I’ve never written about 9/11 in any meaningful way on this blog.
I mentioned it briefly in my post about the time I interviewed for a job in Switzerland because the events of 9/11/01 impacted the position I was going for.
On September 11, 2001, I was already happily established and living in Ohio. I moved here in the fall of 1997 for my dream job at The Iams Company, a premium pet food manufacturer in Dayton, Ohio.
I was still working at Iams when the towers were hit. I worked in the small Communications department, but just down the hall was the Customer Service department where they had a TV.
People started mentioning the towers on phone calls that morning, and then eventually the phones just stopped ringing.
All over America and the world, people were glued to their TV sets watching one of the world’s worst terrorist attacks live in real time.
We turned on the office TV right after the first tower was hit, and all of us on the floor were gathered around watching. It felt like a terrible, living nightmare when the second plane hit and we saw it happen in real time.
Up until that point, it felt like the first plane might have been an awful, horrible mistake. I can still remember the panic and terror when the second plane hit and we all realized, almost simultaneously, that it must be a calculated terrorist attack.
In addition to what all of us felt as Americans that day, I felt a particular connection as a native New Yorker. I had been working in NYC when the prior crisis happened at the World Trade Center; a smaller terrorist bomb went off in the basement of the building in 1993.
That time, we were all released from work and sent home as NYC was evacuated. I remember walking in a crowd down to Penn Station for my train home to Long Island. There were long delays and wait times for trains. I recall feeling both a little numb and also somewhat relieved to have gotten off work early. None of it felt real.
In 2001, when the infamous World Trade Center tragedy happened, I was miles away in Dayton, Ohio.
That 9/11, I remember feeling safe and yet surreal as we watched the unprecedented terrorist attacks happening in real time on live TV. I wondered if I knew anyone who worked in the towers. I hoped they were okay and had made it out somehow.
At that time, I no longer had any family living in NY, but we still knew a ton of people there. My job at Iams soon revolved around the crisis; our sales organization immediately checked in with our NY reps to make sure they were safe and accounted for.
In the midst of the human tragedy, our company was able to step up and help out with the animals impacted. There were many people who had to evacuate apartments in lower Manhattan, leaving pets behind. Iams was able to aid in the rescue effort of retrieving those dogs and cats and getting them fed and placed in temporary shelter housing until their family members could come back for them.
In addition, search and rescue dogs played a huge role in the recovery efforts immediately following the attacks. Iams was able to assist by getting dog food to those hard-working hero dogs and their handlers. We also assisted in providing booties, as the dogs were getting foot injuries clambering over scorched and sharp metal and concrete during long, grueling days and nights of searching for survivors and remains.
Later, my company was involved in fundraising efforts to provide aid and funds to handlers and search and rescue dogs who were injured or became ill after the rescue efforts of 9/11. We also sponsored a former 9/11 search and rescue dog and handler team as part of a unique troupe of high-performing dogs known as the Eukanuba Elite team who toured the country at pet expos and dog shows.
Although I made many trips back to NYC in the years following 9/11, I did not visit the Ground Zero memorial or the 9/11 memorial museum until 2018, when our nephew asked to go. Visiting the national 9/11 memorial and museum was a moving and extremely sad experience that definitely left us feeling somber and reflective for much of the rest of the day.
When I think back to 9/11 and the months following the tragedy, I am reminded of the unbelievable sense of community and unity that pervaded wherever you went. It united Americans like nothing I’ve ever seen before or since.
Clearly, I would never want anything that awful to ever happen to our country again – and yet I must admit that I miss that feeling of banding together across political divides and other differences. The American flag seemed to mean more in those days, somehow.
How can we get back that feeling of togetherness and unity in our country, I wonder?
Where were you on 9/11 and do you remember that connected feeling with our fellow Americans in the days, weeks and months that followed? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below or over on Facebook or Instagram.