Everybody has their "I remember where I was story" -- just like when Kennedy was shot. I was working at home, and had CNN on, like always. The day, as everyone recalls, was crystal blue and perfect in Virginia. Didn't see the first plane hit, but saw the second.
My wife and youngest son were at (of all places) Target, where they overheard people talking in front of the TVs. Just like the movies, where people are walking past the store window and see the attack/alien invasion/kidnapper on the news. She called to see if it was real. I said it was, come home now. We live near Dulles airport.
We heard about the Pentagon on the local news. There was a report of a car bomb near the State Department, another on the Mall (were they the same bomb?), and I called my friends downtown. My former office was a block from the White House. They were in lockdown -- not allowed to leave. I called from time to time to check up. Eventually the phone lines clogged so badly I couldn't get through.
My older son was in school -- second grade. We decided he could stay there, although we learned that about 70 percent of the kids were taken out of school early. School is only a hundred yards away, so I figured I could get to him fast. He could either sit in school and be out of the loop, or hunker down at home and watch the world go apeshit. The little one -- age 3 -- devised a cape to enhance his superpowers. He wore it for over a month, but we made him take it off at bedtime.
We followed the rumors and really terrible information, shitty reporting all around. About "a plane headed for the White House." The crash in Pennsylvania. We watched Bush sit through story time and then do his whack-a-mole act. We heard about the White House staff being evacuated ("run, don't walk"). My friends were still locked down. No word from the "leadership." They were under attack. They left town. Rudy Giuliani looked to be in charge of the country.
The Metro was closed for fear of attacks on the tunnels. The roads were closed, military and police vehicles only. When my friends were released ("scram, you can't stay here") they walked. To Virginia and Maryland.
We watched the towers fall. Over and over. We went to the fire station to give blood. Too many donors. Not very many injured. The dead don't need your blood.
The next day we had to get outside, swing on the swings, slide down the slide. It was another crystal blue day. We could hear the fighter planes -- F-15s -- patrolling, and could barely make them out. I explained what a "fighter jet" does.
A couple days later, I was sitting in the plaza of a Reston office building, quietly talking and having lunch with my colleagues. The first time we had tip-toed back out into the world. I looked up. Sky was still crystal blue; no air traffic into Dulles yet.
A bald eagle (venturing from the Potomac down into the air traffic lanes?) was directly overhead. He caught a thermal and rode round and round up out of sight. I drew no patriotic message from his flight. He was beautiful in the crystal blue sky.
I have photos from the Delaware shore, dated Sept. 9. The boys are covered in sand; jumping the waves. The sky is crystal blue.
Today is just like that day. Couldn't be prettier.