10:28 AMI walked in my building and went to the third floor where my office and it was chaos. Utter chaos. I worked for a very conservative Japeneese company and that may sound redunadant but it was a tight ship, they even had rules on the garbage containers on recycling procedures and what you can and cannot throw away.
The radios were at full blast, people were screaming and crying because we could look right out at the World Trade Center. I saw the first plane hit when I was sitting in traffic, many others who were looking at the North Tower saw the South Tower get hit. It was pandemonium.
My computer was on but it was no day for business. Many of us would walk around, look out the window, get coffee, walk back to the desks, get more coffee. Aimlessly. My window overlooked the Manhatten skyline. I simply turned around. I got up many times just to get better views and keep busy. I was already making plans to leave when someone screamed that there was another plane and then the South Tower collapsed More chaos. More screaming. It was a smoke plume, you could see nothing but you knew something happened. This was at 9:59 am.
I made a few phone calls, stating the obvious, and even offered my place for a vendor who I did not even like who worked and lived in NYC as he told me that there was no way he would be able to get back home. They had shut the Lincoln Tunnel. They had shut off all access to and from the City.
But it was at 10:28, when the North Tower started going down, that the image I will take to my grave began. It was in slow motion. We all looked out knowing full well that what would happen. Yet no one could believe it. After all these years of looking at these buildings, being amoungst the many people who went in and out of here, watching them get built with my grandparents, having my grandmother be amoung one of the first employees in the North Tower, after getting engaged at Windows of the World with my wife in honor of my grandparnets, after many moments of enjoyment having drinks at the Windows of the World, it began.
It was in slow motion. It was one level at a time. But it began. I was alone when it first started. But it began. I stated that 'It's starting ..' I was not alone when it finished. In what felt like a lifetime, it was over.
It was a lifetime in an instant. Gone.
Those people did not go to war that morning. They went to work. Just like the rest of us. Gone.
Pentagon. Gone. Shanksville, PA. Gone.
I packed up my bags and went home, planning not to come back for a few days. We could not go back to work as the area was shut down for days.
I went home and put the flag out. By Friday, everyone else had their flags hanging too.
That night, at the place I pulled my car over to get a better look when the first plane hit, as I was watching the news when, at that exact spot, a van, filled with explosives and a map of the George Washington Bridge, was pulled over. The sirens were constantly wailing in my town and everywhere else. This was the London bombings in WW II, it was the sound of Pearl Harbour.
It was at that very moment, when I knew absolute fear. It was at that moment that being proud of America mattered once again.
Nine years later, we still are.