Twenty years ago, nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, crashing two of them into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. The fourth one, Flight #93, crashed into a field in Pennsylvania when the passengers tried to take back control of the plane. 2977 people were killed that day.
I was an Air Force captain stationed at the Space and Missile System Center at Los Angeles AFB. I was twenty-nine years old, nearing the end of my military commitment, eight months away from leaving the military and starting a new life as a mother.
I’m sad for those who lost their lives or loved ones on September 11th. I’m also thankful no one I personally knew died or was injured. I thought I’d share my 9/11 journal entry. I left out last names and some first names. Abbreviations are spelled out, but I left grammatical idiosyncrasies like run-on sentences and tense switching.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
I don’t normally write about the news or world events in my journal because they rarely affect me personally. Even great tragedies like the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma city or plane crashes I don’t think I wrote anything about other than the fact it happened. But today…
I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when I heard NPR break their regular news to report that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I can’t remember what time it was, somewhere around 6:15. They were saying that it was a small commuter plane, and no one had any idea what was going on. NPR broadcast the CNN or other TV news coverage, and it was obvious the TV was showing this ghastly explosive image on the screen, and then there were reports of a second plane crashing into the building, and the news reporter was wondering if it could possibly be a serious problem with the navigation equipment, so I finally turned on the TV and saw a clip of the second plane flying right into the tower behind the main one already hit, and you can see this orange bulb of flames and debris burst out of the other side. And then it was one thing after another that made it totally surreal–reports that the planes were hijacked, then reports that a helicopter went down at the Pentagon, an explosion at the Pentagon, the White House was being evacuated, a plane crashed into the Pentagon, then all incoming flights were being diverted to Canada and the rest cancelled. I manage to finish getting ready for work, and I was glued to the television, and then they reported that the first tower had totally collapsed. I couldn’t believe it. My heart was racing and it was almost difficult to believe this was all happening for real. I looked at my watch and it was 7:15–I was way late for work.
I had my ID ready and I tried getting onto the base using the usual entrance, and it was totally closed down and fenced off. I walk in the building greeted by Donielle who checked two forms of my ID, and I know it’s not going to be a normal day. I walk upstairs and am greeted by Mr. K. who had apparently been answering my phone for me, Barsotti walking around the hallways, everyone talking about what’s going on.
Both of those World Trade Center towers totally collapsed. I don’t know where I was when the second one went down, I can’t remember if I was still at home watching or on my way to work. They said later that it wasn’t the plane crash itself that caused the structural failure, it was the intense 1500-1600 degree heat from the flames that melted the steel beams, and once those couple of floors gave in, then each floor below it fell under the weight like a domino, each floor neatly falling vertically on top of the one below it until it totally destroyed itself.
I can’t even imagine being inside that building as it’s collapsing like that, or of being on the floors that the plane had crashed into. I hope their deaths were quick and painless. There might have been thousands of people still in that building.
S. called–he’s been put on a midshift tonight and on shift indefinitely.
I think I managed to give people the impression that I knew what the hell I was doing. I was ordering lieutenants and captains to make ten copies of this recall roster, ten of that, call everyone on this roster.
Lieutenant V. asks why AXC left if they’re not allowed to leave. I can hear the tension in his voice. I answered “They weren’t supposed to do that! I can’t believe Maj R. did that!”
Nina–I was going to give her some phone numbers of people in AXG/T to call, and she said with some embarrassment that she was in the shower and needed 10-15 minutes.
Dart calls from where he is in ACQ201, I tell him we’re in THREATCON DELTA. He asks if Fort MacArthur is locked down, and I told him I didn’t know.
Wednesday September 12th
Day off, stuck to the phone all day.
The remainder of my September journal entries is about the minutiae of my daily life. For example, my next entry, dated Friday, 14 September, 2001, reads:
Stayed up til 4 am watching something on Raymond Carver and cheesy 80’s movie with Patricia Arquette.
It wasn’t until October when I mentioned another related news event:
Sunday, 7 October, 2001: “Bombed Afghanistan”
That’s it. I wrote down the date, and a title without mentioning any thoughts on the matter, which meant I thought it was important enough for me to at least write down something to help me remember. It’s interesting how that catastrophic day has been seared into my memory, and yet I didn’t write about it again.