It’s been all over the Detroit stations that we watch on a regular basis.
“Do you remember where you were 20 years ago?”
Of course, this is in reference to the attacks on the United States.
I absolutely remember where I was and what I was doing.
It was a Tuesday and I was at our computer professional learning centre setting up for a workshop later in the day. I’d gone straight there to do some work and then was heading out to visit a couple of schools before circling back to lead the workshop.
As per usual, I was working at the computer at the front of the room and had some radio channel streaming music over the internet. That’s one of the advantages of being alone.
Then, the phone rang just after 9 o’clock.
It was my secretary who often gave me orders since she managed everything in my work life anyway. So, it wasn’t unusual to get an order but this was somehow different.
Her: Turn on the television
Her: Do it
Coverage was on every channel. The first plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre and, just as I turned the television on, I saw the second. She was watching at her desk at the same time and was on the phone talking to me. I’d like to say that a million things went through my mind but I can’t. As far as I can recall, my mind just went blank.
All I can remember was thinking that this was just like television news coverage and we were seeing a rerun of an event. Sadly, it wasn’t.
Bizarrely, it was a few minutes later that I realized I was sitting alone in a room watching television and holding a phone but not talking or listening. It was the same on her end. The rest of the day and the following events are a blur. I do recall that she offered and I accepted her suggestion to cancel the workshop and my school visits. We witnessed things live but messages spread like wildfire in schools and the last thing they needed was me showing up to talk or to drive and try to learn at a workshop.
Later that day at home, it was a time for the family to bond and my wife and I did what we thought was the best parenting. We left the news off and just allowed the kids to speak and get things off their chest.
As we know now, that was the day when air traffic was halted. The community of St. John’s stepped up although what happened there remains largely missing from the American recount of the events of the day.
We all know how other things have changed. Living near the border, it was very common to just cross the bridge to shop or see a Tigers/Lions game. All that was required was to prove your identity and typically a driver’s license was all that it took. This was to change and I ended up having to get a passport. The quick over and back was gone. It’s not rare to wait in line at Customs for considerable lengths of times, depending on the time of day. And, we all know that going on an airplane is a huge deal anymore.
These days, a web cam allows for us to look at the location, 20 years later. I have no doubts that there will be all kinds of news coverage and historical replays today to mark 20 years since the event. I’m fearful that it may spark even more prejudice.
Twenty years seems so long ago but I can still remember that phone call.
Where were you 20 years ago?