“When there is a tragedy, we all cry together. You may not know them, but all of a sudden you feel it in the back of the throat, like they are your brother or sister.”
—Dave Poucher, Forest Service safety officer.
Dave eloquently refers to the loss of fellow fire fighters who died fighting an Oregon forest fire late in July, 2002. His words ring true for me; I suspect they describe the feelings many of us have since the 11th.
When we hear about a major catastrophe or event that touches our lives, most of us remember exactly where we were. We remember what we were doing, how we felt and who was with us. We remember these times as if they happened yesterday.
In my lifetime there have been too many of these incidents. The first I recall was hearing that President John F. Kennedy had died. I also recall the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island.
It is unfortunate that virtually everyone on the planet old enough to understand the idea of death now remembers the date September 11. It takes very little effort to recall that phone call from my son-in-law. He said, "Quick! Turn on the TV
A plane just hit the World Trade Center!"
Instantly awake, I tuned in just as United Flight 175 banked left and blasted through the South tower. I turned to my wife and said, "I need to go in to work." I called our Operations Agent at the Reno Tahoe International Airport where I work. He told me they might need everyone to come in, since the FAA had ordered all aircraft in the air to land, and no one was sure how many would divert to Reno. As I swiftly dressed, I watched images flickering on the screen in utter disbelief.
I recall that the traffic on the freeway was unusually light for that time of day, and I quickly arrived at the airport. The normally crowded terminal was silent; the usual serpentine lines of passengers nowhere to be seen. As I walked across the ramp to our Operations area, I was stunned by the complete lack of activity. Not a single contrail crossed the sky; I saw no aircraft taking off, landing, or taxiing to and from the gates. No jets parked at loading gates with auxiliary power engines idling. No ground service equipment scurried about in familiar and well-choreographed patterns: no catering trucks; no fuel tankers; no baggage tugs with carts.
None of the familiar sounds I associate with a day at the office; nothing but an eerie silence. I have never experienced such complete and utter quiet since that morning; I hope never again to do so.
I work for United Airlines; I knew several crewmembers on the United and American flights — I knew some of the passengers. I dedicate this page to the memory of friends and fellow workers who left us on that September day; I think of them often.