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Remembering 9/11 in Washington

For me, 9/11 will always be intertwined with the fall Radio Show

Paul’s blog brought up 9/11 memories for me and I wanted to share them here.

For me, 9/11 will always be intertwined with the fall Radio Show, since we were compiling our post New Orleans show coverage when the planes hit the twin towers, one hit the Pentagon and another crashed in Pennsylvania.

I had been talking to a colleague on our sister publication TV Technology when I remember coming out into the hallway and saw people crying and looking out the window. We saw smoke coming from the Pentagon, which at that time, was about 10 minutes away by car from our office in Northern Virginia. Paul and I were talking about changing the front page, dumping the show news and substituting coverage of the terrorist attacks. We heard military jets scrambling overhead, presumably to intercept anyone wishing to cause us harm.

I tried to reach my husband on his cellphone. He had been scheduled to work near BWI airport that day. The phone service was overwhelmed. I finally got through after about an hour and was relieved to hear he was OK. We were trying to figure out if I should start my long drive home then or wait. The federal and local governments let their workers go home early; I stayed until later when traffic was lighter.

I called my dad, who by then had retired and lived in Florida; I knew he’d be watching the news and might be worried.

Two days later I was driving downtown towards the FCC. I smelled the crash site at the Pentagon before I saw it.

I honestly don’t remember what the FCC commissioners voted on that day but it must have been radio-related if I was there. Then-Chairman Michael Powell had been in the army early in his adult life. He said the commissioners would go about conducting “the nation’s business” that day, because if they didn’t, then the terrorists would win. It was a powerful moment.

I saw National Guard troops and military humvees patrolling the streets in the District, something I had never seen, as I grew up here.

Fast-forward to 2002; the radio show in Seattle started on the 12th, so attendees would have to fly on 9/11 to get there. Some chose to fly out a day earlier, to avoid flying on the 11th.

Three times after 9/11, a member of the Maryland National Guard watched as I removed my shoes to get on flights out of Baltimore; before that time, I had never seen officers carrying automatic weapons in airports in this country; only overseas.

I flew on American Airlines on 9/11/2002, one of the airlines affected by the terrorists 11 years ago. The flight crew had a little memorial among themselves before they loaded us onto the plane. Onboard, I saw something I hadn’t seen since I was a child — the whole crew was lined up to greet us. At the end of the line was the captain. He looked each of us in the eye, shook our hand, and thanked us for flying that day.

The early morning flight was half empty; I transferred in Denver. It was eerie to see no children flying that day, only adults, presumably flying on business.

So next week as we get on planes headed for Dallas, we have a little more added to the security routine now. In addition to taking off our shoes, loading our laptops separately onto the scanner belt and throwing away our water bottles before going through security, we’ll also go through full body scanners, at least at BWI, which is a test bed for the TSA.

Are we safer? I hope so.