Wednesday, September 11, 2013


It has been 12 years since the Twin Towers fell, the plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon, all day I have been debating about writing and what to write.  Here is what I remember of that day in 2001.

I was 22, I was working at the hotel actually had worked the previous night until 12:30am, the night auditor was running late and since I had the next day off (the 11th) I said I would stay, I also lost the rock, paper, scissors match with the other co-worker.  I got home watched Nightline, they replayed the Morrie Schwartz one, which I had never seen but had just finished the book "Tuesdays with Morrie" and stayed up to watch it.  I went to bed and unlike most nights (when I had the next day off) I did not turn off my phone.  My phone rang shortly after the plane hit the Pentagon, it was my dad.  I was very groggy, my dad started talking in a serious, low monotone voice, saying everything all I heard was plane, crashed pentagon, New York.  I remember saying the pentagon isn't in New York.  My dad said, "Amanda Jean get up and turn on your TV."  I got up turned on my TV to see the first tower on fire, I told my dad I had to call my friend Todd who was either still in New York if he missed his late night flight to New Orleans.  I called Todd and there was no answer, I called his mom, she picked up and handed the phone to Todd.  I remember the weight lifted when I heard his voice we talked briefly and he was leaving soon to drive to Savannah, but was trying to get in touch with friends who lived and worked in the towers (both of his friends made it out of the towers minutes before they collapsed).  The next person I called was my friend Lidia, her dad and step mom both worked in lower Manhattan.  She had talked to her dad they were fine and then the second plane hit.  I remember the horror and shock that it wasn't an accident, it was an act of terrorism.   I remember her saying she had to go because she had to call her step mom who worked very close to the towers because no one could get in contact with her (she was fine she left her phone in her office and walked home.)  I called into work there was no answer it just rang.  I called one more friend, Jamie and asked if he knew what was going on.  He had no clue what I was talking about I told him to turn on the TV.  As he turned on the TV the first tower crumbled to the ground, I remember screaming it is gone I can't believe it is gone.  He told me he had to call some people and we hung up.  I sat alone in my apartment watching the dust clear in shock and disbelief on what I had just witnessed.  My phone rang it was my boss asking if I could come in and answer the phones because they had been ringing non-stop.  I told her I would be up there in an hour or two because I needed to go to the store and the second tower came down.  I remember saying they are gone, they are gone.  I hung up jumped in the shower, got dressed I drove to Kroger, it was a ghost town, the cashiers were all huddled around a small TV watching in horror what was being replayed non-stop.  I got my groceries, went home and then went to work.

Working at a hotel prepares you for many things but nothing like this had ever happened before.  No one knew what to do, the phones were ringing non-stop, it was chaos.  People were calling to cancel their rooms next year, we were overbooked by 67 rooms because people couldn't leave, which also meant people weren't coming in. The acting General Manager (day 2 on the what would become her job) was sitting in the back office freaking out that we were 67 rooms overbooked, that her husband was in the reserves and what had just happened.  I finally made an "executive decision" since no one else was making one, I said stay them all over, no one is checking in and they obviously can't leave (we had VIPs from England who weren't going any where for a while).  After a lot of back and forth on the subject we did just that, overbooked the hotel by 67 rooms, by 1pm we were only overbooked by three rooms.  I was told that I could go home because the phones had stopped ringing.  I left and went home, I watched various movies so I didn't have to see the towers fall again and again.  Around ten o'clock Todd had finally gotten into Savannah, he drove straight through.  He called me and I went over to his apartment.  I figured I would pick up some food on the way, I went to eight places they were all closed.  I finally went to Johnnie Ganoms the local liquor store and bought booze, Cheetos, Cool Ranch Doritos, and Slim Jims because that was all they had.  We sat on Todd's couch in complete silence and shock of what had happened that day.  It has been 12 years and I remember every detail of that day and I am quite sure I will never forget what happened either.  I think about the people who went to work never to return to their families, the firemen and women who were just doing their jobs, they went in as people ran out.

Slowly everything returned to "normal" the hotel was extremely slow and I was back in school after major surgery.  I was studying Historic Preservation, I held a 3.97 in my field of study.  My advisor told me the Department Head want to speak to me, it was early 2002.  Hector asked me if I had ever been to New York City before.  I replied, no, I had been on a bridge as a kid saw the Twin Towers and the Statue of Liberty from a distant.  I also had been in Newark in January because my flight was diverted.  He asked me if I wanted to got to New York and help restore headstones in a church cemetery that had been damaged when the towers fell.  I took a deep sigh looked at Hector and replied, I can't do it I'm sorry.  He nodded and replied I understand completely I can't either.   I always wonder what would have happened if I had told Hector yes and there was a while I felt guilty that I said no.  I had a chance to "help" and I didn't.  I did give blood, bought teddy bears in Newark where the proceeds went to the NYFD and I donated to the Red Cross but I didn't help with my own hands.

Today is a day of reflection, I think about life before, a life my kids will never know (not being stripped searched before boarding a plane).  I think about what has happened in the past twelve years and how much I have changed.  It is amazing how much I remember about that 24 hour period that seemed to drag on and on at the time.  I recently found one of my journal from that day - I wrote this towards the end of the entry, "We have changed, we have all changed, when those towers fell, part of our hopes and dreams fell too.  I hope we will get through this and find the light at the end of this dark tunnel.  I am still in shock."

I am not going to offer a Freebie today in my humble opinion it is not the time, this is a time of reflection and remembrance.  Reflection on who we are and what we have become, and remembering those who gave so much that day.

If you got this far I thank you for taking the time to read this post.

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