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by Derek Davis
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That Tuesday started like any other for me. I went to work, a temp job with a non-profit organization. As I settled at my desk I overhead a snatch of conversation between the receptionist and a co-worker, something about, “a plane crash”. I thought nothing of it, passing it off as a minor occurrence. I hopped on the Internet and checked my e-mail. Ten minutes later I went downstairs to grab a glass of water. This office has a kitchen adjoining a small conference room equipped with cable television. During lunch you can catch up on your soaps. However, what played out on the screen that morning trivialized any thought of daytime drama. A few people were peering intently at Peter Jennings. I watched in shock, as smoke poured out of a gaping hole in what I quickly learned was one of the World Trade Center towers.

It was surreal at the time. Two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening at the time. I thought it was some kind of private jet, an accident or stunt gone awry. I just shook my head and went back to work. Back at my desk I hopped on the Internet and checked out a hip hop message board I frequent. The headlines rang out, “Terrorists Crash Planes Into the World Trade Center”. Terrorists? It couldn’t be, could it? I read on. Rumors were now flying fast and furious. I saw mention of the Pentagon being hit. I went to and received confirmation, the Pentagon had indeed been bombed. That is the exact moment when it became real for me, the Pentagon was fifteen minutes away. I started to shake. I was often teased about how living in the nation’s capitol made me a target for various threats from abroad but I always laughed it off. That day, for the first time I felt unsafe. More rumors were spreading. A temp from the second floor claimed a friend had just called, in tears professing a bomb went off at the FCC. There were television reports of a bomb exploding at the State Department and then talk of a fire on the National Mall. Details began to emerge of the two hijacked airplanes that were presumably used in the suicidal attacks. The fact that the two planes were destined for California struck a personal chord. My girlfriend lives in Los Angeles and I was scheduled to fly out to see here later that week. Frantic I called her: Hello,

Wake up!
I don’t think I’ll be coming to see you.
Huh? Why?
Turn on your television.
Oh my god! Oh my god!

My office like most in D.C. closed early that day. As I walked home the fear in the air was palpable. People wore dazed expressions reminiscent of deer in headlights. Everyone looked up at the sky afraid, half expecting what only a few hours before was unthinkable. I reached my house and saw my roommate and best friend sitting on the couch transfixed to the television screen. I will never forget the look on their faces when they saw me come in, a grotesque combination of fear, shock and helplessness. The image is forever burned in my memory. It was exactly how I felt. As I sit here and write this a full sixteen days later after the fact, I feel those same emotions. September 11, it still seems unreal.