September 11, 2001
It was a beautiful summer morning. I was working for Dell and I had just finished delivering an Active Directory and Exchange design proposal for a large company based in Florida and I had earned a break with a week at home with my family after flying in and out each week.
We were just getting settled as a few weeks earlier my daughter had been flown via medevac from Wisconsin to New Jersey and had just been released from intensive care, but with 24-7 nursing. We had nurses with us around the clock to monitor my daughter who was on a respirator vent (I’ll share more details on my daughter in a future post).
I was up and drinking a cup of coffee when suddenly the alarms started triggering on the pulse oximeter and respirator. She suddenly wasn’t getting enough oxygen and she was “de-STATing”. The nurse and my wife worked anxiously to get her oxygen and respiratory levels back to stable levels. There was no warning and no obstruction – it all just began suddenly and this seemed different and more serious than any previous incidents.
I was in the same room watching all of this go on, trying to get a feel of what was happening when the phone rang. I stepped out to answer the phone and I was advised to turn on the news because there was a big fire at the World Trade Center. The TV is in the next room so I find myself anxiously going between the two rooms to check on each emergency and communicate what was going on to my wife and the nurse.
I went back to the TV for a few moments and then I watched live on TV as the second plane struck the towers. I didn’t need to wait for an announcer to tell me that this was no accident. I went back into my daughter’s room and couldn’t help from adding anxiety to the situation by expressing to them what I had just witnessed on TV.
For some time I went back between the two rooms until my daughter slowly began to stabilize. We called the surgeon and explained what happened and he asked us if we could drive down to the hospital to have her reviewed that afternoon. I was getting the truck ready and loading up her oxygen tank and other medical supplies and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing on the radio. I heard the announcer describing in panicked horror that the first tower had completely collapsed and that there was nothing left but a cloud of dust that quickly enveloped the immediate area.
We got in the truck and began driving towards Morristown, NJ which is a Level One Regional Trauma Center. The highway had turned into a parking lot as ambulances tried to gain passage to bring victims to Morristown hospital. It felt like the longest ride ever as we watched the ,medical vehicles scrambling one after another to get through.
When we got to Morristown the emergency area was filled with ambulances – perhaps more than anyone had ever imagined. We could tell based on the procedures being used that for many of the transported victims it was already too late for them.
Eventually we were able to see our doctor and our daughter was reviewed and they could find nothing out of the ordinary and they sent us back home. On the way back home we decided to take a detour on Skyline Drive just a mile from our house. Up there you had a clear view of the New York City skyline, but many others had the same idea and the police had the area blocked off. As we turned around we had less than a minute to view a sight that we would never forget — the New York City skyline missing the twin towers and a huge cloud of smoke across the entire lower Manhattan area.
Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Fear. Sorrow. Loss. We felt a complex array of emotions in these short seconds as we realized that things had forever changed.
When we got back home to recall the events we reviewed the logs and made a shocking discovery. To the best we could tell, the medical alarms began sounding in the exact minute that the first plane struck the towers. I’m not trying to infer any sort of belief here, but’s it almost as if it could have been a “I sense a great disturbance in the force” type of moment. Our daughter never had an episode quite like this where she went into distress this suddenly and for no apparent reason. Some who are inclined to view the world from a more spiritual perspective suggested that she must somehow have had a spiritual connection to what had happened. What I can say with certainty is that some profound events took place on that day and that the timing of these events would give most anyone considerable pause.
The first Monday after the attack I was in Newark Airport boarding a flight to Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington D.C. The airport felt like a ghost town. It was the shortest boarding and quietest flight I had ever been on. Later that day I checked into my hotel just a half-mile from the White House and turned on the TV to learn more about the recovery efforts in both cities.
A week or two later I was back at home with my wife and daughter in the waiting area of a doctor’s office. We watched as a young boy – perhaps 4 – began building a tower as tall as he could from the LEGO-like blocks. When his mother saw that he was monopolizing the bricks for his project she asked him what he was doing. He innocently said “I’m building a new tower to fix the one the bad people knocked down”. We exchanged looks but no words needed to be said. I think we each smiled and shed a tear at the same time at that moment.