Friday, September 9, 2011

10 Years Later

I was recently email interviewed by our local newspaper about where I was on 9-11-01. For probably the first time, I wrote almost everything I can remember down. The newspaper came out and my story had been reduced to a paragraph, space issues, of course. But I thought I would share the whole story with you.

1.       First tell me something about yourself.  You mentioned you were on a business trip with your boss and that you drove home – was that NY?  Where exactly?    What kind of business were you in, how old were you and did you know anyone at Ground Zero?  Hopefully, they were safe.
In 2001, I was working for a Santa Rosa based Rubber Stamp manufacturer. I was 26 at the time and  travelled extensively, teaching rubber stamping classes and demonstrating at trade shows. At this time, I was on the road nearly every other weekend. This particaular trip started on September 4, when I flew United out to upstate New York. I had a really, really bad feeling on that flight, like I really didn't want to go. I had all sorts of thoughts of how to get out of it, but I was scheduled for 4 classes, three stores and a trade show. There was no avoiding it. The flight itself had some horrible turbulence, but it was mostly ok, except for the horrible foreboding feeling that I couldn't shake. The first day I got to my hotel late, got stuck in a third floor smoking room..these details aren't as important, except to say this trip was marked from the beginning. I taught a class in Albany and then another in Sleepy Hollow. From Sleepy Hollow I went to Connecticut and taught another class in the Turkey Hill area. Everything went ok, until the first day of the trade show. I was helping a colleague of mine with her class and in one trip of walking from the back of the class to the front, I felt this wave wash over me and I was ill. I had a fever and just all over apathy. I had to beg out of the one last class I was to teach. I felt physically horrible and doubly so for not being able to fulfill my obligations. But, the silver lining was I had agreed to a one day vacation on Martha's Vineyard. We had been travelling so much, my boss and company owner and a coworker of ours, that we treated ourselves to one day on a beautiful island. We were in Malboro county in Massachussets, drove a rental van (that belonged to my coworkers friend who had met up with us in Mass) to the coast and ferried over to the island. That was on September 10th. 
2.       Where and how did you find out about the events unfolding in NYC?  You “flew” – what was the trip like, traffic, etc.?  What were you thinking?
September 11th we woke up at a small bed and breakfast on the island. It was a cool, foggy morning as I sat in an adirondack chair, playing with the resident golden retriever. The night before had been so full of laughs and beautiful scenery, I for a moment forgot how homesick I was. All the travelling had really caught up with me and I just wanted to be home with my boyfriend (now husband). I was a little remiss that I had let them talk me into a later flight, as our original booking had been for 8am out of Logan Airport, United. But to enjoy our 'vacation' I had agreed to fly out at noon. So, we checked out of the hotel and headed into town for some last minute souvenir shopping, we still had an hour before the ferry left. My boss and I headed into a cute little gift shop and looked around. We laughed when we saw a set of coasters for sale using imagery from our stamp catalog..a copyright violation, but we thought..we're in the middle of the Atlantic..what are the odds? We left the shop and heard a very loud shreik. Our coworker was running up the street towards us, screaming..we've been attacked! We calmed her down and found out the first tower had been struck. She heard it on the radio in the shop she had been in. I can't really explain what happened next, except that I called home and told my husband that I wasn't going to be coming home that day. He as asleep at home in Santa Rosa and like a lot of people, I woke him up to watch the horror live on tv. We happened to be in a "dry" town, which meant we couldn't find a tv to watch what was happening. It was just a weird realization I had..where do you go for a tv fix when there are no bars? So, we headed to the ferry station, where everybody visiting the island were being evacuated. I watched from the counter, through a narrow doorway, on a tv in the manager's office, as the second tower fell. It's all a blur and clear as day, so many tears and worries. Where was that other plane headed? Was it going to crash in San Francisco? If we had kept that original flight, I would have been sitting in the airport, watching as some of the people who died that day board their destiny. I still have my plane ticket for my United flight on 9/11/01 out of Logan Airport. It's overwhelming and frightening. 
So, we were ferried back to our rental van and drove back to Malboro county, where my coworker had relatives and her boyfriend lived. I remember on the ferry, meeting two men who were on the island fishing. They were both emergency rescue workers, who specialized in Urban rescues. I think of them often. Standing in the ocean, laughing and enjoying the phone call and they were headed to Ground Zero. 
We made it to the cousins house, where we were glued to the tv. I cried and cried and cried. I was homesick, sick, sad and shocked. I can still feel it to this day. There was a lot of worry for the neighbors, who's husband worked in the towers. 
3.       What were the next few days like for you as we were piecing together our lives and who did this to us?
The next day I wanted to go home. The airports were all closed, there were no available rental was a truly trapped feeling. Luckily, our coworkers friend had that rental van already and I devised a plan where we would take over the van for her. All we had to do was drive to Rhode Island, to the office, sign some papers and then hit the road. Driving to Rhode Island was weird, everyone else was leaving. We drove along side military trucks headed to the coast..and I think at that time there were reports of terrorists being on a train headed to it was with great trepidation that we headed east. I just wanted to go west. So, we got the van, bought a whole bunch of groceries and supplies (my boss was out of all of her medications, so we had a nice struggle to get her more  of those). We got back to the house in Massachussets and everybody was trying to convince us to stay. "The airports will be open soon" they would, I didn't really want to get on a plane. At all. I told them it was easy for them to stay, they had family there..they were with their loved ones already. I HAD to get home. My boss agreed. She wanted to get back to her husband and her dogs..and her company. So we decided we were going to do it. We were going to drive almost 3000 miles to get home. and we did. We left at 3 in the afternoon on September 12th and headed west. We got lost almost immediately, nice detour up around Niagra..but after that it was smooth sailing. Odd sailing. The freeways and highways were almost abandoned..except around Chicago..always traffic there. The most odd were all of the highway signs for the airports..each one with a big CLOSED sign wrapped around it. That was spooky. We took turns driving, one would drive while the other tried to sleep. We tried to time our drive change with gas refill, so we had driving stints around 3-4 hours each. After driving for 24 hours, we had reached Indianopolis and stopped there for a night in a hotel. I had the best dinner that night, I'll never forget. Ultimate comfort food, mashed potatoes with fried chicken pieces with gravy. It fed me and my soul. We left the next morning and drove straight through. We made it back to Santa Rosa at 3 in the morning on September 15th. When we got to my apartment and unloaded all of my stuff, I looked down at the licence plate; RUN 333.
4.       When did you move to California?  Any family still back east?  What were the last 10 years like for you?  What do you think you’ll do on the 11th for the 10th anniversary?
I was born in San Francisco and moved to Petaluma when I was 5. In 2001 I was living and working in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County will always be my home. I currently live in Petaluma with my husband and our three cats. I make crafts for a 'living'. 
After that trip, I cut way back on my travelling and only did a few more trips. I transitioned into a more product development/marketing type position, so that I wouldn't have to travel. Afterwards, we moved in with my grandparents in law, who both passed away shortly thereafter. I was then laid off, when the company closed, unable to recoup all the losses from the years before. But all that happening landed me back in my beloved Petaluma. 
For the anniverasary, I would like to go out the beach. Breathe in some beautiful ocean air and be thankful for my life. My husband is glued to the screen for the unveiling of the new I'm sure I'll be watching for that as well. 
5.       Finally, how did the killing of Osama bin Laden affect you?
No affect really. It really doesn't make me feel better when somebody dies. I would prefer to end the war, all the wars..We teach children that fighting doesn't solve anything, maybe we can teach adults that too!

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