Friday, September 11, 2009

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

I'll absolutely never forget that Tuesday morning, eight years ago.

Every Tuesday morning, I attended a Business Networking Inc., a networking group with professionals from all types of industries at Kappy's Restaurant in Arlington Heights. That particular morning, Tom Gosche was speaking and I was sitting next to Mike DelleGrazie. On the other side of the restaurant, the televisions were turned to the morning news shows, just like they were every morning, but we couldn't hear the audio.

I don't remember what Tom was talking about because the news junkie in me had one eye on the news when I suddenly saw smoke billowing out of a tall building. I looked over at Mike and he had just seen the same thing. I didn't hear another word Tom spoke that morning, as I quickly realized I was watching the World Trade Center on fire. And then smoke started pouring out of the second tower.

Because we couldn't hear the audio, I had no idea what was happening and it was all I could do not to hop out of my seat to run and find out. I looked around the room and all eyes were glued to the televisions. All eyes that is, except Tom, who was still speaking. I have no idea how he made it through his talk because he must have seen that he'd lost everyone's attention.

Sitting there, none of us knew that the world we had known just minutes before no longer existed.

As soon as my meeting was over, I called home. Dave was visiting from his home in New York and my mom was on her way to O'Hare to pick up one of her best friends from childhood that she hadn't seen in probably 30 years. Dave explained to me that the World Trade Center had been attacked along with the Pentagon - I don't think we knew about Flight 93 at that point - and said he had no idea where Mom was exactly because she didn't have a cell phone.

More than the World Trade Center being attacked (I've only been to New York twice for day trips on business), I was more affected by the attack on the Pentagon. It had only been 16 months since I'd moved from Alexandria, VA to Arlington Heights, and I'd spent everyday for 6 years either driving past the Pentagon or taking the bus to the Pentagon and then catching the Metro into DC for work or pleasure. Based on the time of the impact, I knew that I would have been right in front of the Pentagon driving up 395 into the District. My mind immediately flashed to all the people I knew in DC and I worried about whether or not they'd been on that plane or in the Pentagon. None of them had.

I walked in the door of my house a few minutes later and shortly after my arrival, Mom walked in with her friend, Kathy. It turned out that Kathy's plane from Nashville was one of the last planes to land at O'Hare. She was in town for a work conference, which was subsequently canceled.

That afternoon, Dave and I went and donated blood because we couldn't think of anything else to do. Until O'Hare reopened days later, we hung out with Kathy and heard fun stories about Mom growing up.

Every generation has its pivitol events that are indelibly inked into its collective mind. For the Baby Boomers, it was JFK being shot. For me and the rest of the Gen Xers, that moment occurred when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. And for Millennials, their world stopped turning on September 11, 2001.

But I'd say we all lost a part of ourselves that day. We lost our sense of safety and security. Many of us lost total faith in a President we already had serious concerns over. Maybe one day we'll regain what was lost that morning.

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