September 11, 2003


I live not too far from the Pentagon, and on that morning, I heard the jet fly over my rooftop and moments later, the explosion which rattled the back windows of the house. I've written about this before -- running late for work, hearing on CNBC that a small commuter had struck one of the towers, jumping in the shower, getting out and my mother-in-law (there to watch my son for the day) frantically talking about the plane hitting the tower. Yes, I saw, I told her. "No, two planes," she replied. CNN was on now, and I saw the tape of the second plane. I can't remember what I said, but I do remember how rattled she looked -- she had lived through the seige of Sarajevo and America seemed to her to be impregnable. Then we heard the roar of the jet...

There's a soccer field near our house; I walked to it and from there could see the thick smoke rising. Across the field, the double nickle -- Arlington County Fire Department Company 55 -- was still quiet, but later it would be the staging ground and I believe (if I've understood the brave men and women who work there) the communications center co-ordinating the efforts to put out the fire. A neighbor of mine, who was home working on his house that day, joined me on the field. "They hit the Pentagon," he said.

Back home, the then-soon-to-be three year old and I put out our American flag. My wife called -- she thought I had gone to work already and wanted to make sure I hadn't. (The next morning at work, when I listened to voicemail, I heard her frantic message from the day before; it took me several minutes to figure out how to replay the
"message envelope" which told me the time and date of the call, and I had several awful moments thinking the Pentagon had been hit a second time.)

I called work to find out what was going on there. Then I took my son to the little playground near our house. It didn't seem like there was much else to do. He ran around the playground equipment, slid down the sliding boards, and I did my best to entertain him. While we were there, a trickle, then a flood of Pentagon employees began wandering past, some in uniform, some not, all looking -- well, I'd like to say they looked shell-shocked, because I'm fairly sure I did, but they didn't. They looked calm, even comfortable. The main topic of conversation, from the snatches I heard, was how the people whose cars were still stuck in the vast Pentagon parking lot were going to get home, and how they were going to get to work the next day.

There would be a lot of work to do in the coming days. Of that, at least, I was certain.

Posted by Ideofact at September 11, 2003 11:12 PM