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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

9/11: My Personal Recollections 12 Years Later

Good Lord, has it really been 12 years since that nightmarish day, September 11th 2001? Not only New Yorkers but, indeed, the world acknowledged the sheer shock and horror of that day and its devastating aftermath.

I flew out of Newark Airport early that clear, blue morning, on a Continental flight bound for Sarasota, Florida where I was to be met by my now-late mother and my stepfather. I was thankful it was such a clear day and remember thinking, I should arrive on time today for a change. Little did I suspect!

The time of take-off for my Continental flight put me on the runway about the same time as the ill-fated United flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. (Scary, in retrospect. )

In mid-air, it was announced that we would have to land at the nearest airport because of the US Air Traffic Control request to "clear all airspace." Something had happened; some unprecedented incident, that was for sure! We were going to land in Charlotte, NC. Passengers with laptops began searching the internet and a panicked buzz circulated through the flight that the World Trade Center had been struck by two jets. I pictured two burning 747s stuck in the Twin Towers.

It was a complete shock to arrive at the Charlotte Airport and witness the collapse of the Towers on the tv monitors. Surreal. Science fiction. I tried calling my mom on my cell but couldn't get through. I realized this was not just a flight "delay," and announcements soon proclaimed stranded passengers should contact the Red Cross who would be putting us up on cots in an armory.

Cots? Armory? Why, I wouldn't be caught dead! I immediately went to the Continental desk and asked what they could do for me. They graciously sent me off in a mini-van to a country-club-like Marriott hotel out in the Charlotte suburbs, surrounded by sprawling lawns. The airline even payed for all my meals! I have since been loyal to Continental (except when ticket prices drive me to, say, Virgin or some other competing airline).

I was indeed living and dining out like the little prince that I am. I even got in touch with my understandably quite hysterical mother by phone, finally. "What did those awful people do to you?" she blurted. I think she was ready to take on Al Queda single-handedly! I assured her I was very much safe and sound, ensconced in my first-floor two-room temporary flat as it was.

Mom had been turned away from the airport in Sarasota because of security. That's the town where President George W Bush was reading to school children during the incident, ironically, and he was headed back to his jet at the airport at the time of her (and my stepdad's) arrival.

She got my brother on the phone and he agreed to drive up from South Florida and get me, with his girlfriend in tow. My mother insisted on going with them. ("You can take my car but you're not leaving me here," she insisted in her lioness tone of voice, I assume.)

And so they came. My mom, my brother and his girlfriend. Thus began a very dysfunctional roadtrip back to Venice, FL.... And just in time for a massive hurricane to hit.

But that's another story.

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