"I just wanted you to know that I'm okay" he said "You'll appreciate it later"
I hung up the phone, confused, but laughing a little. My brother in law was more like my brother and we constantly banter back and forth. I had know clue what he was talking about, probably another joke he was playing on me, but I played along.
"Okay, Tom, whatever you said" is most likely how I responded, that would be typical of me.
I went about my morning at US Airways where I was weeks away from securing a good job which meant amazing benefits, one which included free travel to anywhere. Just as I was about to go downstairs to get my morning coffee, one of my co-workers announced that the World Trade Center had just been hit. That it was hit by an airplane.
Now the phone call made sense as my mind immediately went to that panic button.
Oh, yes, he's okay. That's right, that's why he called. It wasn't his plane, he must have flown the day before and had Tuesday off. Thank God.
Just as we were allowing the news of the Tower to sink in our office filled with a sulfur, smoky smell. My coworker and I went outside to see what was going on. No one else wanted to go, afraid of what they would find. As we walked out the doors, the smell that was just lingering inside was hanging strongly over us. It was intoxicating. We went back in, and by then it had made the news.
The Pentagon had been hit. The Pentagon was a few miles down the street from our building. That was the root of the smell. The Metro was now shut down. Parts of I-395 was now shut down. I now had no way of getting home. My Mom was stuck in downtown D.C. Once again, panic set in. How were we going to get back to VA.
My coworker drove that day, thank goodness. She and I immediately ventured out to begin the long trek home. My Mom had caught the very last shuttle, she too was on her way back. As we drove, or shall we say sat, I began going through my mind routes that no one else would know. A road less traveled if you would. I remembered these back streets, thankfully I had for once paid attention to my Mom. We quickly veered to our right and found ourselves on a empty street heading straight for the ramp to I-395. We saw the Police bringing barriers out to shut the exit that was right in front of the Pentagon. They waved us through, but we would be the last car that would be allowed. As we entered I-395 I turned my head and the impact of the events slapped me right in the face as I saw the Pentagon, the pillar of security for our Nations Capital, in flames. Rescue workers were all over the scene, and I'm sure there was more going on around, but all I could focus on was the flames and it hit me that at that moment, innocent lives were being lost. Families were being torn apart.
September 11, 2001 has now, and will forever be, stamped in my mind. Every time I think of the events, that vision comes rushing back like the strongest wave.
I'll never forget, will you?