Remembering 9/11 always unearths deep emotion in me, as I’m sure it does everyone who witnessed the terrorist attacks. This tragedy pierced the heart of our nation. Here is an excerpt from my memoir recounting the events of this day in 2001.
Excerpt from Trapped in Carnality by Elle Kavanah, All Rights Reserved. Published July 2019.
Mimicking a metronome, the distinct rhythm of heels hitting the courtyard pavement is a daily greeting burgeoning me into the six-story corporate office I call my home away from home. With a swipe of my card key, the lock releases, and I enter the white brick building as I have done nearly every day for the last six years. Today I am met with a noticeable change in the atmosphere as I step into the main corridor. Silence and hurry have replaced the typical morning mingling of slow meanderings and hall pleasantries. Faces heavy with concern staring with wide-eyed intensity cause my own pace to quicken. What has happened?
Opting for the center stairs, I climb to the fifth floor and briskly walk toward my cube in the Operations wing. I see several of my co-workers jogging toward the conference room located at the end of the hall in the back corner. Something is definitely wrong. I get to my cube, toss my laptop bag and my purse into the guest chair, and head toward the action. As I’m walking, a voice over the intercom stops me dead in my tracks. The company President, in a sullen and somber tone, informs us a plane has hit the World Trade Center in New York, and that it could possibly have been one of our aircraft that went missing out of Boston Logan Airport earlier that morning. Turning on my heels, I head as fast as I can toward the end of the hall. The first conference room I come to is packed from wall to wall. I see hands covering mouths. People are huddled in small groups speaking in anxious whispers about details they’ve heard. The room brims over with fear and speculation. I look toward the Flight Services conference room further down the hall. It doesn’t appear to be as full. I decide to head in that direction.
Walking along, I hear crying behind the gray cube walls, and fear rises in me. Someone has rolled a television into the Flight Services conference room and has managed to stream a fuzzy news feed. I press my way into the group and see Sloan with tears streaming down her cheeks. Scott Thompson has a clipboard clutched to his chest, and his eyes are glued to the TV. Stepping forward, my eyes settle on the image of black smoke rising from one of the towers, flames engulfing the building. Ronan Blake, sitting in a chair, his hand cupping his chin, is transfixed. I place my hand on Ronan’s shoulder and listen to the news anchors relaying the horror when suddenly a flash comes into view, and we witness a second plane slamming into the adjacent tower. A collective gasp spreads across the room. I pull my hand away from Ronan and place it on my unborn child. I am filled with terror. What kind of world am I bringing this child into?
Seized with fear, we spend another hour and a half glued to the Flight Services conference room’s television seeing the horror of a plane hitting the Pentagon, the wreckage of another aircraft crash in a Pennsylvania field, and witnessing the South and North World Trade Center Towers collapsing before our very eyes. Standing there among my co-workers, and drinking in all of the events during the terror attacks is surreal. The department heads finally summon us to our respective areas and fill us in on the details that pertain to our airline, crews, and passengers that were lost that morning. The Care Team, a group of volunteer employees that are thoroughly trained for helping surviving family members after a tragedy, are deployed. All other flights over or bound for the United States have been grounded.
Leaving the office at mid-day, I’m unable to process what has happened. I wonder if another attack is coming. I get to my apartment, turn on the television, and every station is covering the events from that morning. The images of ash-covered faces, towers collapsing, and people jumping from the burning building are overwhelming. I turn off the volume but leave the television on in case something new develops. Standing on my balcony, I look toward the airport that lays just beyond the fields. The newly empty sky surrounding Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is unnerving. The air is quiet and still. I look to the left, searching for planes waiting to make their descent to the runway. I see nothing. Living so close to DFW, I had grown accustomed to hearing flights taking off and landing regularly. To hear nothing is petrifying. Eeriness covers me, and I begin to cry. Putting my hand on my baby, I try to reassure the little life growing in me that everything will be fine.
The next three days are just as scary and intense as the country began to sort through the aftermath of being attacked by a terrorist hate group on our own soil. Something like this has never happened to us before. I am alone, scared, and want to be comforted right now. I call Ren. After I decided to keep the baby and do this on my own, we parted ways. He returned to Arkansas to attend the University of Arkansas. But now, given the horror and dread of uncertainty, I need to talk to him. He is the perfect person to distract me from the nightmare being broadcast on my television.
A few weeks pass, and Americans are living out a new normal comprised of paranoia and patriotism. Everywhere I go, American flags are on display. Out of this horrific tragedy, a new bond has been woven into the fabric of daily American life. At American Airlines Headquarters, there is a space dedicated to those who lost their lives during the September 11th terror attacks, making its halls feel more like a mausoleum than a place of enterprise. The somberness of the moment still resides in its walls.