I remember the details of September 11, 2001, like it was yesterday. Not the kind of memories that become fuzzy or that fade after a long amount of time has passed, but clear memories -- like a movie -- still to this day.

I was living and working in the metropolitan DC area. I remember driving to work that morning in amazement of the day. The sky was a bright blue. It was crisp. There were few clouds and the ones that were there were wispy pulled cotton candy strings of white. I had given a small thank you prayer to God for such a beautiful day.

I first learned about the attacks from a CNN email news alert while I was working in my office. It was only moments after tuning to a news radio station that the buzz started in the office. We were all in disbelief, much like the rest of the country.

When the second attack hit the Pentagon, panic started to ensue in our office. We were only about 20 miles from the District, after all. There was a scrambling of electric tension as our management team gathered in the hall to discuss a game plan for the day. Do we send employees home? Do we call clients? Do we work as if nothing has happened? The longer we talked, the more annoyed I became. I was scared. I certainly didn't want to die for this company. I didn't even like working there. Or the people that owned it.

As the phrase "terrorist attack" started to rumble through the office, my thoughts immediately went to the international educational center in the lot by our office. There was a lot of speculation on what would be targeted next. Would it be this international education center? I didn't want to stick around to find out. I lived further out then most employees. Would I even be able to make it home? Would I be safe here or driving home later? Without further discussion, direction or contemplation, I packed up and left. I needed to head home to my husband who just happened to be in town that day. I needed something normal. Something that said this wasn't the end of everything. I needed safety. I needed my family.

I remember driving home that day, faster than I would normally drive. The road was eerily empty. Remember, this is metro-DC where there is a lot of traffic. Always. That day, there was so little traffic. At some points, I was the only person on the road.

Before I left the office, we had heard that cell towers were already starting to become overwhelmed. I had called my husband before I left the office, but I needed to reach my parents who lived in a different state. I remember dialing and redialing the phone only to be met with an incessant busy signal. Bile of panic rose in my throat. There were thoughts that I might not make it home. It seems irrational now, but little about that day was rational.

When I finally reached my parents, I was able to let them know that I was OK. I was headed home. Todd was not traveling. You see, Todd often flew out of of DC on business. His flights often took him to (and from) Boston...sometimes Los Angeles. Those facts did not escape me.

I remember telling my dad how much I love him. There were very real thoughts that I might never get to say those words again to my parents. As I was expressing my love, my phone went dead as signal was lost. I burst into tears. I learned later that my dad did, too.

Closer to home, I was able to get signal again to check in with my husband. By that point, I was in emergency mode. What did we need at home? Did we have batteries? Toilet paper? Canned food? I wasn't sure when, or if, we were going to be able to get back out.

I stopped at a popular mega store. Again, I was unnerved at the silence. There was hardly anyone in this huge store. The employees that were there were huddled around a couple of televisions projecting those horrible images that would soon be burned into our memories forever. I stocked up on batteries. I stocked up on bottled waters, some canned food. Yes, I even stocked up on toilet paper.

On the way home, I remember stopping at McDonald's to pick up favorite meals for my husband and myself. My thoughts were clear, "We may not get to have this for a very, very long time." Again, irrational thoughts for an irrational time.

My husband and I hugged for a very long time when I got home. We both cried.

Our McDonald's meals left untouched on the kitchen table, we watched the events continue to unfold on television. We occasionally lost signal. We had no telephone -- cell nor land line. People knew Todd traveled. People knew I worked near DC. No one could get in touch with us.

The rest of the afternoon starts to get blurry. I do remember sitting, in shock, wondering what would be next. How would our lives ever be the same? They haven't been since.

Before today, I have never recounted the story in this detail. Outside of generalizations, I'm not sure my husband and I have ever discussed the details of that day again.

I was lucky that day. My husband was not traveling. I didn't work closer to the Pentagon where hundreds of people who were not hurt had to abandon cars and walk for miles and miles to get out of the city. We did not lose any family members or friends. Even so, we were, and still are, deeply affected by that day. We made decisions based on the emotion of that day.

I find myself emotional each year on this date, not only because of my experience, but thinking of the families and friends that did lose someone -- or several someones. All for a senseless act that proved nothing.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, families and friends of 9/11. It is said a lot and often, but we truly never will forget.


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