
Um, yeah. I was too scared to suggest anything like that. After all, they had already rejected my original idea to turn on the radio. How could I even think about asking them to pray?
So I didn’t. I prayed, of course. But I didn’t take that opportunity to talk about serious things with these people I would know for just five days.
That’s where I was when the world stopped turning. Where were you?